Sunday, March 4, 2007

Aussie Teacher Arrested in Torture Capital of China

Recorded a day after my arrest [CHINA]A simple account of an extraordinary event: [Recorded a day after my arrest]Yesterday the school´s principal, head teacher, a member of Fujian´s Public Security Bureau, Zhou Chao, Zhou Ming [the driver] and I travelled to Jiamusi to file documents pertaining to my employment as a teacher of English and to extend my visa while these documents were being processed. We went straight to the Jiamusi PSB for this. Immediately upon entering the PSB building we were ushered into an office and suddenly the others were swept from the office and I was left alone with these two female members of the PSB. One was a translator and the other the chief of police [from what I could understand]. It was clear to me from the start that I was being ´grilled´ for breaking the terms of my tourist visa by teaching at Fujin Bilingual Primary School. I told them that I had been invited to Fujin by the Fujin government and that I was on a tourist visa due to the fact that I had been asked to travel quickly to Fujin to facilitate the September opening ceremony and to be in place for the students when the school began to operate. They asked me who asked me to come to China and I told them many times that it was Zhou Chao and the entire Fujin community.I was then moved from the ´visitors´ chair to a chair in front of the police chief. She exited and another plain clothes policeman began to grill me again. I repeated what I had told the previous policewoman and he, too, exited, to be replaced by a nasty type. This nasty type was nasty. His name is Zhang le and his number is 050150. He had three stars on his shoulder and he did not speak good English. He interrogated me in Chinese for two hours!I told these two police [Zhang Le and the female translator] exactly what had happened to me since my arrival in China. Zhang Le continued to not understand what I was saying and she kept telling me that Chinese people are friendly. The atmosphere inside that office was horrible. I knew what they were up to and I was not in a position to tell other than the truth. I would never lie, anyway, as I am man of principle and lying is not part of my nature. Zhang Le kept asking me questions and every time I tried to correct his misinterpretation he shouted at me and told me to be quiet. It was beginning to become serious. He was writing a statement of interview. I produced a record of my email communication with the government-sponsored agency in Beijing that had initially contacted me to ask me to come to Fujin to teach English. This obviously had no effect as neither of these two police had a good understanding of English. They were intent upon some other purpose. She, the translator [she was uniformed by I could not identify her rank, but she was an older woman] asked me questions such as ´Do you think China is a dirty place?´ and ´Why did you come to China?´ and ´Do you think Chinese people are friendly?´ and ´How old are you?´ and ´How many children do you have?´ ... the questions went on and on and on, repeating and changing course and I knew the techniques of interrogation. I was, of course, a former army intelligence officer and I knew about these techniques. But I had nothing to hide. My demeanour was controlled as their grilling became more ludicrous and insulting. I was asked repeatedly for names of Liu Jie, the agency manager in Beijing; Zhou Chao; the principal of the school, etc., and dates. They kept getting the dates wrong and when I tried to correct them, Zhang Le shouted at me and kept me quiet. He continued to write his statement in Chinese. While he was writing, she asked me other questions that were personal. ´What are the ages of your children. How old are you? Why did you come to China. Do you think the Chinese people are friendly? What is the age of your youngest child? Your oldest child? Have you worked in China before? There were so many questions that it would drain my emotions to write them all here. It would take me hours to repeat the entire interrogation.Then it was finished. I had to be fingerprinted and have my fingerprints stamped on this record of interview. She had read in bad English her interpretation of the statement and although the facts were, as she said them, incoherent and illogically phrased, I was forced to fingerprint many parts of the statement, on each of the four pages, and to sign each page. I had no recourse to legal advice; I had no access to the other members of our party, including Fujin´s PSB representative [who had been in uniform at the opening of our school two days previous]. I was isolated and detained and not free to do anything of my own free will. The ultimate indignity came when, after having signed the statement, I asked to relieve myself at the WC. They ignored me. I have a weak bladder and a nervous disposition when it comes to urination. I can never urinate in public. This has been a medical/psychological condition since I was a young man. In forty seven years I had never been able to urinate in public or in view of another person. Finally after many protests from me I was taken under custody to the WC along the passage. It is a poor toilet in terms of hygiene. The woman´s section was next to the man´s an I was about to enter the woman´s toilet when Zhang Le shouted at me to use the other. These two toilets occupied the same room. So I entered the men´s toilet and tried to close the door to give myself privacy. Zhang Le came inside with me. I protested by waving my arms at him to leave. He ignored my request and instead indicated that he would turn his back. This was no good. I could not pee in his presence. The toilet space was disgusting. Above my head was a sheet of plastic, like a shower curtain, suspended just above my head by a piece of wood. There was a leak from the toilet on the next floor [it was obviously the toilet area of each floor of the building] and this sheet of plastic was there to catch the leaks. It had been there quite a long time as it too leaked on anyone standing under it. The floor of this toilet was being splashed from above and I was ´rained upon´ from above.So we returned to the same office and the interrogation process began again. I was then not in the mood to go along with them. I continued to protest, not about the interview, but about Zhang lLe´s toilet behaviour. I told them I had a shy disposition, that I needed to urinate, and hat I could not urinate in front of Zhang Le. I told them both that I was not a criminal and I needed to urinate in private. She kept telling me that Zhang Le was not preventing me from urinating; that he went with me because I did not know the way. He went with me for my own protection. This was palpably a lie for I repeatedly told her that he stood inside the toilet with me and would not leave. She began to laugh at me. Other police entered the office from time to time and one woman police officer also began to laugh at me. Every time I protested against this unseemly behaviour by the police, Zhang Le moved toward me in a threatening manner. When I stood up to show that I wanted to urinate, he shouted at me to sit. He waved his hands at me and his face was obviously in a dark mood and in English he told me ´stop!´. He knew a few words of English but his comprehension was very poor. After two hours Zhou Chao entered office. He also had been interrogated by the police officer in plain clothes who first interrogated me. I told Zhou Chao about the toilet incident and to his great credit turned to Zhang Le and said hard words in Chinese to him. Apparently while I was being interrogated, Zhou Chao had phoned the Mayor of Fujin about our predicament. The Mayor in turn phoned Fujin´s head of the Public Security Bureau who, coincidentally was in Jiamusi at the time. The Fujin PSB head immediately came to this building and after some time Zhou Chao was released and he in turn came into the office where I was being interrogated and told me that my visa was being extended. The interrogation was over. But I had not finished with Zhang Le. I told him that he had been wrong to deny me my toilet privacy and that the female police were rude and wrong in laughing at my medical condition. The female translator kept telling me that she was only doing her job and she had to do as her leader told her. She said this five times. It was now very apparent to everyone there that this whole unsavoury business had been carried too far; that I was a guest of the Fujin government and that Zhang Le had abused his authority. I was photographed fo my visa extension, and offered no apology from anyone except Zhou Chao. He shouldered the blame.I had been interrogated for two hours and detained against my will. I had been denied fundamental freedom to urinate privately.The after we were released and out on the street again, we learned that the Fujin PSB head had told the PSB Fujin representative [who had accompanied us from Fujin to Jiamusi], to join him in a meeting there at Jiamusi for the following two or three hours. As we had brought her to Jiamusi, we obviously could not leave without her. But I would not sty in Jiamusi longer than was necessary and I said that I needed to return to Fujin because of my worsening medical and psychological condition. I could not eat with my nerves entangled as they were. During the interrogation, the female translator repeatedly told me not to worry. She also repeated told me I had broken Chinese law. She repeated these two contradictory statements for two hours. Although I had never behaved in a subservient mood, nor had I challenged their authority to question me, I had become severely traumatised. I had been told that I could not teach English while in China on a tourist visa. Yet I had been asking for my Z visa since my arrival, I had told the agency manager, Liu Jie, that I always came to China on a Z visa but she had told me that she was a government-sanctioned agent and that the government of Fujin had authorised my being there as a teacher and that the Z visa would be no trouble. So what do I do now? On the one hand I have been asked to continue teaching and on the other I have the dreadful experience of that interrogation and the multiple warnings by the PSB not to teach.My wife does not know about this yet; she has just purchased her ticket to China and is waiting her own tourist visa to travel to China.I know that this experience will deter her from coming. I would not want her to go through what I have endured yesterday.If this were any other country of the world that I know, I would now have recourse to justice and have Zhang Le severely punished for his actions and the PSB of Jiamusi would be under official scrutiny. An De RuiESL Teacher [2006-12-21, 02:50:00][ID: 1794-29208]
Please leave right away. Go to Thailand. You sounds like a wonderful teacher, and they don´t deserve you. Poor kids.There is ONE mistake that you did make. NEVER EVER sign anything under those conditions. You are signing your own death warrant. I am really sorry to hear that. Please leave that place. Go to Taiwan, Thailand, Phillipinese, Japan. They don´t deserve you.Let this be a warning to all who go to China.IT IS COMMUNIST!!! YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS!Peace!Sigh. [2007-01-19, 02:39:00][ID: 1794-31003]
Wow that is an incredible story ,I hope you can find the courage to make the right choice .J-F from Canada [2007-01-19, 04:14:00][ID: 1794-31012]
This is all a mess! It is obvious that the person having made you come to China has done a mistake. In fact, you should come to China with a Z visa before entering the country, all the rest is contrary to Chinese law. Since your employer did not handle the matter correctly for you, irt seems that they tried to get out of that mess on your back!Never trust the Chinese!It is my experience.....Sima Wo [2007-01-22, 01:37:00][ID: 1794-31187]

Australians can't speak English

"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words."
--From How to Build A Universe That Won’t Fall Apart in Two Days by Philip K. Dick

Australians can’t speak English

I was brought up to speak English correctly. I could never understand why people spoke poorly. If I could speak well, then why the bloody hell can’t others? This question has vexed me all my life and now I want to explode my desperation onto paper and see if I can rouse the apathy and twist it until it rages …

I began this work many years ago and gave up in frustration. But the agony of listening to morons purporting to be English speakers inspired me to start again; this time my invective shall be explicitly interwoven into my denunciation of the sad fact that our English grammar and spelling have collapsed.

Where are the standards that governed the way we speak?

Don’t answer that! It doesn’t matter two pips about the whys and wherefores of whom is to blame. It is simply a fact of life that any idiot with a squeaky voice and a nice hairdo can walk into any radio or television station and get a job as a speaker of English.

This work is not about other languages. It is about English. It is not an attempt to push the grammar cart back to the Fifties. It is a logical attempt to drive home to imbeciles in the media that whatever nonsense they write, say or spit is heard by a modicum of intelligent people who know how to discern whether or not that which is spake is actually what is meant to be spake.

I read a headline in the SMH that told us readers that Australian troops would be ‘bought’ back home. I wrote to the now unworthy newspaper and asked if they implied some form of ‘pay back’ or ‘buy back’. You hear it every day in the media that something is bought rather than brought, as if the ‘r’ is irrelevant as long as the meaning implied is inferred.

Whoa! Step back from that minefield, sergeant! There are many who cannot differentiate between infer and imply and I think we’ll tackle that one later in the book.

Gareth Evans explained patiently to his audience that what was important was what was implied rather than what was said. That explanation was apt as far as the media were concerned. For decades the media have scorned pedantry and have gone the way of the progressives of the seventies, ignoring grammar and spelling as anachronisms of a dinosaur age.

I wish not to seek explanations for this behaviour. Suffice it is that I express my derision for those persons upon whom, somehow, the onus for our language has been entrusted.

I once called myself the Apostle of Apostrophe as I retaliated against the upsurge in miss-placed apostrophes. There they were, everywhere! None could write a plural without its becoming possessive, as if six boys could possibly become six boy’s.

My original title for the copious amount of venom I wrote about stupid pronunciation and arrogant mis-use of syntax was ‘In Arresting Leah Nuff’. I chose this title after an agonising hour or so of listening to Michael Lynagh commentating on a particular game of Rugby. Eventually I turned off the sound and watched the game with the radio blaring from another room.

Talking of sporting commentators is a bit of a paradox since we have no idea of whether they’re sporting or not. These sport commentators bring to the ears a marvellous concoction of sounds. I can imagine them sometimes, away from the game, in a situation far from sport, and their idiosyncrasies persistent in their speech as they conduct their persuasive gambits with their partners, business colleagues, or people they confront during their daily excursions through life. How do their friends handle the speech patterns? Does Jana Wendt pause after each prepositional ‘to’ while speaking to her children?

Speaking of the word ‘to’ … what a mess Australians have made of this little preposition. Formerly known as the directional preposition because it let the sentence have direction, a form of space that carried from one position to another, a vectorial impulse that connected the speaker to the listener, the word ‘to’ was not the most important in the sentence. The word ‘to’ merely conveyed a sense of direction between the subject and the object, as in ‘the boy went to the shop’. In this sentence the two nouns have relevance because of the verb ‘went’; the preposition ‘to’ is almost superfluous as the sentence really means ‘boy went shop’.

So why do we emphasise the least important word in the sentence? Because the speech people demanded that their pupils eradicate the ‘um’ factor from their speech and the way to do this was to emphasise the prepositions and the articles such as ‘a’ and ‘the’. In this way the articles assumed such prolonged emphasis that the simple ‘uh’ sound turned into the turgid ‘ay’ sound. A plate of cheese suddenly became ‘ay plate of cheese’.

But even this anomaly couldn’t get off the ground without the ums and ahs that it was supposed to eradicate. We began to watch Australians gum out awful sounds such as ‘ay uh’ and ‘ay um’ and the extremely vile ‘ayah’, as in ‘ there was aya …pause…goat in the paddock.

Oaklahoma Ch 9 news 6Mar04

Trialling a new test… ABC News Sophie Scott 10 Mar 04

The poor old Aussie roof undergoes lexicological surgery when in company of other roofs. But no wonder; many of the other oofs take on a chemical change when pluralised … they become ooves. But not the roof; it remains an oof. You hear journalists with serious intonations tell us of how the cyclone tore off dozens of rooves from houses. They mean roofs!

The accent is on the first syllable: IN tegral. But the Yanks have persuaded us to shove the accent onto the second syllable: in TEG ral.

You may wonder why I’m bothering about pronunciation of this coot’s name. I suppose it’s because the Iraqi elicited such extreme reactions among us all that our perception of him determined to a large extent our pronunciation of his name.
George Bush called him SA d’m. some others called him Sah DAHM.

Even the Croats are calling themselves Croatians as the tide of Australianisation with its American undercurrent washes all before it.

Same said for the poor Serbs.

I guess
This useless phrase was ushered into Australia via the Media. No doubt about this one. It’s one of my main pillars of antagonism toward how we Aussies now speak. You had the likes of Mike Gibson and Ian Chappell with their ears hooked to America relaying this absurdity to the gullible Aussie listening public. It’s a catchy thing to say, to imitate the Yanks in their movies where I guess is uttered every eleven sentences on average. And that average includes those few who never have need to waste their words with ponderous pompous meaningless words.
To [for all prepositions]

Less fewer
This simple and logical rule has long been discarded by the less discerning of us. Less relates to quantity, such as volume or weight, while few relates to numbers, as in people, things that can be counted and not weighed or measured with a tape.
For example: There are fewer boys in the house; there is less salt in the water.
It is absurd to say that there are less people here today than yesterday. There are fewer people … etc.

More safe
Comparative and superlative adjectives are a contentious lot. It’s hard to set rules for words that sound ludicrous when ‘est’ is attached. It became so quaint that the added qualifiers more and most became required addenda. But lately, again because of American influence, the comparatives and superlatives have acquired tendencies that if continued will further reduce the colour and interest of a galaxy vocabulary.

Wait up
We Aussies certainly didn’t invent this cutey. We simply yelled: WAIT! No direction was needed. Whether up or down or inside out, it mattered not. We demanded that someone heed our plea to wait.

Listen up why not list ten up
Listen up … our kids gobbled this one up in buckets. While we satisfied our isolated Australian vocab with the simple ‘lissen’, the Yank proclivity for prepositions just had to whack on the ‘up’ word …Listen up! While I’m on this anomaly I want to briefly enquire why it is that we Aussies don’t say Liss ten. I mean, the nation is being swamped with the second ugliest word in the Aussie lexicon, off ten; so why not liss ten?

Statters status
Status [the state of one’s being] has shifted ground for statters. Why? Have you ever heard a Yank say status without saying statters or stattus? Oh we do know how to imitate, we Aussies.

Loss of aux verb

A thee
The development of the Australian lexicon owes quite a bit to the laconic nature of Australians. We muttered our words a lot as if the uttering used up more energy than was required. Thus a book was merely a book and vocalising its existence was not a world-shattering event. We would thus say ‘uh book’ and that was it. Now if you notice the way the Yanks yak you will see that they stretch their mouths and draw their voices from somewhere below their throats. You hear the women, especially West Coast women, rasping words through tight throats and muscles brittle along the neck. And they make speech a theatrical event. The Yank woman gears up to say something, tightens her throat, and in order to communicate her perception of the existence of the book emits a sound that is slightly animal, slightly witch-like: Air yeeeeee book …the ‘uh’ has been elongated into an ‘air-yeeee’ for some god-forsaken reason. And Aussie women, typically, are emulating this tight-throated almost warlike noise while replacing the soft gentle almost invisible sound of the unimportant discreet indefinite article.

Often soften
Schedule sked dual
Growen grown

Papp pew ah Papua
We were a colonial force in PNG once. We’re still a major force in PNG. It is our nearest neighbour; closer than Kiwiland or Indonesia, and if we want to niggle a bit, even closer than Tassie [hahaha]. But for want of a reason, some of us cannot yet pronounce its name. Listen to Alex Downer will you, or Ray Warren of Nine’s Sport, if you want to know how Not to say Papua New Guinea.
It’s simple, Alex! Listen to how THEY say THEIR name and merely do your level best to copy that sound. After all, the majority of us know how to say PUP WAH NEW GINI. Not PAPP YOU ARE …

Different to [from than]
Take the number ten. Subtract two. The difference is eight. Why? Because I took two FROM ten and I was left with eight. Eight is the DIFFERENCE. There is a logical connection between difference and from. If I wish to add a number I add it TO another number to obtain a SUM. The SUM of numbers is when you add them TO one another. There is a logical connection between sum and to. There is no logical connection between difference and to. Therefore it is absurd to continually allude to differences to instead of differences from.

Present time, particular point in time
… and sundry variations of trying to identify portions of the limitless linear time continuum. We were lucky. Our isolated Australian suburban vocabulary had to be satisfied with the humble but concise word ‘now’.

Spotted saw seen
I hate to rely upon this old shibboleth but leopards and measles are spotted. Humans and animals see things with their eyes. To spot something is to mark it with a spot. A spot can also be a place. But when the past tense of a word melds into the realm of another, in other words, to acquire a distinct meaning from its present tense, then complications emerge along the delicate road of meaning.

Ay nuther
Another example of where the butterfly of etymological change has such chaotic and palpably absurd consequences.

Con stable [1475]
It has nothing to do with keeping conmen in stables. Yet it has, I suppose, in that the constable of police is charged with law and order maintenance. Constable of police [cop] is an old word, 12th century actually, which derived from the French ‘count of the stable’ or chief groom. Since then it has been pronounced ‘kun stubble’ until the Yanks got hold of it and true to their infantile method of training children to speak [ala Sesame Street].
It is NOT Kon stubble … it is Kun stubble.

Accomplish [1485]
The same argument applies to

Orientated oriented
do you wanna talk about it
I’ll be there for you
Serra moanie why not maonie for money
Candy date
Magnate magnet
Los vegas
Los Angelees
Too morrow
Too day
For tune
Terror tory
Occur rence
ATM machine
PIN number
At the end of the day
The bottom line
From left field
Touch down
Touch base
Kick off [to start]
Rock and hard place
Bought brought
Loan lend
Trialling testing trialling a test
Mo mentum
Again against agen
Me and the boys
To my husband and I
Hung hanged
You gotta be happy with that
Ya gotta love it
Klu kl;ux klan
Struggle ling
Battle ling
gamble ling gambolling
soo perior
eye rahk
that’s right!
That’s exactly right
Sunni sun eye
Mo mentum
Mo mento Pat Elsh Seven sport 8/4/06
Fatigued and tired
Up close and personal
These sort of
To – for – pause and emphasis
Teste moanie
This has to be one of my favourite
Hurry cane
Tactic tactics
Error era
Tay rahn
Too close to call
The minister has the call
The parliament
Woo woo
Going on happening
Coming to conclusion ending
Sea change
Excuse me? Say again?
It’s not rocket science
Hi five
Very authentic Movie Show SBS Megan 12/4/06
Quite unique
Panned out happened occurred
Soo dahm Saddam
soo perior
can we talk?
Haitch H
Guys blokes
Boot camp
Relocated moved
So …. Do you?
So… what is?between Eric and I
Gave to Eric and I
Me and Eric went to woods
Two best best two
Between among
Neither nor
Different from to
Farther further
Primate prime ate ape or priest
Kowasaki Kawasaki
He is seriously so …
We are so not having a party Home and Away Cassie 18/4/06
Hunker down bunker down
Hole up in
Fessed up…admitted
Worst nightmare
Ellec tricity
Come clean to reveal to admit
The parliament parliament
Inner rested interested
Assembly assembally
Diss tributed distributed
Autopsy post mortem
It was ay accident
Regular normal
Among between
Freferably prefer ably
National television
Tsunami soo narmy
Free mantle frerr mantle
Bought brought
Assessories accessories
Wake up call
Plebiscite plebisit
Marathon marath*n
Batter ries
Con trove versy Ray Warren
Amazon Amaz*n
Formidable Downer 26/5/06 E Timor
Militerry militry
On national television
Wander ful wonderful wanderworld
That’s right that’s exactly rightjog
Jakarta Yogyakarta
Slingshot shanghai catapault
Popcorn at movies
Flashlight torch
trialledf in the test Gardening Oz 3/6/06
Can I ask you a question?
Can we talk?
This program brought to you by
So …
Semettic semitic
Nearest you
This I will have you tomorrow [Today Tonight]
Yudey yono Yudhonyono
Wander wonder
Deffinately Einstein factor 2/7/06
Line ball decision
Orientated ..oriented

I have returned to this subject again ….ooops! A GAYNE! I can hear Peter Sterling: ‘AGAYNE the ball has slipped out of his hands!’
The remarkable thing about listening to Ray Warren, Gus Gould, Peter Sterling and Andrew Voss on a Friday night is that the word ‘again’ changes pronunciation several times during the football match. AGAYNE becomes AGEN when dear Ray Warren stops listening to himself and speaks automatically, as if in spirited conversation with friends. He used to say AGEN all the time, until the influence of Sterlo …

What amazes me is that the sudden appearance of agayne seems to have been a home-grown something ..the Yanks generally say agen. It’s the Brits who are strongly into agayne … an Angloism that is shared by an eagerly gullible Australian protégé.

I have watched various television personalities change their pronunciation of many words. They who once said agen now say agayne and many seem to say it with a strange gusto. It has to be one of the ugliest words in the Aussie lexicon.



The revolution began in 1954. Eisenhower and Menzies and the Queen ruled the world. People wore hats. And walked on the left side of the footpath, at least they did in Australia. We were still playing games in the streets of Sydney and the chant of ‘We won the war, in 1944’ rang out joyfully even though three of us were kids of German migrants.
Stalin had grabbed his ruthless hammer and sickle and cynically scythed through the hopes of post-war pacifists. Nasser and the Arabs were fomenting trouble for the empire and apartheid was bearing the legacy of Hitler’s eugenics.
Reds under the beds. A plethora of new nations and a forum of United Nations symbolised a newer world community that was being polarised and communalised simultaneously. The Cold War sat as an ugly bogey upon the world’s consciousness.
Free milk at school and every poor kid got there early to fill the empty gut. We’d take along a couple of Weet Bix and have our breakfast in the shade of the school building. Then we’d shove off down the yard to play cricket in the dust until the school bell.
They still talked of Bradman and all of us were him on the streets with our planks for bats and anything you could grab for the ball. The sheilas all wore dresses that spun out on miles of petticoats and Bobby socks and flat soles and pigtails and I think I fell in love with Eva Marie Saint that year.
That brings me back to the revolution of 1954. Lots of people declare with outrageous pomposity that the sixties was the decade that did all the things it was supposed to have done, like change the world, and I like that one with images of nappies and turds and John Harker and Nappi San, and introduce drugs and anti-social behaviour, and free love.
I don’t think so.
It wasn’t like that.
It was this way.

We sat nervously in the school hall. Our seats had been carried from the classrooms and arranged in rows facing the proud new screen hoisted in front of the stage. Row by row filled up and cigarette smoke cast a smelly and noxious cloud above our heads.
A few minutes before start time we heard them. They were still some distance away but the portent of Doppler told us they were coming our way. The bloke who had been ushering us into our seats got all panicky and tried to close the hall door at the back. There were people out there who’d paid their tickets and now were being blocked from entering. It was this way when the bikes arrived and stopped us all in our tracks.
There were about twenty bikes and about forty people. They all were hidden behind a dangerous black outfit. Leather and chains and caps and all the trappings of Bodgies. And Widgies. The Bodgies and Widgies were the badge of early Rock ‘n Roll in Australia. They carried the emblem in dark defiance of all that was good and decent in 1954 Australia.
Their bikes were aligned in military arrogance across the neatly mown lawn. A hooded sentinel in dark glasses stood alone and pitched his place there. We squinted through the leadlight. They were nearly here and we slipped away back to our seats and waited.
The first arrived and occupied the space at the back door. He was wearing his cap at a ridiculous angle. Others in leather joined him and stood there and watched us watching them. A scrape of metal against the floor and a young woman made for safer parts at the front of the hall.

We seem to construct ourselves around our memories

We seem to construct ourselves around our memories; those things that stick in the mind and constantly remind us who we are and where we came from and how long we’ve been here. If you took me out into the desert for forty days and forty nights I think I would be a bit disconnected because I wouldn’t have been constructing memories during that time. I would only have been experiencing memory and for forty days and nights it would have been those memories that held me together. How can you have a memory of having a memory? It’s absurd. That’s what!

‘Oh! I had such a good time, sitting there doing nothing but thinking. Oh but I will remember those remembered memories forever.’

It is the experience that is remembered and once you’ve put your feet up in retirement, you might as well pull the plug and let the water out, for all the good your life is to be.

Having realised the strength of that ripe old banana I stripped my life of its barnacles and established momentum toward an adrenalin and action-packed world. I was enjoying the heaped metaphors and rudely constructed sentence that was to govern the rest of my life.

I’ll walk where my own nature would be guiding; it vexes me to choose another guide.

So Charlotte Bronte bragged once during her restricted life in literature. My own nature, be buggered! We all are dissolved in the humanity brew. Our imagination is to conquer and to escape the cauldron, to be independent of the stew, to head off in another direction, to escape the dreadful sameness of humanity. So dear Charlotte escaped via her pen and paper and that imagination that guided her away from the mundane.

The Mob at Rio

The Mob at Rio


Cliff Williams

Ludu [Lindsay] -
Lyndell- Loretta Kyaray baby

Raelene- Lee

Rhonda- Rozanne-Francesca
Bloss Neville [Nifty] McGrady- Casey Bloss

Pamela Williams
Ray Walker- Boy {Raymond]

Percy Percy Junior Aaron

Young Cliff
Mervin Williams [Cliff’s brother]

Twins Shona [Percy] Shoanne

John Mercy

Della Walker
Ray Walker
Lewis Walker

Ernest Hickling

Blacky Patrick Torrens

Patrick Torrens
Kathy Donnelly

Don Torrens

Mannum Avery
Tom Avery

Eric Walker-
Una Walker RIP- Kevin [Frank] Steven [Sensible]
Trish Debbie

Ma Gert Donnelly-Exton RIP-
Pod Exton
Kraut Exton- Valmay
Bruno Exton

Dave Anderson

Lloyd Collins
Lance Walker


The Mish and Rio
Jubullum Land Council
Bruce Walker and the Coop

TI [Gordon Walker] brother Bruce Walker both sons Bruce Walker

Joan Bell- Robyn Roy

Bill McKnight
Frank the ‘Yank’

Ellis Cramp- Tonya

Kids and future and past

[Blondie] Loretta- Bullfrog Mandell Aloma Violet Lyneve Rex
Dummie [Dubby]

Donnellys and Extons
Popeye RIP

Max and Judy RIP
Lindee and Russell
RANE and Mandell
Bloss McGrady
Rhonda Williams
Raelene Williams
Mandell Burton
Bullfrog Donnelly
Valerina Williams
Ludu Williams
Percy Williams

Rocky river
Muli muli
Big blackfella
Little hairy man

Axe women and the storms
Man on the mountain
Not pick up stones on mountain
Ledge under water witch and young boy

Charles Harris
Uncle Albert

Viking boat in Black Creek-Lewis Walker
Lewis Walker, the eagle and Taro and the car

Gubbarigine-Ray Walker
Ray Walker and my totem

Turtle Divers

Namatjira Haven
Glen Innes

Roo shooting
Rio dogs Wombat Polly

Blacky, Bloss, an empty Fairlane and Rhonda
The day Diana died and Raelene in pyjama pants
Taro’s birthday


Pauline and Linky Gordon

The meeting on the bridge
Frank Walker’s place
Drinks at the bridge

Old Man Mountian… the Face…

Cabbage Tree Cabawe

Power stones and bora
History of upper Clarence Peter Pagan
Chauvel and the Light Horse

Michael the flag bearer
The legend of Anthony Mundine
David Mundine and the activist within the family

Oliver’s theft the dog and the chicken bribe
Dave Anderson and the fire
Kids sleeping on the trampoline
Eight to a bed

Della Walker and the Walker kids

Parties and beer
Police and the law and fines and all that
Houses roads cars
School dropouts and school successes
Relatives and the structures networks and relationships and obligations

Relationships with non-Aboriginal communities

Those at the bridge that day
Frank Walker
Lloyd Collins
Bruno Exton
Kraut Exton
Mandell Burton
Valerina Williams
Rhonda Williams
Bloss McGrady
Bullfrog Donnelly

Saturdays are laconic days of nothing to do. Sit around, poke the nose into this and that, lazy brain days. Above the clouds. High above the Clarence Valley where the Rocky [Timbarra] River washes into Big River, the days are numbingly peaceful and in summer there is no other sound but cicadas. A rich sound with a wet undertone pissing underneath branches full of them. Holes in shirts after a walk in the singing forest, acid rain, cicada sounds sibilant.
Beyond the eye is Mount Lindsay, over there, a long way away, old man mountain. There are other mountains there in the McPherson Ranges but old man Lindsay, he’s the boss. He sits there with all his secrets locked up inside the vaults of granite. He gets cranky lots of times. People stay away from old man Lindsay.
The people stay together in communities up and down the line, from Mount Lindsay all the way down to Grafton and along to Yamba. The Clarence River has been home to Bundjalung and Yuraygir peoples for thousands of years and the old witch Dirrangun … that’s for later. Let’s just say that she scares and she provides, and people don’t cross her.


The cedar drew the colonists north from Sydney in the 19th century
and they’re still here. They weren’t choirboys, these blokes, you know. We’ve learned from history books and newspapers that the scum of England were shipped out here so as to make old Pommieland a bit safer for the toffs. But it never worked. Instead all the ruffians got tossed into boats that sailed half way round the world, just to keep France out of the Pacific and away from the spice of the East Indies.
Anyway, they brought loads of sheep with them too and of course they wanted
all the land for grazing, so the blackfellas were in the way. And this set off decades of strife. In the end, the blackfellas came out of the conflict with their pride intact. The colonists paid a big price for the land they stole from the blackfellas. But so did the blackfellas.
These are a few lines jotted down to remind us that out at Rio, on the banks of the Rocky River, not far from the Big One, these blackfellas are still carrying on, just like they did hundreds and thousands of years ago. Only a few things have changed since then and despite the lingo and the clothing and the way they’ve adapted to contemporary ways, you’re going to get a an inside squiz at this Mob at Rio.


Firstly, they’re all shapes and sizes; some are very dark-skinned and others are a kind of light tan. But they’re all blackfellas. Just ask them and they’ll tell you. Say otherwise and they …well, who can predict what a bloke’ll do when he’s pissed off at you.
When the Protection Acts came to change things a bit back then, all the families were mucked up. There was a lot of pressure on the women to get things for their families as things became quite tough for them as the colonists moved in on their land. The survival terms had changed, you see. All the roos and tucker were suddenly unavailable, so the blackfellas had to do things that they weren’t used to.
So out of all this came these lighter skinned kids. Some were lighter than others and some looked like this and some looked like that. When the colonists began to see what they’d done, they got all conchy and that and started to feel that they had a responsibility to take the kids that bore some resemblance to themselves. It was a strange Christian charity thing that made them behave like this.
The long story cut down to size meant that the families were separated; some were sent to missions on the coast, some sent down the Big River to Grafton, others were gathered up from their traditional lands and lumped together in settlements so that the colonists could make sure they behaved themselves.
In the middle of all this were the churches. They wanted to save these poor buggers from the devil. So they baptised as many as they could get their hands on. This is where they got the expression ‘hands on’ management.


When he was a couple of weeks old they removed him from his mum and he grew up within another life in Sydney. He had lots of mates down there but he wasn’t himself most of the time. So when he grew up he made it all the way back here, thanks to some uncle who recognised him at Redfern Oval one simple fine day.
It’s through him, I suppose, that the story of Rio unfolds. And this will bring home to all of us that the scattered jigsaw of a couple of centuries …
They call themselves the Turtle Divers.
That’s because the Rocky River breeds lots of turtles and the Rio mob dive for their tucker. It’s also because some of them fly when they tackle. The Turtle Divers are the Rugby League heroes of Rio.
They don’t have their own field to practise on. They’ve got to handle it on the side of a hill or along the road. In the end they forgot about practice altogether and simply got together a few minutes before the match and slugged it out from there. Magic! That’s what they are, the Turtle Divers. Known throughout New South Wales for their brute strength and finesse.
They don’t win all their matches … there are Saturdays when you just want to forget they existed. But on their day, when that magic flows, the Divers are unstoppable. They’d flog the Broncos on their day. Aw yeah, you say, anyone can flog the Broncos … I just gotta smile at that, mate.
The point is that the Divers are heroes of a culture that has lived a long time in this spot.

Lived! Yes, it lived, lives, will live, him live yet longtime, …
Culture is not material. Culture is the bloke next door. They talk about Aboriginal culture as if it were some piece of carving they’re got down there in some Canberra art gallery. That’s not it. Culture is how they get along together, them blackfellas. Within that paradigm are the hundreds of little things that make life easier for the community. You’ll see! That’s what this book is all about.


They appeared early with early faces not yet risen from the grave. Clutched grog bottles and breath to kill the dogs. Blacky and Bloss had run out of night and the mountain was the place to go.
Sitting with their laughter they drank and used their eyes to transfer those memories out there back into their skulls. Down there by the Rocky they’d fished for turtles and eels and catfish and cooked them for the gathering that afternoon. That was some time ago, years before time. Years before the grey days of adulthood, of growing up. Now they carried amazed faces as if they’d just come here and had sighted this scene for the first time.
They weren’t sure, these two, not for a second. An uncertainty had sneaked up on them and colloshed them both before they could regain their composure.
‘Hey! That’s where Frank and Ernie carved that big roo last year … isn’t it?’
The grunt of failed recognition fumbled and fell off the verandah.
The slugs got bigger and deeper. Their anxious eyes pained for grog. Questions mulled and answered vaguely, the summer morning grew and cicadas roared.
‘Hey! Old Feller! You got yani?’
The presence of local weed eased the pain and a smile grew on his face. His hands expanded across the space and landed in among the cushions of dope. Deftly he lifted a flower and inspected it with wonderment.
‘You grow good shit, Old Feller.’
When he sucked at the weed he closed his eyes and made a grunting sound with his chest.
Eagles cry above. There’s a nest somewhere near. They’ve stopped the game with the eagles. Long time now. The eagles are super humans and they got to respect that. So they don’t try to find the nest. They respect that private world of the eagles.
Again he grunted as he puffed at the weed. The smoke came out from his face and covered the sun. Blue haze across the mind. The eyes went blank for a moment as he recovered his senses. Then the smile of recognition as he leant across to touch.
‘Yeah, Old Feller … you got them eagles on side.’
Wallabies move in the grass, slowly in the heat, as morning begins to shimmer and the sun burns down upon the land. A mist of cicada piss below the forest canopy filters blue this shimmer of summer.
Blackie turned to Bloss and murmured: ‘You coming back home?’
Bloss soured suddenly. He rummaged inside his head for a while and came back with nothing. ‘I’m not going back to her.’
‘You always say that, Bloss.’
‘It’s always true.’
‘Ha ha! And you never learn?’
‘She won’t change!’ Bloss protested.
The eagle circled in its thermal and you could hear the call as its mate came soaring in from the west. They seemed to collide in greeting but you could see it was all stage managed for the mob down below on the verandah.
‘What you reckon, Old Feller?’ Blackie demanded suddenly as the eagles went from view.
Bloss stood and went through his pockets in a fluster.
‘Where’s my fuckin’ keys?’
The keys were lying on the small wooden table by his right leg.
‘The fuckin’ eagle came and took it with him to his missus.’ Blackie laughed drily.
‘Fuck you … cunt!’ Bloss stared hard at the sky.
“Where you think them keys are now, Bloss?’
Bloss lowered his eyes and stared in a waxen way at Blackie. There was nothing to say. He shrugged his shoulders and moved a randomly stroll about the verandah in a vague search for his keys. And Blackie let him go like that.
‘Here them keys!’ Bloss exclaimed in sweet allegory and guzzled the last of the grog. ‘Now we can go and get some more grog. You drive, Old Feller!’
He said that with a grin, a loutish grin that he knew was beguiling to gubbas. So there was no point in arguing with the bloke. Bloss was the sort that expected these things from people.
The car stood in abject misery in the driveway. You’d never seen a more pathetic looking car than this one. Bloss took a quirky pride in this wreck.
There was not a movement on the petrol gauge. The damned thing read empty. But it was on top of the range and all that was needed was a bit of a shove uphill for a little bit and then it was nearly downhill from then.
Bloss got in the driver’s seat and issued orders. Then he got out and looked high at the sky, looking for that eagle, perhaps unlocking a sore neck, but he got his shoulder behind the arse of his car and issued orders again.
Luckily rust had eaten much of the car and it was lighter than it should have been and with some hard work the thing was double-clutched into motion and Bloss and Blackie scrambled inside and ordered the engine off.
‘Typical fucking gubba, this Old Feller!’ Blackie roared with half-baked contempt. ‘He not used to spreadin’ the penny!’
‘Aboriginal way,’ Bloss chirped in, ‘avoid engine downhill.’
‘That not Aboriginal way, Bloss! You gammon.’ Blackie shouted for no apparent reason. ‘Avoid engine downhill. Bull fucking shit! That come from that sign back there on the road. Avoid engine downhill. You gammon man, you bullshit man, Bloss.’
Bloss smiled that smile he used to get out of a corner.


Mandell had a different life from the mob at Rio. Something happened to his mum that made her give him up for adoption when he was two weeks old. When he began to take note of things he was already an important member of a unique family down in Sydney.
It was in the middle of the sixties. Even for those times what Max and Judy did for them kids, a chestful of medals wouldn’t compensate. Imagine a little girl from Hong Kong, Mandell from up here, and Russell, offshoot of Max and Judy; all together in some sort of … I don’t know what to call it.
Mandell was a strapping lad with long fair hair and large eyes with lashes that swept the world before him. All the sheilas wanted to have him as their boy friend, as it was fashionable and Mandell had a reputation as a moody and volatile kid and life around him was always exciting.
He’d run the legs off a greyhound, he was that fast. Quick as lightning. Won a few medals at state athletics meetings. He was getting a bit of a name for himself when his uncle saw him and immediately pinned him for who he was. At Redfern Oval, one arvo, when all the Koori kids were together for a sports carnival and Mandell stood out like dog’s balls as far as Uncle *** was concerned. Went straight up to him, began chatting away, a great yarn, and Mandell then knew who he was.
It’s a long story, this one about Mandell, and it goes through lots of stages, and it’s best if there’s little bits here and there, all in their place, all fitting the jigsaw into place.


Valerina is the queen of the mob. Not all the mob reckon this way, but it’s hard to see anyone else claiming the crown from her. Stumpy deserves a special place on a plaque of people who make up the Mob at Rio. She’s got kids everywhere and they’re all remarkable in their own way. They’re central to this yarn and it seems that most of the dynamic of Rio involves them in one way or another.
It’s that way at Rio.
Stump’s mum, Gert, was related to the last songman, old Uncle Dick Donnelly. Valerina was an Exton and a Donnelly and Mandell was a Donnelly and a Roberts. In this way Mandell is related to most of the Kooris of the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. And it was quite a big mob he left behind when he was taken away to Sydney just after he was born.
Valerina is Mandell’s mum’s sister. This makes her Mandell’s mum. Stump is mum to mobs of kids. Now she’s got cancer and you’d think she was mum of the world when you see all the mobs of visitors. Always someone around Aunty Stump.
Stump’s a Christian now. Doesn’t drink anymore. Given it up. It’s made her temperament easier, more relaxed, less anxious. But she was a wonderful friend to have at a gathering. And a fierce rival if it got physical. Even Cliff backed off from Valerina when she was mad as hell.
And you should see Cliff. Uncle Cliff is the size of a six-foot fridge and as tough.


This appeared in the Spetember edition of The Bridge, a community newspaper for the Tabulam district:


Valerina Williams [nee Donnelly] died while sleeping on the 5th July 2002. Val had been recovering from cancer when the damned disease got all rampant and struck her down in what I reckon was the prime of her life.

Valerina was still a young woman despite that mob of grown-ups who were her kids and her eternal joy. She had that verve that separated her from ordinary women and made her the attractive human being that everyone loved so much.

My family and I were accorded special warmth from Valerina and whenever we visited Rio we made Val’s home first call if not the only call. There was always something happening at the Williams home and Val was always the centre of action. Her laughter and those merry eyes of hers instantly bade you welcome and you just didn’t want to leave, even if you were competing for her warmth with just about everyone from the Mish.

My daughter Rowena loved going to stay with Valerina and hopping into that large comfy bed with tons of others and they’d giggle and laugh and have such a great time.

Valerina was Stump to many, and it’s a different world now when I get puzzled [stumped] or I watch the cricket till stumps ended the day’s play or I might try to uproot a tree stump … I can’t do these things now without seeing Valerina’s smile in my mind.

There’s a great big empty space down there at Rio and it’s going to take some time before the magic of Valerina Williams diminishes. Until then, we all can still feel the presence of that wonderful lady who is looking after her kin and friends just as she did until death ended her earthly life.

Vale Valerina Williams. Rest in Peace.

Valerina Williams was the most open person when it came to almost anything. She’d confide in you, like you had her respect, as if she valued what you had to offer her. She loved music and she told how Da Lance Walker’s guitar used to ‘sing … Oh, but it could sing … ‘ and she loved Manly! Toovey she adored and she smiled a long week when Manly came up a winner. But her passion was her team and everyone’s team, the Tabulam Turtle Divers.
She came into our lives on a most distinct Saturday arvo that’ll live in memory for its strange fate.
When we are home on top of the world with the Rocky River a long way down the steep slope of our property near Tabulam we are removed from all impulses that even s small society such as Rio creates. We’d been living as next-door neighbours to Tabulam [Jubullum Land Council] Kooris for over a year without making any contact. And my research into The Stolen Generations carried my mind deep into Koori space every day as I learned more about our past.

There are surly characters at Rio. These blokes don’t give a damn about anything except their own agenda. All societies have got them, sure enough, but these blokes are about the pick of the bunch as far as surliness goes. They look at you as though you just emerged from a cesspit. You say hello to them and you might get a flick of the eye, just enough for them to register your place in their hierarchy.
But the Mob at Rio is not going to include these blokes. This sentence is the last you’ll see of them. Bye!


If getting rid of problems were as easy as that, no doubt the world would be a happier place to live in. But even ants build their nests away from each other, out of reach of the enemy, so to speak. The mob drifts a bit, you know. It’s never still like a statue down there at the park under all that birdshit and muck. Nup! One day a bloke’ll be here and then next week he’s down the river at Grafton or Maclean visiting relatives or getting to know someone better. It’s like that.
As soon as you get to know one bloke you get to know them all because they’re all related. It’s impossible for them all not to be related. It’s like that. You’ll see. It’s what this book is all about.
There’s a bloke who comes from the Torres Strait Islands who’s got all the skills of a top cordon bleu chef. He makes the most delicious spice food of rice and chicken and all that food that you see on the telly.
Then there’s another bloke who can skin a roo in a few seconds just slice here and there and it’s done. Just for a few seconds he’d be slicing up and won, in and out, and in the flick of an eye he’d have the skin hanging from a branch. His name is Raymond and he belongs to a big family of blokes who are clever and artistic and all that. Anyhow, you wouldn’t believe it until you saw it. And everyone gets to share the meat and the bones are used for soup and it’s stretched to buggery so that the roo didn’t die for nix.
You know that Mandell one night turned into a snake? You wouldn’t want to know about it, something silly about the idea but it happened and it’s no joke. You see, old mate Mandell was stretching his legs, getting away a bit from the mob on Valerina’s back step, a big celebration, you see, always a big celebration when there’s a few bucks to spare. Then, all of a sudden, there’s old mate slithering along the ground, hissing through his silly grin, and they all thought he was taking the piss a bit hard like.
But old mate Mandell was deadly serious. He couldn’t remember a thing after it all quietened down. The mob knew all about it though. The old woman had come ashore. Dirrangun! The witch.
She had all the little hairy men, you know, her soldiers … , and their job was like somehow they had to scare the Big River mobs. Mischief. That’s all.
When he first made it back to the mob at Rio he just sat back and watched. He’s a quiet bugger, old mate Mandell, and he took it upon himself to travel down the river to Malabugilmah where his mum lived back then. When old mate went to sleep that night he woke up and saw the little hairy man at the end of the bed. The little bloke just sat there and laughed at old mate Mandell.
They reckon these little hairy men do what the old witch wants them to do and that’s to keep the Kooris in line, to make them aware of their special place in this country, to give them their special place of belonging by letting them see what the gubbas can never see. It frightens the shit out of them but they’re never hurt by old Dirrangun and her little hairy men.
Some times at night the mob at the top of Rio won’t venture down to the lower mish because the hairy men are waiting on the road. If they try to go round the back track they won’t fool the hairy men. They wait there too. They wait everywhere sometimes and it’s best to hang round your own mob when these times are happening.
So old mate Mandell got sort of thrown into the deep end when he came back to live with his Aboriginal family. To wake up and see this hairy bloke grinning at him at the end of the bed and then to be turned into a snake by the old witch Dirrangun would be a bit hard on the old mind but old mate Mandell took it in his stride. I think he was sort of glad it happened to him. It gave him an identity as a blackfella. Only blackfellas get visited by these hairy blokes.
There’s also a Big Black Man that waits along the road from the top mish to the bottom mish and he seems to focus on the young blokes. Suppose that’s because only the youngsters are out and about at night, on foot, with a bit of energy and mischief to spur them along. Nothing keeps the young bloke in line better than a visit from the Big Black Man!


These stories about the Mob at Rio are the culture of contemporary Indigenous communities along the northeastern part of New South Wales. You see, the border between New South Wales and Queensland runs along the McPherson Ranges and is a convenient way for the white fellas to create just another rock on the road. You want to have a decent laugh, then settle back and listen to a few yarns about them whitefellas and how they cope with things that crop up now and then. But I am getting off the point. You see, the ranges are supposed to be home to the famous Yowie, a blessed creature that whitefellas have taken to in their adoption of real Aussie culture.
But they’ve reckoned without the full story. And here it is.


Put your head low enough and you’re looking at a world of water. In flood it’s an awesome sight. It covers the world. It’s an angry water sometimes.
Where Queensland and New South Wales meet in the ranges all the water from the rains flows south and eventually leaks out into the Tasman Sea to the east. The Big River is that one farthest to the west and as such has to travel the most to reach the sea. During that long journey it collects a massive amount of water and when it reaches the plains near Grafton it spreads out and that’s why they call it the Big River.
For thousands of years the people were prosperous and for them the Big River provided all their needs. And more. Trade connected the communities and cemented relationships in ritual and private ways. A code of practice existed and was imbued with the authority of law. There was no distinction between activities that derived from economic or cultural necessity. Culture and economy were infinitely entwined and interdependent.
But the Big River was a different kettle of fish.
Along the Big River things weren’t always how they seemed. The Uncertainty Factor of Life beneath the ambiguous surface is manifest in the witch Dirrangun. Within the disparate communal cosmologies a special place was reserved for Dirrangun. She was outside the normal behavioural expectations that ritual and religion sought to codify from generation to generation.
Dirrangun was the absolute that made all those rituals and religions necessary. They were necessary to explain the odd and unexpected happenings along the Big River. The ambivalence of life itself at least had its odd and strange events that could be translated into rational and logical terms. But Dirrangun was outside of logic and served a different rationale.
There were those who tested the patience of Dirrangun. And they suffered for it, suffered for their impetuousness and for their loss of faith. Dirrangun was an instrument of faith and the cosmological effect of the witch’s various interventions along the Big River were to reinforce the stories that served as personal passages to the Dreaming.
The local government body somewhere along the Big River once reacted to a push by interested mariners to have a fairly large rock blasted from mid stream. Apparently economic imperatives made the effort worthwhile.
So, rigs were taken to the rock and experts set about drilling holes and placing explosives. The Big River was closed for the day and a bit of excitement filled the air.
The local government had ignored Aboriginal protests against the proposed destruction of what they claimed to be the witch Dirrangun, or at least, her home. It was a massive rock and stories involving the rock were too numerous to mention. To destroy the rock would remove the essence of so much history, culture and literature itself.
Some even went as far as to warning the local government that no good would result from destroying the rock. But they heeded not this prophecy.
Everything went wrong from then. Instead of blowing up the rock, the explosives failed to do anything and the barge carrying the explosives outfit sank for no apparent reason. It just simply sank!
The rock remains as it has always remained and Dirrangun has her home to herself.


There is a story about Dirrangun when she was seen near Tabulam a few years ago. Some young blokes were skylarking in the Big River one arvo and one of them went for dive to see if he could grab a turtle or two. After he was down there for some time the others got a bit concerned and began staring hard down at the water.
They reckon that after five or six minutes these young blokes chucked off their clobber and went in after their mate. There he was, sitting on a rock shelf about six feet under the surface. Next to him was the old woman with her long grey hair swimming in the tide. The two of them were apparently talking away, as if they were on the bank of the river.
What happened after that is a bit unclear, but all the blokes reckon the old women just smiled briefly at the others who’d come down to see her and she was off just like that.

Sometimes at night when there’s a bit of a wind up and the river’s running strangely, the sounds of the old woman appear in the head, like they come up from the stomach rather than in through the ears. It’s a weird noise and if you try to locate it, you can’t.
They say that whenever the Big Black Man roams the communities there’s always the sound of the old woman, like some background music to the movie that’s going on around.
A lot of the stories about Dirrangun and all the other beings that live with Aboriginal communities have been taken to the earth by those with the knowledge. But there’s also a lot that’s known and the idea that the old woman was somehow made to disappear just because the whitefellas took over the place is just a lot of nonsense.
Some of the stories sound like fantasy to whitefellas but blackfellas know what’s true and what’s gammon. The story doesn’t have to go to court and be sworn to be true for it to be true. And what’s true to one bloke is not necessarily true to another. Truth is … who gives a dead mullet for the truth when a good story is to be told.


Chapter 1

He sat alone at the back of the classroom. Brown shoes and school socks were squashed beneath his feet as his toes wriggled to some distant rhythm. While his eyes were staring remotely at the blackboard, he let his ten-year-old mind cavort with his fantasies.
‘Rane! Dream Child! Are you there?’
From way up at the front, a face peered through the twisting heads. A gallery of inquisitors. His cerebration broken by the shrill voice of Mr Marx, Rane returned reluctantly to the classroom, to the stage, to his audience.
‘Are you quite aware of your surroundings, young man?’
‘He’s gone bloody walkabout again!’ sneered the freckled blond boy behind a chalky hand.
‘Keep your snide remarks to yourself, Jason.’ admonished the teacher, whose pockmarked rodent features reddened as Rane suddenly rose from his seat and made for the door. ‘And where do you think you’re going?’ Mr Marx whined pathetically as the young student walked through the door and along the corridor to the stairs.


The spring sun was wan upon the Tasman Sea.
Flat surf lazy white at the edge of the blue.
Rane dabbled long legs in the careless wash, and sent his melancholy gaze across retreating ocean to the horizon. He saw the container ships at anchor, big blocks of steel hobbled to the floor of the sea.
Suddenly the ships disappeared. Was it a menace, this three-mast ketch with the ache of a marathon voyage? It sailed toward the shore. Then broached and displayed her guns of war.
The vision melted and Rane was again staring out at the cargo vessels of the twentieth century. He had seen other ships at other times, their canvas sheets stained and torn, sitting offshore like uncertain visitors. He had often wanted to swim out there and poke about but a strange inertia had roped him to the beach.
In the distance, like some shocking memory, the lunch bell pealed. Rane turned his back on the ocean and, like a frightened emu caught too far from the flock, sprinted toward his school.

As he crested the long stretch of sand hills, the roar of the playground became a threat, a war cry from his hostile schoolmates. Despite himself, he slid down the sand and crossed the road and entered the school through the front gate. Older boys with ribald mouths mocked him; squads of hecklers jeered at him on his way to the classroom where Mr Marx sat prim and alone with the empty seats.
Rane closed the door softly behind him and stood to attention in front of his teacher.
Like a character from Dickens, Leonard Marx vested himself with watch-chain and pince-nez. His three-piece suit had a strict, correct, green tweed and his shoes the rounded, polished look of Public schools. He was fifty-four and his seedy blue eyes squinted miserably at the book on his desk.
‘I’m back.’ Rane stammered as he looked toward the top of the teacher’s head, his attention concentrating on the way the sterile pate was covered by wisps of heavily dyed hair grown long at the sides. The meandering strands of greased hair stuck like stubborn snakes upon the skin, snakes rooted by their tails above the saucer shaped ears.
Mr Marx leaned back in his chair and his eyes warped horribly as they slid behind the thick lenses of the pince-nez. Two large fish eyes stared from the portholes in his face while the mouth below fumbled with its words. ‘You little bastard!’ he shrieked and laughter chorused from behind the door.
‘Who in the name of God do you think you are?’
Rane tried to answer with his name. The cane thudded its meanness across the desk. Rane waited, and then said evenly, ‘You know who I am.’
‘Drop your trousers, young man! We’ll see how funny you are after a good caning!’ Marx exploded with foam forming about his mouth.
Rane hesitated and stepped back in disbelief. The mad eyes of Mr Marx were following the cane around the desk, as if possessed by the Corpus Christi of Discipline. Suddenly the atmosphere dimmed and Rane was standing in front of the bark hut where the smoke of cooking drifted easily over the grass. The crouched form was woman, fossicking about the fire with a thin stick. He saw her face as she turned and her mouth opened in a dreadful toothless cry.
‘Drop your trousers, I said!’
Rane felt the sting of the cane about his arm. His reaction was fast. Dropping to a squat, he kicked his right foot deep into his teacher’s groin. The pince-nez popped in an arc to the floor as Leonard Marx crumbled in agony. The cane flew into a corner and rattled to rest in a waste paper bin.

Disconsolately, Rane looked at his teacher who was writhing in a hump, then decided it was enough. He walked smartly to his desk at the back of the classroom, gathered his possessions and packed them into his case. He clumped his shoes and socks under his arm and shook his head sadly as he passed the groaning teacher.
By now the throng outside the classroom had drawn the principal from his study. A large professorial man arrived in time to see the miscreant pupil battling his way through the taunting but wary mob. A trickle of blood crept out of the boy’s nose and dripped from the end of his chin as he clutched fiercely at a swinging fist.
‘Come on, break it up ... ’ the principal’s weary and pompous contralto was lost among the hubbub.
‘Jesus, Sir, look what the mongrel did to poor old Mr Marx!’ cried a voice in the mob. It was followed by agreement, like sheep heard from a distance. The principal poked his head through the door and saw the wretched figure of Leonard Marx vomiting into the pail that held the cane.
But Rane wasn’t waiting. As he was leaving the school grounds, a younger boy leaned out from a classroom window and shouted ‘Don’t come back without your slut sister, darkie!’


Behind the schoolyard a nature reserve spread to the lake, a fjord-like circle of deep waters, and wound around the shores until it bumped against the cliffs of bush and rock. Rane idled through the trees until he could see the lake’s edge. There, he waited, undecided.
He could hear the silence. A smothered and mottled silence.
After splashing bloodstains from his face, he perked up and wandered off toward the cliffs. The farther he moved, the thicker the bush became, and mangroves took over from cedars and gums. An obscure trail led him through the twisting mangroves, past bamboo thickets and on to the base of the escarpment. He set his foot into the wall and climbed.
The rock was granite and as ancient as time. It extended along the eastern coast as a fortification against the tide of the sea. As he climbed the sometimes slick, sometimes jagged rock face, he thought of his Dad’s bed-time giant, playing like a child by the coast, scooping a chunk out of the coastal rock and laughing a giant’s laugh as the sea rushed in to fill the gap. During later millennia, his Dad had explained with a straight face, the coast had repaired itself by building a peninsular between the lake and the sea.

As Rane reached a point where the ledge veered from the trail, he looked down. He saw how the peninsular rejoined the northern beaches via a long cement bridge, under which the waters of the lake ebbed and flowed with the tide. He surveyed the agitation of the early afternoon traffic as it moved along the coast road and then over the bridge and homeward to the northern beaches. He could clearly see the tiny figures of old men dangling their fishing rods from the bridge, seemingly undisturbed by the roar of the fuming vehicles.
‘Shit.’ he said without passion and leaned into the cliff as his knees took him along the ledge, behind the camouflage of a web of lantana and onto a porch enshrouded by vines.
He stood and brushed the dirt from his knees and palms. Peering through the lantana, he saw his father’s wooden house, sitting alone and comfortable at the base of the cliff. A dirt track led from the house through the bush to the southern side of the lake and trickled out into the congestion of flats and houses along the peninsular.
Parallel to the coast road, his school stretched in phallic allegory, trying to reach the girls’ school farther north against the beach. His playground was empty now, except for a stooped old man named George who wandered around picking up scraps of paper and plastic wrappings.
It was old George who had told him of tales of the other people who had inhabited this land. ‘Lookout for their markings, lad ... ’ the old man had warned gently, ‘ ... and you’ll discover an unbelievable culture that has existed here, long before the whitefellas ever thought of the place.’
Since then Rane had covered the trails and poked his head into every cranny. And now as he watched the tiny image of the stooped old man, he wondered if he should have told him of the rocks.


The cave did not welcome visitors. Its lips opened in a tight smile, behind a lantana beard and when Rane slid through, it was a hairy lizard sucking in its tongue.
Rane steadied himself for a moment. He closed his eyes until the white in his mind’s eye darkened to shadows. Then he moved blindly into the colon of the cave and stood up. Feeling the cold, damp walls, he picked his way deeper, along a narrow tunnel until his feet touched the steps. Certain of his night vision, he opened his eyes and looked into blackness. He then wormed his way still deeper, every now and then he felt steps that descended farther into the earth.

Almost imperceptibly a faint glow, green, filled the inner regions and Rane was able to walk unaided down the slope. Many metres further the corridor ended. He reached up and caught his fingers in the opening of a smaller shaft in the wall to his left. He heaved himself up and crawled in. The air was cold. At the end of this tiny shaft he saw the brighter glow of the tabernacle. His slim body eased through and dropped lightly to the floor of a Gothic-like chamber.
Within the two metre high tabernacle at the far end of the sanctum were three luminous rocks. Each was the shape of a football and as large. They emitted no heat; only a phosphorescence of soft green which imparted an Ed Wood atmosphere to this crypt beneath the world above.
The ten-year old boy stared at the rocks and immediately recognised the calm seeping through his being. He squatted and wrapped his arms around his knees. Soon the silence was interrupted by a shuffling sound, like a nightmare moving across his mind. The music of sticks played against the walls of the chamber and voices like crickets filled his ears.
Then the face of antiquity looked into his eyes and slowly the torment dissolved and he entered the ethereal state of the dream where he raced through the confusion and riddles of his astral world.


The September afternoon had purpled into evening and the beach suburb sparkled. A salt mist had swung in from the sea and the aurora of twilight had an unearthly delicacy of substance. Rane appeared at the mouth of the cave and blinked his eyes at the afterglow of one of Sydney’s sunsets. The crimsons and yellows stretched far out to sea and under the clouds of pink and softness the mists evaporated. Then he climbed down the cliff, in awe of all around him.


‘The warrior returns!’ remarked Max from behind a tangle of tackle. ‘Hungry, son? Here, have some prawns. Put some meat on ya dick.’
Max Hollard pushed his strong, tanned, hairy arms across the rough, wooden table, pinched a couple of red King prawns and passed them over to his son. ‘Where ya been, for Chrissakes?’ he asked without expecting a reply.

They sat in a contented quietness for a while on the front verandah. Rane was absorbed in darting his tongue into the cavity of the prawn’s head. Evening sounds advanced like the beginning of applause. Night birds and fruit bats were zinging past in precision.
Max had built his timber home high above the ground, almost perching in the greenery of the cliff side. Stone steps descended beneath an opening in the floor of the verandah and visitors were prevailed upon to pass through this rite of passage, as it were, before they could enter his home.
Rane stood and walked to the railing and stared out at the night. Even though Max had fashioned sight zones through the vines and tropical trees, the young boy could distinguish nothing under the mantle of dusk. Max had laid his foundations where the winds were deflected and soft, delicate flora flourished. Thick, impenetrable greenery submerged the house in a wealth of perfume and insects.
The verandah opened back onto a stone-walled lounge with a stone fireplace set squarely in the middle of the carpet-less cedar floor; the smoke from winter’s fire would flow through a shell-covered canopy built into the ceiling. Strong red gum chairs retained the shape of the trees they were cut from. Magazines and newspaper formed piles about the wooden floor.
The house had been built in stages. Each room had its own level so that the building was a series of steps and corridors leading to each person’s domain. The kitchen and bathrooms were located centrally, as in a boarding house.
‘Have some more, son.’
‘Aren’t the others home yet?’ Rane asked as he grabbed a handful of prawns.
‘You just tuck in there, son. Don’t you worry about them. They’ve had theirs.’ Max had lit a joint and his eyes removed his attention to the night and its sounds. He was a huge man who carried the style of the sixties; long, unkempt hair and beard and the attitude of the biker. Close to two hundred and fifty pounds he seemed indestructible within his muscular frame. His face was broad with brown eyes set apart by a hawk-like nose jutting out of his face.
As he drifted with the smoke he remembered when, on a warm day earlier in his life he took the hand of his wife and walked toward the building that housed the state adoption board. The box that was a lift had a nervous start as they moved up into the building. The austere walls of smoked and aged cream followed them along the way to the room where the letter had directed them for the purposes of adoption.

A remarkable quantum leap from the austerity of the post-war era to the frantic pulse of social liberation in the sixties had permitted Max and his woman to take home and to rear two toddlers who otherwise may have lingered for years in the orphanage. It had, however, taken patience to coax the authorities from their perch and come down and open the cage. Their little dark haired daughter, cherubic and shy, became Dali. The son they adopted, with his dark skin and fair, almost white wavy hair, became the reincarnation of the Polynesian God, Rane.
After the adoption they roamed the country in company with others who deemed Bike a god. The kiddies were bundled securely into a sidecar that Max had appended to his Triumph. It was unfortunate that one lovely day the lady who was wrapped around a tree when she left the seat of her borrowed bike had been his wife. Before she died her womb had delivered their child.
Her death did not deter him. He had taken her hand and filled it with his word. He would continue to raise the three children as one in a montage of social enlightenment, building their world in the bush at the base of the cliff. And the ward full of sick people watched as he wept like a madman.
‘What are you thinking of, Dad?’
‘I was just thinkin’ about the time when ... ’ The pause which allowed a giant prawn into his mouth shut the gate on his memories. He continued, ‘Where did ya get to, Rane?’
‘Dad!’ Rane stood and grabbed his plates. ‘I’m going to have to do some homework. See ya later.’
Max followed his son with a quizzical look.
Rane showered and went to his room. Comics littered his bed and a single poster proclaiming VOID IS BEST was pinned to the wall above the window. He lifted the comics and took a Spiderman and a Gothic Horror Special and placed the rest under his bed. He fell asleep with both unopened. Ten minutes more and he was into his dream.
They formed a line and Rane passed them by. He knew who they were. He saw his ancestry in vague figures, hollow-eyed phantoms come to say hallo and to sit and stare. In his dreams Rane jumped from one generation of his people to another, passing back in time to the beginning.
And always that cave!
‘Wake up, son!’

The language was out of place in this world of hot mists and red, burning rivers of mud. The narrow line of naked men halted on a rise above the sylvan plains, the weapons of the hunt dangling from sinewy arms. As they turned to him to speak their bodies shivered and shimmered and Rane gaped in confusion at the face at the end of the bed.
‘Come on, boy. Your principal’s out on the verandah. I think we’d better go out there and join him. Wash your face first. You ... look...simply... awful.’


His bulbous buttocks hung over the sides of the bench. He sat with his knees apart like an unfit wrestler after the bout. His University of Sydney eyes wandered critically about the verandah while his nostrils quivered with the remnants of marijuana in the air. As Max strolled from the lounge, the principal let go with an enormous fart.
‘Ya’ve been to China, Mr Wentworth?’
‘Oh, please do excuse me, Mr Hollard. My wife insists on giving me bran with my meals. I do hope you are not offended.’
‘I don’t think so, pal. I know ya won’t be offended if I sit over here. Will you!’ Max said as he pulled his bench away from the florid faced educator and plonked it near the corner under the fecund tree fern.
They spoke little.
Then Rane sauntered out with a face that hadn’t come back from holidays. He looked from his Dad to the hefty principal and waited. Finally Mr Wentworth wobbled from his bench and assumed the air of a lecturer. He was about to deliver his harangue when Max interrupted. ‘Look fella, if ya gunna talk with us you’d better sit down. I don’t take too kindly to blokes standin’ over me. OK?’
‘Hrrrmmmf! Well, certainly, Mr Hollard. I did not mean to give umbrage.’
‘Ya can give as much umbrage as ya want, pal, but ya can do it sittin’ on ya bum.’
The principal sat awkwardly while trying to adjust his rump to the hardness of the rough-sawn bench. He retrieved a yellow handkerchief from his coat pocket and wiped the spittle from the corners of his mouth.
‘Has your son told you of his behaviour at school today, Mr Hollard?’
‘No! But you’d better.’ Max retorted.

Stafford Wentworth drew himself a picture of his own importance and position and, satisfied with how he saw himself, continued: ‘Your son was formally instructed to address his father about today’s ugliness and, until an hour ago, it was expected that you, Mr Hollard, would accompany your son to school to redress the wrongs ... ’
‘Just a bloody minute, pal! What’s this?’
‘Well, it appears that your son and his teacher, Mr Marx, had a violent disagreement and the upshot of it all was your son’s unwarranted attack on ... ’
Max rose and crossed his massive arms. His mere movement ceased the principal’s homily. ‘Hold ya bloody horses, pal!’ He turned to Rane. ‘Son, what happened?’
Rane told his story briefly, without embellishment.
‘And that’s bloody-well unwarranted?’ Max inelegantly cross-examined the uncomfortable form across the verandah.
‘Look here, Mr Hollard. As I said, it was my decision to await your appearance at our school tomorrow but I had doubts as to whether the message would be transferred appropriately. Your son’s behaviour is altogether unsatisfactory. Besides the vicious assault, and in my mind it was an unprovoked attack on a State public servant, your son’s attitude is not conducive to success in his studies. At this rate, Mr Hollard, he’s not going to make it at our school. I may even feel the need to recommend his transfer to a special school.’
‘What d’ya reckon, mate?’ Max asked his son.
‘I’m hungry, Dad. Think I’ll grab some more prawns. Any left?’
There was something indignant in the way the principal squeezed his rubbery body through the manhole in the verandah floor and stumbled his way to the parked car.
Max laughed as he ambled into the kitchen after his son.
‘They never learn.’
‘They never change, Dad.’
‘Yup!’ Max piled the plates into the sink and ran cold water over them. ‘They choof ‘em out of the factory like sheep shit. Round stinkin’ bits of poop.’ He dried his hands on the kitchen towel and led Rane back into the lounge. ‘Tell me, why did ya boot the creep? Wouldn’t it’ve been easier to just walk out of the dump?’
‘Dad, I couldn’t help it. I just felt the pain and the next thing I knew was old Marx groaning in a heap.’
‘Probably sufferin’ from a bad case of Uriah!’ said Max as he reached into the vase on the mantelpiece and extracted a small joint.

‘Why do you smoke that stuff, Dad?’
‘You didn’t get it?’ Max lit his face up behind the fierce glow of the cigarette. Still chuckling at his private joke, he let go of his muscles and relaxed into his redgum chair. ‘Dunno, really. Like to get out of myself sometimes; you know, when the heavies come knockin’ at my head. I like to be out at the time. It’s the same as whackin’ a great big DO NOT DISTURB sign on my brain ... then I can get on with some real thinkin’. And that, my boy, is what life is all about.’
‘Do you have daydreams, Dad?’
‘My whole life is a dream, mate.’ said Max as the heavy volume of Kant came into his lap and his fingers flicked through the pages to the bookmark. He briefly looked up from the book to meet Rane’s eyes across the room. The boy was standing near the fireplace.
‘I’ve got something to tell you, Dad.’ Rane said as his earnest young face wrinkled in a fanfare of worry.
‘What’s that, son?’ asked Max as his eyes searched the book for meaning.
Bit by bit, Rane told his story of phantasmagoria, of being unnerved by the abrupt arrival of beings in his mind and the aberrant sounds that came and went. He had been visited upon by psychic intruders who cast nets and drew him back through the ethereal gateway. Without wishing for it, without warning, he would become in another time, and would be imbued with the essence of that time. Then, shedding the nets, he would become as Rane again, whole, and with the memories of his voyage. In ten minutes Rane gave a young boy’s inarticulate version of a mysterious journey to madness.
Max had gone to the verandah to peer at nothing through his sight zones. Rane was leafing through Kant.
‘I don’t understand this, Dad.’
‘I don’t either, son.’


Dali Hollard graciously thanked her hosts and ran smartly up the driveway and down the track to her home. She hopped up the stone stairs and burst upon her Dad like a Roman Candle on bonfire night. Her jet black hair was long down her back and her eyes disappeared in her smile. She carried a party hat and some birthday cake in foil.
‘Hallo sweetheart! How’s the party?’ Max hugged his daughter gently; she was so frail against his mammoth bulk.

‘Aw, just great, Daddy.’ replied Dali with her eyes on the cake. ‘Laurie was there with her puppy and Jimmy Best got pushed in the pool and I brought you some birthday cake. See!’
She held out the cake like it was a prize for coming second and pushed it under her Dad’s nose.
‘Hmmmm! Smells good.’ Max scanned the cake and then his daughter’s face. ‘Hallo’ You been playin’ rough stuff?’
He laid the foiled cake on the bench and touched Dali’s hair from her cheek. A stubbled patch of dirt and skin, the size of a postage stamp, covered the bump near her ear.
‘It’s nothing, Daddy.’ she said with finality. Her good humour was restored as she picked up her party hat and skipped into the lounge and kissed Rane on his forehead. ‘I’m going to wash.’
Dali vanished into the corridors of the house. Rane sat for a moment more then walked quietly through the sliding doors and onto the verandah. ‘Some bloke thumped her, Dad.’
‘Is this Uriah Heap speakin’?’
‘It’s a lot worse.’
‘Yar in riddles, kiddo.’
‘Go and see for yourself, Dad. Why would I change my nature all of a sudden?’
‘Yeah! Why would ya’ Okay, my Clark Kent of a son. You hang on here. I’ll go and see.’
Max went to his daughter’s room. He found her sitting on her bed with her Teddy bear hugged to her cheek. Her room was a world of Disney and fairies with floral curtains and colourful carpet. Above her bed was a sketching of Max which she had done during the long nights of a spent winter.
‘Come on, chicken, what’s wrong?’
‘Nothing, Daddy.’ she looked at him with black, watery eyes.
‘Hey! Did I bring you up to fib to your old man?’
Dali laid her Teddy bear primly on her pillow and placed her hands clasped in her lap. She was a choir girl at recital. ‘Daddy?’ she said uncertainly, like a terrier testing murky waters with its paw.
‘Go on, sweetheart. It’s alright. We’re mates, remember.’
Max avoided the soft springs of her bed and sat on the floor with his huge thighs drawn up to his chest. He wrapped his tree-trunk arms around his knees and smiled at the pretty young girl.

‘We were playing games in the bush, as usual, and ...’ she began with effort, ‘ ... and the boys were chasing the girls. They were supposed to take us back to their spaceship and sell us as slaves on their planet. When I got caught this big boy pushed me to the ground and hurt me.’
Max moved his position slightly. An uncomfortable anger was developing. ‘Ya didn’t lose your cool, did ya?’ He grunted through a forced smile. A darker tone had entered his eyes as he blinked abnormally.
‘Not at all, Daddy.’ she replied proudly, and grinned.
‘Tell me what this big boy did to you. Exactly.’
Dali absently touched her bruised cheek with her fingers and a look of loss appeared on her face. ‘He was friendly to me in the beginning. I thought it was part of the game. But I bit him and lots of blood ... he got all angry and his lip looked horrible. I could taste it in my mouth. I said I was sorry but he grabbed me very hard and rubbed my head into the dirt. He kept on calling me silly names. I don’t think his parents would be very happy to hear him say all those things.’
‘Who is he, sweetheart?’
‘I don’t want to know his name, Daddy. I want to pretend nothing happened. That’s the way you said, isn’t it, Daddy?’
Max grasped his daughter’s sallow hand and gave it a warm, endearing squeeze. Then he got up from the floor and bade his little girl an early night.


Stafford Wentworth was a proprietary person, quite suburban and besotted with regulations and petty worries. He had tabulated his life so that uncommon disturbances might skip past without effect. Although he realised that Marx’s erratic and often cruel nature bestowed upon his classes an atmosphere of buffoonery, he could not afford the subjugation of his school system by acts of uncouth rebellion. He had gone to the Hollard home fully expecting the father’s compliance in getting young Hollard to return penitent to school.
‘Hello, darling.’
His doting wife greeted him at the door. His castle was secure. During dinner, he expostulated with his wife about the disturbances to his life. ‘If the child cannot cope here in the civilised world, then his father, or step-father, or whatever he calls himself, ought to jump into a truck with him and head straight back to the bush. The little bugger would be more at home with lizards and grubs than with ordered and decent children.’

‘Yes, dear.’ replied his wife as she ladled the sauce onto his plate.
‘I go out of my way to control a situation and what do I get? A ratbag of a man hellbent on revolutionising the country with his social experiments, and I get a child who sits in the clouds all day, and, to put the icing on the scholastic cake, hrrmmf hrrmmf, I also persevere with an idiot Jewish anachronism, swishing his cane in an orgy of over-discipline.’
Stafford Wentworth tucked into his lamb chops, evidently pleased with his dinnertime oratory.
‘Yes, dear.’
He looked over at his wife and thought of better things.


Dali became a teenager a month after Rane, and although her brother had forsaken his party for a stroll in the bush, she insisted on inviting a small group of friends to celebrate. She became more excited as the afternoon drew close. Her first brassiere fitted her shy breasts as she pirouetted in front of her bedroom mirror. Bundling up the handcrafted presents she had worked on for weeks, Dali conscientiously had wrapped each in gaily-coloured paper with pink and blue twine.
‘Why should I be the only one who gets presents today?’ she muttered happily to herself.
‘Won’t be long now, sweetheart.’ greeted her Dad from the doorway. ‘Happy?’
‘Oh yes, Daddy. I really am.’ she chirped. ‘You know what? This is the best day of my life.’
‘Looks like it, sweetheart. But I’ve come to share a secret with you. Hang on! Ssssshh! Your brothers are outside with silly grins all over their silly faces. They’ve got something for you. For Chrissakes, don’t kiss ‘em, or you won’t see them for the rest of the day. Okay?’
By five o’clock on that autumn Saturday Max had led his tearful daughter inside where fire smoke drifted into the canopy of shells. McLuhan had tramped the afternoon up and down the dusty track and Rane sat quietly on the verandah, beneath the fluttering balloons and streamers. The coke grew warm as the ice dissolved and flies had found their way to the cake.
‘Don’t worry, sweetheart,’ Max said hopefully, ‘there’ll be other birthdays.’
The bearded man then spent the night outside, spitting venom through his sight zones.


‘Shit! I couldn’t make it, really.’ explained the orange-haired girl who sat next to Dali in class.
‘Why not?’ asked Dali innocently.
‘Look, mate. My mum said not to say anything, but, well, she’s sort of old fashioned, if you know what I mean.’
‘No. I’m sorry. I don’t.’
‘Well, we’re mates, aren’t we? Well, I wanted to come but my mum, well, she reckons you’ve got a disease.’
‘What sort of a disease?’
‘Not that sort, silly. The other, you know, well, what all foreigners’ve got.’
‘Who’s a foreigner?’
Dali put down the phone. The streamers were long gone and the balloons were in tatters. Max and the boys were drinking the coke. Rane was sitting by the fire, his toes were wriggling to the flames, like ten midget conductors from Fantasia. A musty pile of gum cuts was stacked next to his chair, and every now and then he fuelled the fire. The room had an air of vagrancy about it. A tree stump from the surf rested near the sliding doors, paintings were hanging from wooden wedges in the stone walls and an old battered Harley stood majestically if not tragically beside Max’s bookshelf. It was an odd arrangement; a miniature library, antique motor bike and a bearded giant in a bushman’s chair.
‘Yes, sweetheart?’
‘What’s wrong with me?’
‘Apart from your three noses, nothing!’
‘Then why aren’t they the same to me anymore. I’ve done nothing wrong.’
‘Sweetheart, your brothers are goin’ through a bad time, just like you. They get bumped and bruised by life and they come home feelin’ sorry for themselves. But they get over it. Their mates, they come ta realise, aren’t worth the shit and the agony.’
‘Bullshit, Dad.’ said McLuhan, a little too automatically.
‘Bright boy here knows everythin’, sweetheart. Look, I’ve been at war with society most of my life. I’ve seen how it lives. There’s kids in this city whose parents couldn’t give a dried dog’s turd for ‘em. The littlies are sniffin’ glue and petrol and borrowin’ their oldies’ tranquillisers and shit like that and runnin’ about the world like lost souls in search of hell.’
‘You’ve got us.’

‘Oh whacko! I don’t go to school with you though.’
‘Change schools then.’ suggested Rane.
‘Will they call me a chinkor there too?’
‘A what?’ Max demanded.
‘A chinkor, Daddy. I don’t even know what it means ... nobody will tell me.’
‘And now you want me to, eh?’
‘And now who’s being inscrutable, Daddy?’
McLuhan puffed marijuana and grunted. ‘It’s just some ole clapped out arsehole echoin’ itself. It’s the bleat-bleat syndrome.’
‘The bleat-bleaters are alluding to the fiction that you are an Asian girl of ill-repute, sis.’ Rane suggested. ‘ They rubbish the shit out of any poor drongo they don’t quite get to know properly. You’re copping it right now. It’ll pass in about twenty or thirty years when you’re no longer a virile threat to them.’
‘When did ya learn to put on the eloquence, son?’ Max eyed his son with mock suspicion.
‘Eloquent? Dad, I was going to suggest that the mob around here aren’t capable of acting out of concert with the common herd.’ Rane replied. ‘One bloke in the mob pisses on a drunk’s head and the rest’ve got to stick their dicks out and do the same. The bleat-bleat mob are mongrelised morons. Our society is shit full of them.’
With the instincts of a threatened baboon, Max gathered his clan to his fortress by the cliff. He deftly picked up his pups, dusted them off and dropped them gently into more befitting schools along the coast. He was following his own destiny; in time, the scars of hurt would become salved, and his family would drift farther from the mainstream.


Chapter 2

Lamont Donleavy moved south along the peninsular with his head down. The cold south easterly whipped the surf and pitched salt spray across the thin stretch of land to the lake. Gulls lined the beach in rows and pointed their beaks to the wind.
His apartment block stood incongruously tall among the straight line of single storey beach houses. From the thirteenth floor Marit Donleavy watched her son. Her hands worked the dishes as she thought of his other school uniform, wet and still hanging over the shower rail. She waited for the lift to clunk its way down to pick up her boy. The Milo was hot and the muffins began to brown in the toaster.
Lamont lifted his head toward the glow of his mother’s kitchen in the sky, almost hidden by the bleakness of the afternoon storm. He hurried across the sand to the shelter of the building’s foyer and with the taste of the sea smarting his lips, pressed the lift button.
Lamont’s father, Frank, had met his mother at the Victoria falls Hotel in Rhodesia during the peaceful years before the government of Rhodesia declared independence unilaterally from Great Britain in 1965. The British refrained from warring on their enfranchised kin and this ushered in the bitter bush struggle that drove a sad wedge between the black and white people of that scenic country. The war encroached upon Frank’s freewheeling lifestyle and after his marriage to Marit van Schoor, an Afrikaner, he grabbed his wife and belongings and headed south to the tiny kingdom of Swaziland.
Marit became pregnant and Frank had not forgotten a pact he’d made with an old cohort during his youth at Sydney’s Kings Cross. ‘I tell you, it’s not crap!’ He pushed his hands further into his pockets, truculently with pout. ‘I promised him. He promised me. We’re mates and mates don’t forget.’
‘But Frank…’
‘Marit, I know it’s a long time ago but a deal is a deal. We don’t have to stay in touch to honour our word.’
He watched her worry as it wove patterns in her face. He had attacked her sense of honour and when that failed he tried to mollify her with humour.
‘Come on, Marit. It’s not so bad, is it? I’ll pick the names, you can vet them and when the kid’s born we can pick the lucky name out of a hat. How’s that?’
‘You’re a skelm, Donleavy!’

There was little she could do in the face of her husband’s devilment. Her daughter was born bush-style. Open brown faces welcomed the tiny, pink figure into the world. Marit had worked her contractions on a straw matting bed in a cosy Swazi hut just outside the town of Manzini. While she was in labour Frank sought desperately for appropriate female names just in case. It had been a mate’s joke and long years of laughter had melded hilarity into a serious pact that was to have quirky repercussions upon their descendants.
‘It’s a girl.’
‘That’s not a girl’s name, Frank!’
‘And that’s not either!’
They both laughed.


A year later Frank, Marit and their daughter, Juno Peta Donleavy, were driving as hard as the truck could go up the slippery slopes of a mountain in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Marit was again in labour and the mission hospital was yet another kilometre up the track. Frank was cursing the bumps as his wife thudded mercilessly against the door of the cabin.
‘Get back on the fucking road, you clapped out shit of a truck!’ Frank screamed at the dashboard as they charged across a gap in the track. The rain was full of drops the size of oranges and the ground changed shape incessantly. And Frank was an anxious father in a hurry.
He finally drove the truck into the hospital drive and shouted for assistance. Marit was helped by gracious nurses into the ward where everybody gathered to see how the white missus gave birth to her child. Crones with their grandchildren, small wide-eyed boys with mouths stuffed with sugar cane stalks, and the little girls with intent eyes and secure smiles, crowded around Frank and his family in the corner of the ward.
Frank sat next to Marit and rubbed her back while cradling young JP in his other arm. The midwife hovered between Marit’s outstretched legs, a chasm of wonder for the peering crowd. As the furry head popped into view, the crones made joyous sounds and craned forward to watch the body of the new infant slither into the hands of the smiling midwife.

That his son was clearly a boy was incipient in the singing of the crowd. The faces were mobile and there was a sort of celebration in the way they described the potent manhood of the new-born child. As Rex Mossop, Kel O’Shea, Arthur Rimbaud and Lee Gordon swirled with other names from the past, Frank picked out the name for his son.
‘Lamont Cranston! Oh, no, please not, Frank!’
‘Marit, it could have been worse.’
‘Lamont? Cranston?’
‘It could have been Merlin!’
Their happiness was bouncing about the ward and outside a small boy laughed.


The wind drove a blast of salty rain into the faces of the four schoolgirls. They huddled under a garage awning, watching the rain pelt down.
‘I’ll never get home in this.’ said the girl with a cigarette cupped in her hands.
‘Bullshit, Lorraine!’ roared the girl with the mango-shaped face.
‘Jesus! I’ve got a fuck at four!’ cried Carol and suddenly darted into the rain and was lost from sight.
Lightning strobed the darkened afternoon. Ghost figures flashed. They leaned closer to the wall. Black clouds dragged the horizon closer to the beach.
‘Shit! I’m going for it’
Juno broke away from her friends and hurled herself into the awful wind.


Lamont sat by the lounge windows, watching the storm rage its bad-tempered crusade across the sea. He wondered how fish felt during a storm. Then Juno was sprinting across the stretch of sand below and he viewed his sister curiously.
The Donleavys had arrived in Sydney a month before via a languid cruise through Asian waters. They had embarked at Mombasa and had disembarked finally at Darwin. Frank would not fly. He had been in no hurry to get home to Sydney, though he’d been away for over thirty years. Returning meant refraining and Frank was not the sort of person to clamp irons on himself. The distance between Frank and his past was in the way Sydney had altered. There was the Opera House without its cranes and scaffolding. An expressway swerved past the Royal George and had cut off its charm. It had become a eunuch pub by the wharves.

So as to be free to alter his life’s course at a moment’s notice, Frank rented a furnished flat on the edge of the beach. If it drove him mad he could piss off whenever he wanted. The extra rent was worth it. He was prone to the life of a hermit and as winter had begun and the skies had become greyer, he knew the beaches would be devoid of people.
Juno, at seventeen, was in her final year at school and the transition from Africa to Australia had been painless. In a month she had selected her friends and had settled down to her way of life.
After a lifetime of traipsing after their father through Papua New Guinea and Africa she and Lamont had hardened. The sight of decaying children provided their escape from the romanticism of fairy tales and television. The years of war, famine and terror had become the boundaries of their existence. She had a unique way of scooting across the spectrum of life without changing colour and as she rushed into the foyer and shook the rain from her hair, she felt as if she’d lived here all her life.
She pushed the lift button and waited. When the lift door opened, an elderly man stepped out and dipped his hat to her. She smiled hallo and vanished into the lift. She was home.
‘Where’s Dad?’ she asked as she flung her schoolbag under the kitchen table.
‘Social security rang.’ Marit answered wearily.
‘And Monty?’
‘Watching the storm.’
Juno wandered through into the lounge and saw her brother with his face pressed hard against the window. A big circle of haaaahh covered the pane where his mouth breathed hot air against the cold glass.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Pulling myself, stupid!’ Lamont growled into the window.
‘Yes. They say that’ll happen.’
Lamont stared hard at the distance for a moment and then his face changed shape.
‘Funny!’ he decided without humour.


The storm followed the sun over the horizon behind the massive cliffs at the back of the lake. Just in time to explode a final tribute of colour. Frank Donleavy returned from the city. He was exhausted. He hated the queues. He hated the waiting. He scorned at the need to justify himself to paternalistic public servants in their cubicles.

He had journeyed to Sydney, standing in the bus, his six foot three inches frame bending in a futile effort to see out the window. Everyone wore after-shave or perfume. They stank. No one opened windows.
Sitting in his corner of the lounge he tried to reach into the ether, to stay there, rather than remain and have to deal with the mess his life had become.
‘Nil desperandum, my sweet.’ Marit said as she laid the coffee cups on the window ledge.
‘Non sequitor, pater noster and etcetera.’ Frank replied, pulling his wife onto his lap.
A little splutter of pink resisted the advance of night until an errant blotch of black cloud smothered it.
‘Better put on the light.’
‘Let’s do without it for a while?’ Frank murmured distantly.
They sipped their coffee to the sounds of television through the wall. Their neighbours seemed slightly disadvantaged in their hearing capabilities and their television adopted stentorian proportions.
After ten minutes of buzzers and answers and orchestrated applause, Frank wanted to turn it off. He shouted at the wall. There was no answer but the contestants. Then he banged the side of his fist as hard as he could against the wall and the noise lowered.
‘Christ! I’m so detribalised I could shove this facile society right up Glenn’s arse.’
‘Glenn? Who’s Glenn?’


The next afternoon was clear and cold. The only movement in the streets was of vehicles and schoolchildren hurrying homeward-bound. Cockatoos squawked their irritation from the trees as Juno and Lamont waited for the streetlights to turn green.
‘Who’s that?’ Lamont was watching the girl waving to them from the other side of the road.
‘That’s Carol.’
The coffee lounge was dim. Cockroaches were squashed against the skirting, as if hiding from a hasty broom. Stale air from piles of crushed cigarettes and Lamont was toeing paths through the mess. His eyes lingered on Carol’s sharp breasts that stung the fabric of her school blouse. He swirled his toes faster.

‘Did you catch him yesterday?’ Juno gushed as she shuffled her books into the bag on her lap.
‘Shit! The prick didn’t wait.’ Carol exclaimed in mock disappointment. ‘I mean, Christ! I run all the way through the fucking rain and he’s not there.’
The lost opportunity of sensual pleasures was rapidly replaced by the rumination of intimacy with Juno’s hunky brother. Carol calculated her movements so that her pencil-tip nipples would draw exciting patterns against her blouse.
‘What a waste of a day.’ said Juno as she pushed the slop of coffee in the saucer to the middle of the table. Then she slurped the cup empty. With inattention she dropped the cup back into the saucer and the dirty liquid splashed a frothy stain on Carol’s blouse.
‘Ever tried sucking coffee out of a sheila’s bra, mate?’ Carol suggested.
Juno left her brother and the salacious Carol at the coffee lounge. She jogged across the road with her school case irritating her thighs. Within minutes she had dumped her gear in her bedroom and descended to wait out the day on the beach. Sitting on the slopes of the sand hills she dug her bare feet into the sand.
There was little wind. There was no surf either, just a few gulls awaiting the worm. The beach was no different here, she thought. Blue, green, thunderous, still. All fish swam in water, and shat and ate and died. The water near India was as fetid as the water off Bondi. There was no difference at all.
An hour passed slowly. It had been an ugly day of ugly people. Juno shook herself from her mood and wandered down the beach where the footsteps of runners made holes in the sand. If only I could run off the edge of the earth, she mused without feeling.
It started off as a dot in the distance where the beach curved toward the sea. As it grew she realised it was running toward her. Protecting her privacy, she waded into the water where the runner wouldn’t go. The sandbank was big and she seemed to walk far to sea with the water about her ankles. She turned to see a boy waving her back to shore.
‘Get lost!’ she shouted her annoyance and waded still farther into the sea. Then she stopped and looked around. The boy was following.
‘Can’t you get it into your thick head that I want to be ... ’
Juno’s feet slipped with the sand as the bank collapsed. Her head went under as she sank with the rip. She was flowing in the sandy gutter of the surf as it drained out to sea.


The hands were cruel upon her back. She was conscious and in pain as she vomited but the hands continually pumped rib-cracking rhythms against her spine. ‘Pump two three four five ... pump two three f...’
‘Get off, fuck you!’ Juno cried.
Rane sat on his haunches. His blond hair framed his face, dark and beautiful. She stared at him. She had never seen a more gorgeous male. She watched him as his mouth opened, white and pink interruptions in that sculptured dial. He laughed with his head thrown back, like an imbecile at the theatre.
‘What are you laughing at?’
It was a ludicrous attempt to regain dignity as she realised she was sitting in the mess she had thrown up. Her hair, coarse with sand, stuck out in spikes.
His hands went to her head and tried to pat the hair down. His face was all smiles.
‘You think it’s funny?’
‘Hold still!’ Rane commanded as he tore off his tracksuit and eased it over her shivering body. A thin strip of cotton covered his groin. Goose flesh covered his body. ‘Where do you live?’
‘Up there!’ Juno pointed up the beach to her building.
‘Not the monolith?’
Juno anticipated his irony and began to head off home. Suddenly she reached out and stroked his skin. ‘We’d better get me home before you break out in boils. Jesus! You really are cold, aren’t you?’
His briefs were brown as his skin. Like a stunning picture of man on some pristine coast Rane walked with a lithe and sensual grace. Juno held his hand tightly as she trudged the sands with him. She was in shock from the terrifying moments in the surf and she was enjoying the distant delicious feeling of lewd exhibitionism as they caused curious curtains to open and faces of hopeless neighbours to peer down upon them.
‘You know, there’re two morons up there somewhere who keep a small white dog and they never let the poor little bugger out for a run. It’s a poodle or something like that. It pisses and craps on their balcony and every weekend the old lush of a woman comes out in her nightie and washes the shit with a hose. It just rains down on all the other balconies below.’
‘And it barks when they go out?’ Rane guessed.
‘You know then!’ Juno grinned mirthlessly.
The lift was empty when it reached the foyer and they stood silent as it rose again through the building. Each floor had its peculiar sounds; the fourth a cat fight and the seventh a church service.

‘Love the insulation.’ Rane shook his head.
Juno made a face and said nothing.
The door opened again and they emerged onto thick commercial carpet that stuck to the soles of their feet as they walked. Juno pressed the key into the lock and the flat greeted them warmly with its smells of coffee and incense.
A short corridor led into the lounge with its panoramic windows and threadbare furniture. Beyond, through an inter-leading door, lay the rest of the flat.
‘I won’t be a moment.’
Juno passed through the door and Rane went to the window. Down below he could see the little white dog on the balcony, shut out from its mistress. It was yapping as it paced back and forth within its tiny enclosure. Then Rane noticed the television through the wall. He moved closer and listened.
‘This is Mary Kostakidis … ’
‘Good heavens! How can anyone live like this?’ he thought.
‘What’s your name?’ Juno asked as she re-entered the lounge. She passed his tracksuit to him. He dressed.
‘Rane Hollard.’
‘Hmm! Nice name. As in the wet stuff from the sky?’
‘No. With an en and an EE. My Dad’s got this thing with names.’
‘Oh no! Not you too?’
‘Why? What’s yours?’
‘Juno Donleavy.’
‘Then your second name is Patricia or something?’
‘Close! It’s Peta. You’ve read him?’
‘Only the Unexpurgated Code. Dad’s got the Mad Molecule and a few others. Quite a funny writer.’
‘I’ve been obliged to read his works. My Dad has ambitions of being a film director, you know, dicing out roles for all his characters. He was gone on the Shadow and lumped my poor brother with the spook’s alter ego. Lamont Cranston! Can you imagine?’
‘Lamont? Lament the name Lamont. Is it buried?’
‘We call him Monty. It’s the best we could do. Anyway, it’s better than Lam.’
‘Is it?’
Marit bundled her tray into the lounge with a sheepish grin. She set the coffee and biscuits down. ‘My! You’re the gallant lifesaver. I am happy to meet you ... ’
‘Mum! This is Rane.’

‘It was a Godsend that you were there on the beach. You would not expect the surf to be dangerous in weather like this.’ said Marit with a nervous glance out the window. ‘You must come and have dinner with us sometime soon, hey?
‘My! Anyway, Rane, it was nice to meet you and you must excuse me but I’m in the middle of baking bread.’
Just then, the people next door changed to the seven o’clock news. Rane stood. Marit hurried away. ‘Considerate mob next door!’
‘Them!’ Juno said scornfully. ‘Deaf to the world.’


Lamont left an unsatisfied Carol by the privet in the reserve. Her panting had become a snarl when he told her he would burst if he didn’t go soon. He ran like a crab to the toilet near the boatshed. The concrete floor was wet and slippery. The urinal overflowed. White stones like mothballs clogged the drain. Cigarette butts swam in the turgid effluent. Lamont stepped over the mire and went into the pew at the end. The seatless porcelain was covered in grime and the dispenser behind the door had a single sheaf of paper; the short square shiny stuff which will not absorb.
He pulled his trousers up to his knees and lowered the top half in a fold around his thighs. With his feet on the rim of the porcelain he squatted and let his eyes roam the graffiti on the back of the door. In a striking display of graphic art, the figure of a bespectacled man with his head between a girl’s legs seemed both trite and amusing. But the words printed below left Lamont with a helpless anger, the kind of injured anger he knew when he faced the cane because of someone’s lies.
‘How can anyone stand in this muck and etch that kind of perversion into the fucking door?’
The shiny paper was insufficient and as he fastened his trousers he felt clammy and clumsy. ‘Shit! That poor girl!’ He stood down reluctantly and his feet recoiled from the slime. He opened the door and went back to find Carol. She had gone.
Immediately, he searched the bushes and returned to the toilet with a broken beer bottle. He scraped away the wording first and then, finger-cramped and cranky, he removed the head of the girl. When he was finished he was glad he had tried.
He went home to the apartment and the aroma of fresh bread. Juno was flopped on the lounge.
‘And where have you been, Romeo?’ Juno asked knowingly.
‘Shut up!’


Dinner was a desultory affair. Frank sat in a wooden mould, opening his mouth for food only. Marit busied herself by helping her family through the meal. Juno thought of the skin she had touched that afternoon. It was Friday night and the noise from the hotel band along the road was drowning the sounds of The Greatest American Hero next door. It was not the night to stay home.
The stars twinkled a message of devilment. There was no moon and it was cold to the marrow. Lamont wore his leather jacket and leered at himself in the mirror. At sixteen, he was nearly as tall as his father, though not nearly as broad. He had the same blue eyes as Juno, not the iridescent chameleonic eyes of their parents. But a strain of vermilion tinged the brown hair of all his family.
‘Where are you off to?’ asked Juno. Smirk-less, she stood by the door, coat in hand, feet astride in long furry boots.
‘Where it doesn’t cost!’ Lamont snapped and brushed past her. He relented a little by holding the door open for her to pass into the foyer.
‘What time are you two getting back?’ Frank sang out from the lounge. He was a little pissed.
‘Not out for long, Dad.’ Lamont replied tiredly. With his eyes thrown toward the neighbours’ wall, he added. ‘At least till they go to sleep.’
They dug their hands deeply into their pockets and roamed the streets. Down by the cement bridge, fishermen and their male offspring tossed their lines. By the cold mercury light exhaust streamed from their mouths, hovered for a second and then disappeared.
‘They’ve all got their own rhythms, haven’t they?’ Juno stared along the bridge. A dozen faces bent forward, fixed on the thread before them. ‘You know, frosted vibes.’
Teams of gawky youths loud-mouthed their way over the bridge. The fisher people ignored them. Excitement built at the bridge’s end where a woman lay bloodied where she had tried to cross the road. A distraught old man gibbered to the police. It was Friday night suburbia.
The clackety-clack ring-ring of a grimy pinball machine was discordant, like a fingernail across a blackboard. Lamont and Juno hesitated in the doorway of the hamburger joint that had not changed its decor since the sixties, as if it were cultivating the look rather than admit to lethargy. They watched keenly these latter-day bodgies.
‘You heard of a bird called Dali Hollard?’
‘Nope.’ replied Juno with finality. Then she added with a softening of her eyes. ‘But I do know the kookaburra, magpie and cockatoo. The Hollard I don’t know.’
‘Quit goosing around. This is serious!’ Lamont scowled at his sister.

‘What’s got you into ornithology tonight?’ Juno had not allowed her attention to wander from the crotch of the pimply bodgie at the pinball machine.
‘You try my fucking patience, girl.’ grinned Lamont sourly. ‘Just shut up, follow me and fucking well listen!’
The beach was full of lapping waves. Juno’s eyes widened as her brother went into his solemn tale of the afternoon. The full moon introduced a newer note of cold upon the sea as they wandered along its edge.
‘... and when I was shooting politicians at the porcelain, there it was, scrawled over the fucking door. Some maniac’s got it in for her, the poor bitch. Wherever you look, there’s her name and an almost artistic face. The eyes! Chinese perhaps ... or something like that. But the intent is so fucking obvious.’
‘I was pulled out of the surf today by a bloke called Hollard. I wonder if they’re related. Nuh! That doesn’t seem right.’
Lamont tried to recognise the face of a girl being physically interrogated by her lover on the sand. The stab of sadness made him turn away. ‘You remember that unmemorable graffiti about Kaffirs being the product of a union of camels and Arabs?’
‘It’s not something I’d hang onto, Monty.’ replied Juno with an askance look at her brother. ‘You got more of the same, perhaps?’
‘Jesus! You’re a fucking smart arse! Look!’ Lamont stammered angrily. ‘If you saw something that reckoned you were living testimony that your kind had sideways cunts, you’d be all out to war, wouldn’t you?’
‘I’d say shit to it all.’
‘Fucking bravo on your heroics, girl.’
Lamont turned sharply and stamped off over the sand.
‘Where you off to now?’
‘I’m going to find out where she lives.’ Lamont shouted.
‘Hang on!’ Juno commanded with resignation. ‘I can save you energy. I’ve an idea where.’


‘Okay!’ Max guffawed, spraying volleys of marijuana smoke and well-chewed peanuts. ‘Okay, okay ... ooooooooh shit! Straight down middle stump ... okay. The inimitable Aussie accent has managed to bastardise its own slang, sweetheart.’
Dali remained unimpressed. She refused to take on her father’s humour, leaving it stranded at the kerb, so to speak, orphaned, if you prefer.
‘Look Dali, morons aren’t people like us!’

Dali couldn’t suppress a smile.
‘Ya gotta look at it from a long distance. I know it’s tough, but ... for hundreds of generations these morons have been ... like ... the worms that eat the cheese ... or the parasites of the animal world ... you’ve seen enough of it on TV.’
‘Daddy, you’re just prejudiced.’ Dali countered half-heartedly.
‘It’s the same with Tykes, Wogs, Jews, and bloody painted women, and witches, and bus-conductors and garbos, fish and chip-shop owners, and priests and those blokes who paint the white lines down the middle of the fuckin’ roads ... ’
‘I didn’t mean that kind of prejudice, Daddy, and you know it!’ Dali pouted, pretending insult. ‘And stop swearing!’
A car sounded its horn outside and a gentle quiet precipitated in the lounge. Dali closed her eyes for a while and when she opened them, her family was far away in thought. More cars moved along the track and stopped, then growled as if burrowing a parking space into the embankment. There was a further noise and the family in the lounge stirred.
‘Hello! You two took your time.’ Rane said as he opened the sliding doors, ambled onto the verandah and waited by the trapdoor as Juno and her brother climbed into view.


Chapter 3

The Cross had changed its form over the years. During the forties and fifties, when people were trying to forget the horror of war, it was a quaint place of Bohemianism, a small village offering refuge to the displaced and the eccentric. When the ravaged of Europe were forced to migrate, they brought with them a style of rendezvous that was to impact indelibly upon Australian society. In the midst of a heritage of beer and meat pies grew the era of the coffee lounge; vinyl chambers of vinyl tables and chairs and hissing machines and aroma of coffee beans and a dark haired lady on the till by the door.
They were strange places at first, filled with the sounds, smells and tastes of foreign lands. Gradually as the nation of Australia looked out at the world through television the coffee lounge became culture. Society organised its components at different coffee lounges which became house to Italian, Greek, Lebanese and German expatriates. Australians kept to pubs while the Wogs sat around in coffee lounges.
By the 1960s the ideologue had invaded and laid occupation to these regions of mystery. Art vogue met political activist and philosopher amid coffee, Gitanes and bon homie. Fascists, Leninists and drifters gravitated together in an awkward stratagem against the law that they viewed collectively as another scab on the festering injustice of society.
The Cross drew artists, musicians, poets, deadbeats, beatniks, hippies, the corrupt, the incorrigible, sadists and masochists, perverts, saddies and junkets, poofters and lessos, kamp and queer, butch and bitch, dung punchers and faggots, whores and pimps, harlots and prostitutes, black velvet voyeurs and pederasts, charlatans and Shamans, the introverted and the insane to its heart. A colony of misfits was born.
The Cross was ripe for invasion. It grew fat. Fat and greedy men mobilised to capture the wayward, to capture the droves of lost souls in search of Nirvana, by creating an industry of nightclubs, brothels, casinos and betting rings.
It harnessed the energies of greed to the vicissitudes of human nature and a corruption became endemic to its nature. The paradox of law and disorder in clandestine arrangement.
It was the ‘beginning’ of ‘organised crime’ in Australia. The media baptised certain businessmen as the Mr Bigs of the Underworld, even though these Mr Bigs had been around The Cross for years.

The wayward and the hopeful from the suburbs were drawn to The Cross to wait tables or to sell their bodies from stinking doorways. The more exotic shaved their pubes and shamelessly fornicated on stage. The artful crossed legs with politicians and police. For those who had earned the trust, there was the excitement and prestige of carrying satchels of poison for the wretched. The Cross became more than Sydney’s outhouse; it had become the village of the damned.


Killit Lane worms sewer-like from The Cross. A dreadful stench clutters the air. The Lane rarely gets to see the sun, except for two weeks in December when the stench rises above the terraces. Most residents of yesteryear had sold out to casinos and love houses. Killit Lane is a grey and forgotten pathway.
A garden restaurant sits where the Lane twists sharply. The denizens of this Little Russia sit numbly and wait, with their coffee and madness.
Next door, an old Czech couple sits quietly in the glow of the Friday night movie on channel ten. Above, the whores work their mugs on City Mission mattresses. It is an ill-lit lane and it is uninviting.
Rane left his father’s black and grey van in the park at Rushcutters. He knew it would be covered in bats’ piss within the hour. ‘No one’ll pinch it,’ he shouted raucously, ‘too many queers to run over!’
Humped as darker shadows on the lawn, lovers thrust at each other, safe in their communal landscape.
‘In the chill of winter?’ Juno had no response to her incredulity.
Rane laughed. ‘It’s warm inside!’
He walked backward and conducted his companions as though they were an orchestra moving through the park. His hands were fashioning his words into theatre.
‘... you mob throw out a bit of tit. Mac and I’ll be cool with Gerry and he’ll see us okay.’
Kings Cross stood as Calvary above the city of Sydney. It’s a rite of passage to make at least one pilgrimage to The Cross. It would be social atrophy to be ignorant of The Cross.
Rane led his troupe of characters up the grotty back streets to The Lane where Gerry stood guard outside Club 69.
‘Rane, you Turk!’

Gerry gestured generously as he recognised the wily face coming up the steps from the footpath. As they passed through into the casino Gerry eyed Juno longingly, jeans-stretching hips almost wiping his mind. Gerry was a raunchy Maori with a smile the size of Wellington. Scratching his crotch hopefully, he was gesturing to a closing metal door. He sighed and returned his face to the Lane.
The bar was noisy. It leaped out from a black wall and occupied most of the small room. The lights were standard dark red. An ultra violet did cheap tricks on the figures that animated the bar. Rane’s hair glowed weirdly. The portable television on the bar was not working properly. The picture was out of focus and the sound was tormented and shrill.
‘The tables are in the end room next to the shithouse.’ advised Rane with tight lips and a slewing of his eyes. He was a picture of Bogartian subterfuge. ‘If ya wanna smoke, ask Gerry. He’ll fix it.’
Swarthy males were draped over the bar amid dirty ashtrays and stale beer. Juno watched a bald man lift his drink with the coaster attached. His eyeballs converged as he absently flicked it to the floor. An obese slut was at the end of the bar. Her left breast bulged as she slopped in the swill of cigarettes and beer.
‘She’s one of Dad’s!’ McLuhan’s eyes sparkled like fine claret and the beer froth left a glowing violet moustache on his lips. ‘Probably waitin’ for him to show up after all these years!’
They migrated from the bar to the end room next to the toilet. It was quiet. The gamblers’ night was in infancy. A pair of green-haired women attended blackjack while five young men in suits stood absently in a group. They did not play. They stood with beers in hand, waiting for something to happen. Along the walls poker machines were flashing gaudy colours in silent solicitation.
It was eleven thirty when the blonde croupier began her shift.
‘Place your betssssss.’
‘Anyone for another smoke?’ McLuhan asked as they wandered aimlessly about the room. Rane deferred and watched them disappear upstairs.
The five young men in suits began placing bets. The blonde lifted her eyes from the table and smiled lifelessly at her new customers. Rane sauntered over and positioned himself opposite her. Shaded brown eyes greeted him before they flickered and her teeth showed through her smile. ‘Place your betsssss ... ’ she lisped flatly and set the game in play.

A slight tug at the hub tap and the roulette started its slow, inexorable rotation. The white ball whirled against the spin of the roulette and five young men in suits cheered their numbers like punters at the course. She smiled indulgently and sssshed them to silence. The ball fell out of the groove and hesitated before dropping click-click into Black Thirteen.
A groan emerged from the five young men in suits as their bets were scraped away. They plunged again and this time Rane concentrated on the game. Again it orbited and dropped click-click and Rane couldn’t help smiling. Two green-haired women had wandered from the blackjack to watch. They were now recording the game in a notebook. The blonde croupier appeared to ignore them.
Rane stood for half an hour, watching the spin, awaiting an impulse, a percipience that would flash the winning number before his mind. He had discovered another aspect to his remarkable powers. Again the spin and Rane was becoming impatient with the five young men in suits who kept on losing. He wanted to blurt his knowledge to the room.
‘What’s up?’ he said as Juno stared at him with marijuana eyes.
‘Ooops! Mustn’t do that, must I?’ she giggled. ‘But you dooo look odd with your luminous hair.’
Rane became chilled with rain boots on his heart. Everyone had frozen. The wastelands had turned to ice and the faces in the room were etched on wooden tablets. The discord of the far-off television hovered mid-tune and hurt his ears. Then he was deaf and only the familiar winds breathed in his mind.
‘Are ya gunna stand there like that all fuckin’ night or what?’ McLuhan demanded with an oafish grin.
‘Shit!’ Rane composed himself as the chill dissolved in the closeness of the room. He gathered himself the courage and said to his brother. ‘I’ve got an idea I can pull something here tonight ... ’
McLuhan listened and said nothing. His eyes stared uncomprehendingly as he passed over the remains of the fifty dollars Max had donated for the evening. Rane’s blue eyes had stripped him of refusal.


The croupier had changed when Rane returned to the game. A fresh-faced man with full lips and pencil line eyebrows was tidying his bank as he encouraged more bets. His voice sang sweetly, lisping his chant to the congregation of gamblers. The room was filling as the night entered morning.

With his stoned entourage gathered around him like plastic extras in a film Rane exchanged the money for house chips and waited for the ball to spin. He didn’t follow the ball around the rim nor did he try to anticipate. He just stared at the hub of the roulette.
At the call of ‘last bets’ Rane mechanically leaned forward and set a two dollar chip on a number. Round and round the ball went until it teetered and fell on Rane’s number. At thirty-five to one his number held the white ball at the end of its merry-go-round. Seventy dollars! Boy!
Juno and Lamont gaped.
‘Nothing like a fluke, eh?’ Rane quipped and collected his winnings. ‘What’s the limit, Mac?’
‘Dunno! Ask him.’ McLuhan tilted his head toward the croupier.
‘One thouthand for eventh and one hundred the number.’ The jut-hipped croupier had well-trained ears. ‘More betth!’ he sang.
Rane held fifty dollars of chips ready as the ball went into orbit again.
‘More betth, laydeeth and gentlemen!’ urged the croupier as Rane piled his chips onto a number.
Dali closed her eyes tightly, as she did during a scary story told in the dark. Her mouth was dry and she pressed her nails into her palms. She heard the ball drop, rattle and click. Then she heard Rane’s number with the oooohh of the crowd. She opened her eyes to let the tears run out.
Everyone was scrambling to the table and the gentle putter soft quiet of the room had been shattered by the crescendo of expectation. Rane bet one hundred dollars. The ball slotted neatly into his number, and a door at the far end of the room opened. Two men, one of whom was exceedingly large, watched as the roar of the crowd told of another prodigious win for the dark boy with the white hair. The two men looked at each other and returned to their position of scrutiny behind the two-way mirrors.
‘Hmmmm! Thmart arth!’ The pencil line above his eye arched as he absorbed the warning signal from the man in the office. ‘Chrith-t!’
The croupier blushed his annoyance. He had thrown the magnet and the wires were correct. There would be consternation in the office when the house closed its doors. His lips moved like buttocks on the run. When the blonde nudged him out of the way he strutted to the toilet and splashed cold water over his make up.

Excitement remained nervous in the room. Rane had won over fifteen thousand dollars and he was leading his group through the cheering throng of gamblers like a rock band leaving the stage. After tipping Gerry handsomely, Rane charged into the street, a libido-bursting gallop down the hill to the park where he became ridiculous among the lovers in the grass.
He had thrown himself about the grass in a frenzy, almost like a man on fire. Vaguely discernible in the patchy light and shadow of the park he slowed and blew an exhausted sentence out of his mouth, a sentence he’d uttered a million times, to be muttered a million times more.
‘Stop the noise!’
The street lamp in its wire basket hung on a wooden pole at the edge of the park. It was a forty-watt signal that it’s okay to hump in the grass. The girl was closer now and she had a loud voice. A disturbing voice that ached his brain.
‘Stop the noise ... ’
She was small and she moved onto him with wide eyes, taking his frustration to the chest. She blended with the night and he knew she was visible to him alone. He took her by the waist and lifted her. When she dropped she closed her eyes and allowed her body to masturbate his flesh. His forearms ached as he jerked his dying thrusts into the girl and he let her crumble onto his chest. Her breathing was deep. He had wet her dream.
‘Hey!’ came the voice and the laughter. ‘What the hell are you doing?’
Rane opened his eyes quickly and regrouped his scattered thoughts. The bulge of money was still in place and his mates and family were there. It was two in the morning and no threat of rain and she had drawn close. Her eyes were blue and she was smiling.
‘You okay?’ Juno asked softly and touched his face.
‘Help me up, will you?’ he reached for her and they rose together. ‘Just wanted to feel you.’


‘That the kids?’ grunted Frank Donleavy from beneath his pillow.
‘Hmmmmm ... don’t put the rice on the stove yet ... hmmmm.’
Frank studied his wife in the soft light of the radio clock and decided to leave her to her sleep. He donned shorts and his dressing gown and found his sleepy way to the kitchen. Juno and Lamont were laughing.
‘Hi Dad!’ they greeted him waggishly.

‘Jesus!’ Frank declared in mock disapproval. ‘Next time use the bloody eye drops. You two could do with a transfusion.’ He was rummaging inside the cup cupboard with clumsy hands. ‘Have a good time wherever you went?’
They blurted simultaneously then stopped and laughed. Frank could not control his smile. His piccaninnies were growing up. While he waited for their exhausted minds to drop to earth, he spooned instant coffee into three cups and switched on the kettle. Leaning back against the refrigerator he listened to his daughter as she launched into a manic epilogue. When she had finished, Frank’s eyes were smarting.
‘What’s up, Dad? We’ve got over six grand! He was something else, you know! I tell you! Something else. Yep!’ Juno’s eyes were drooping as she began to relax. Suddenly she boggled her eyes. ‘Then on the way home he tells us that he’s going to split the boodle five ways. Here! Look at this!’
Juno began jumping up and down like a Pogo stick with the money spilling from her hands. Lamont had collapsed into a lounge chair. His face was florid from laughter. The banknotes were reckless litter on the lounge floor.
Frank wiped moisture from his eyes and poured coffee. ‘It’s difficult to grasp at this hour. But ... shit! It’s bloody marvellous!’
They drank their coffee in silence. Frank scrutinised his children and wondered how the wrinkles of future worries would change their faces. They were still spiritually clean and they saw the world without analysing their impressions. Or so he thought. He had listened to their ebullition and realised he could no longer shade them from their impulses. Their smiles were youth. Their eyes? They were now different, Frank thought, different from the eyes that went out the door earlier in the evening. Eyes that had conquered and would never look back.
And there was that name!
‘You say you met Rane’s old man?’
‘Dad, he’s terrific!’ Juno proclaimed. ‘Great mountain of a man!’
Juno was showing the infatuation of a tropical summer in her winsomeness. Although she was tired she was sparkling and she exuded an attraction that would be awkward for her in her future.
‘Did you know your dopey daughter nearly drowned herself this aftern ... I mean, shit, yesterday?’
‘Mum mentioned it but ... oh! I see! It’s the same bloke.’ Frank answered with new awareness. ‘Now hang on ... they must all be adopted unless this mountain of a man had three wives ... what’s his first name?’

Frank shuddered involuntarily. He changed his face and looked seriously at his children. ‘I think that’s enough for the night, you humbug you! Piss off to bed and leave the loot with me. I will secure it somewhere safe. Okay? Now ... off!’
Juno laughed to herself and left. Lamont shook his head, grinned widely and left. Only when Frank had secured the money did he contemplate with sudden clarity the idea of all that cash as a suppository. He then lay on his bed with his thoughts.


‘What?’ cried Max.
Nearly ten thousand dollars sat in piles on top of his bed. His watch beeped three in the morning. He jumped out of bed and sent a large block of tens scattering.
‘He was just so cool, Dad.’ Dali rushed with her words as she tidied the banknotes. ‘You would have burst with pride.’
‘I would’ve busted his skull instead!’ Max had wrapped a blanket around his body as he sat on the side of his bed with his bushy face in frown.
‘Shit, Dad!’ exclaimed McLuhan. ‘We’ve got a fortune here and you’re ... I can’t believe it!’
‘Don’t crap me, Mac!’ snapped Max. ‘You might think you’re all clued and wise ... but ... what’s the fuckin’ point?’ Max glared about him and seemed to shrink from the inherent violence of himself. ‘Piss off to bed. All of you! We’ll see about it at breakfast. And you’re on, Mac! Don’t leave it to me. It’s your fuckin’ turn. Okay?’
McLuhan opened his mouth to protest but slammed it shut and left the room. He was not up to his father’s bullyboy mood.
‘Christ! That boy!’ Max said defensively as the others hissed their disapproval. ‘Well? What do you want me to fuckin’ well say? Hey?’
‘Good night, Dad.’ Rane waved a tired hand and left.
Dali remained at the foot of the bed. Her face was quaking as her eyes brimmed with tears. Max beckoned to her and she hugged him, kissed him on his beard and without a word left the room.
He watched her leave but his thoughts were chaotic. His children had entered a world he had wanted them to avoid. But the humour of the night caught hold of him and he relaxed. Then he began to smile as he drew pictures for himself of those clowns down Killit Lane. ‘Fuckin’ dickheads!’


The pit boss played with his Bronson moustache. ‘I don’t understand, Mr Tseridis.’ His half image in the two-way mirror was cowering before the other half-image of the ex-wrestler. He let go of his moustache and took out his worry beads.
‘You better understand, Ari, or you work your arse off for the next thousand years. You understand? You don’t understand? I don’t understand, Ari ... how that baboon Gerry let those kids inside! Why does he do it? Maybe Gerry like to jiggijig the girl with the big tits? Neh?’
‘I’ll talk to him tonight, Mr Tseridis.’ Aristotle Seferis was a humble man who dreaded confrontation. His manner was to laugh and hug his children. He hated his work. He had been a teacher once, in another language, in another land. Now he was working in Killit Lane for a man he wished had been aborted.
‘Talk! Talk!’ Tseridis threw his fingers at his employee. ‘Why did the magnets fail? Did you try the wires? Maybe you were too busy pulling yours, neh?’
The ex-wrestler burst into the gambling room and searched the roulette table. He found nothing out of order. It was four-thirty and the covers were being thrown over the tables by staff. Two grey-haired women were stacking glasses on the bar.
‘Mr Tseridis, I’m sorry, but ... ’ Aristotle stammered his contrition but the invective of the ex-wrestler made him cower in mid-sentence.
‘No fuckin’ but! You listen good. Next time this club open you don’t let any malacca win, you understand? Neh? We get my fifteen thousand dollars back. You pull the wires on every pusti. I don’t like nobody winning. This one,’ Tseridis thumped his own chest, ‘is the only one who wins. You understand, neh?’
‘Yes, Mr Tseridis.’
‘Yes, Mr Tseridis?’
‘You find that malacca! You drop that bastard onto cement. You understand?’
‘Yes, Mr Tseridis.’


Chapter 4

Dali awakened first. She dressed in jeans and a close-fitting cashmere pullover. Her bra she left hanging over the end of her bed. ‘No need for you anymore.’ she decided somewhere in the rough passages of her mind. She tossed her sheets and blankets, damp from the perspiration of a restless dream, into a bundle and left them in a corner of her room. The mirror on her dressing table reflected her movements and from the corner of her eye she espied the image of herself, a disconcerting parody of what she longed to be.
She left her room and moved around the house like a phantom, with an instinctive consideration for her sleeping family. She slid the lounge doors open and stepped out onto the verandah. The day was a dark hangover from the night before. Black clouds sat above the peninsular and the air had that electric stillness before a storm. Through the sight zones she saw the lake was dark and grey and smooth, as if the bream had sunk to the deep.
‘Oh shit! Saturday again.’ she sighed as she collected the stained coffee cups and ashtrays and carried them through to the kitchen. The plates of dinner were submerged in fetid water. For years, since her thirteenth birthday she had lived her weekends in seclusion. Withdrawn and myopic, she was passing her teenage years without the comfort of her peers. There were few means by which she could compare her own life, her own standards, her own desires and her own needs to give.
During the lonely years she had ripened. Each time she had exchanged a bra for a newer, larger kind, she had asked herself: ‘What for?’ Each time the monthly flow from her body caused her discomfort, there was the same perplexity. No one had asked her to a dance or to a movie or to anything. There was no one to hope for, to fantasise about when she rubbed herself at night. Her only lover was her finger.
Dali knew her face defined her destiny. There were some out there who thought they knew her because of her face.
She had always trudged her future with dread, putting on a brave front for her family, living a life of pretence, practising the art of forbearance.
Conversation with others was limited. They tended to shout and use broken English. They were confused with her presence and did not know how to behave. So they shunned her.
Rane seemed to have carried his strangeness well. So why couldn’t she?

The moment she left the comfort of her house she had tried to make the best of it. She gave her all and received resentment for her troubles. She even dropped answers in exams at school to ward off the hysteria of those whom she bested. She had tried her utmost to give them no cause for hating her, but still it went on. Most of them really hated her; especially the boys on the bus who held her and pulled down her pants to check the truth of the graffiti.
The signs had been scrawled everywhere.
And the women with their children, sitting at the front of the bus, their faces far away and fixed, while the boys poked their rude fingers at her.
She remembered last summer when Max had taken her to the tennis. Australia was playing Italy in the Davis Cup and at one end of the stadium a big crowd of supporters was waving the colours of Italy. She remembered her contempt for those Australian accents calling out ‘ITALIA’!!! She had spoken of it at school the following Monday and was met with a constrained silence until one cynic asked, ‘Oh! Do you barrack for Australia?’
Christ! Why wouldn’t they acknowledge her?
The storm began as she stepped out of her reverie. She raced around the house, closing all the windows and fastening latches. Hail! And the washing still on the line!
She tore through the kitchen and out the back where the clothesline draped from the cliff to the house. The line was full and she grabbed one lot at a time and hurried back into the house and then out again for the next lot. She was crying all the while.


Philip Morris did not smoke; nor did he socialise. He was the archetypal reprobate who, as a student gained notoriety as a masturbator. He would sit in the calcimined toilets at the back of the schoolyard and, as his detractors would say, frantically whip his joy at every opportunity.
He transferred from one school to the next; his parents avoided the shame of his infamy by leaving it behind at one place or another. He had stood before the principal’s reproval and had suffered the indignity of public canings with his peers the witnesses to his ignominious punishment.
Undeterred, he habitually gravitated to the public toilets in the park after school, just behind the swings and monkey bars. Standing on the seat, his view was the kiddies’ playground. As the little girls jumped and played, he relieved his sex against the wall.

Philip Morris entered his first suburban adult bookshop when he was eighteen and found enlightenment. He no longer was alone with his obsession. A world of sexual refreshment was his to travel. He spirited home torrid magazines and spent himself through their pages. His mother condoned his interests as pure boyhood development and said nothing. The father merely borrowed them to arouse himself for his wife.
Four years passed before Philip Morris caught a bus to Kings Cross, and along the street where everybody goes he found a shop beneath the ground. He surveyed other customers who were browsing. Then he saw the movie machines. He collected a heap of coins from the man at the counter and dropped a bunch into the slot at the front of a machine. After a whirr the film flickered, and behind the scratches and age, two girls were playing with the unwieldy organ of a donkey.
The machine stopped. He was distraught as he banged the machine. Then he raced back to the counter for more change. Frenziedly he poured more coins down the slot. The film moved on again. As the girls were sprayed with donkey semen Philip Morris groaned and slumped against the machine. Within seconds he rushed to the toilet out the back where he sponged his wet trousers with the towel that hung by the sink. His face was red as a boil. His breath came in short laboured gasps.
‘Oh God! This is fucking beautiful.’ he almost cried at his reflection above the sink.
‘What the fuck d’ya think ya doin’, egghead?’
The tone threatened as an upraised hammer.
A small thin man, about twenty years of age, stood in the doorway. An evil grin showed through the decay of his teeth. A thin moustache spilled over the corners of his lipless mouth. His hair was greased and longish and parted in the middle. In his hand was a dildo the colour of ebony.
‘I beg your pardon!’ Philip Morris recognised his fear. His nausea was rising.
‘The towel, mug!?’ The thin man approached behind his extended dildo. ‘You used the fuckin’ towel! Ya got no fuckin’ manners, ya fuckin’ mug!’
‘Oh, excuse me. I must be going.’ Philip Morris tried to by-pass the man but was roughly prodded in the face with the dildo. ‘What do you mean by this? You’ve no right to ... ’
The man’s fist burrowed into the soft flesh of Philip Morris’ stomach. ‘Come here, mug!’ The man held Philip Morris by the ear and led him back to the sink. ‘Drop your gear and grab hold of the fuckin’ basin or I’ll leave your balls in a bloody mess on the floor. Now fuckin’ hurry it up, mug!’

Philip Morris was sodomised at the age of twenty-two in a toilet at the back of a pornographic bookshop at The Cross.
On his thirtieth birthday Philip Morris inherited wealth, a legacy from his recently departed parents. Their death had been a mystery and the coroner could not determine beyond doubt that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding their death. Nevertheless, part of the legacy insisted he change his name, so in the office of the registrar he formally became a new man. He walked out as Maurice Murphy, changed his employment to that of a broker with a firm at the Quay and moved from the western suburbs to the house he had bought at the base of the cliffs.
He kept to himself. Each day he drove his Japanese sedan to his office, parking in his allotted space beneath the building. He ate his shop-made sandwiches in the park across from work and, after throwing the wrappings in the bin, made his way quickly to the small basement theatre uptown. As the images of carnality sparked on the screen, Maurice Murphy removed his handkerchief from his coat pocket and with a deftness acquired from daily practice spread it on his lap. As the film reached its conclusion he exhausted himself into the cloth and then hurried back to the hubbub of office routine where no one gave him a second thought.
He was an ordinary man with a face you didn’t remember. There was a sense of hopelessness about his eyes that made people look away when he spoke to them. Of medium build Maurice Murphy sought anonymity with his blandness of manner and inconspicuousness of appearance. He could stand at a corner and remain unobserved. The introverted stance he adopted avoided contact and he kept his abnormally large hands in his pockets.
He had no friends and he lived his private life in the house next to Max. It lay well back from the track and hugged the swell of the ground as it rose into the cliff. Built three years before the tide of new fashionable dwellings flooded the quiet bush avenue, yet an eternity since Max had walked the dusty track and selected his piece of turf for a home, it was an awful looking building. From thirty metres its baleful windows stared down on Max’s tiny rear lawn beneath the washing line. The curtains remained closed behind unkempt window frames and rusted broken fly screen. A piece of guttering hung rejected from the roof and poured rain in a single column past the windows.
He watched her as she reached for the washing. The hail had ceased and a steady light rain fell on the girl. Her long black hair tapered like treacle down to her buttocks. Maurice Murphy sat on a chair in the darkness of his room. His eyes were close to the curtain and his hand, covered in oil, rubbed his bulging flesh slowly, noisily. When she spread her legs to pick up washing, he quickened his hand and wept as his semen spurted down his legs.


Dali dumped the washing in the laundry and cursed as she wiped her eyes. She ran to the bathroom beside the kitchen and cupped hot water over her face. The soft eyes of a little girl were no longer there; a wicked spike had etched her soul and she became lost to the heat inside herself. Last night, at The Cross, she knew Lamont was the restless spirit she must have before she retired to her destiny. She had wanted him to puncture her and pump her full of his life.
Dali turned from the mirror and quietly locked the bathroom door. She took the towel from behind the door and dried her hair until she was warm from rubbing. She let the towel drop to the floor then unfastened the zipper of her jeans and lowered them to her ankles. Her pullover came off over her head and dropped onto the towel. Standing on her toes, she stepped out of her jeans and went back to the mirror.
There, behind the mirror was the tragedy of her birth, standing slim as a waif. Her shock of ruffled hair hung over her reddened eyes. She pushed it from her face and forced a smile. Her teeth were white and even. She watched her hand slide down her body until it went from sight, below the mirror’s reflection. She noticed her face flush as her fingers found the crease beneath the hair. Only when her hand crept into herself did she close her eyes and think the thoughts of night time.


The storm had lasted an hour and the rain had stopped flowing from the guttering above the window. Maurice Murphy stripped himself of his pyjamas and stood. He opened the cupboard and selected his clothes for the day. He dressed then put on his thick lumber jacket and wandered about the house for a while. He was about to pocket his car keys for a drive to the basement theatre in the city when he suddenly changed his mind. He opened the front door and looked out over the lake. A rainbow shimmered over the hills and came to rest among the mangroves to the west of the reserve. He started down the stairs and out onto the muddy track, past Max’s house. Finally he disappeared around the corner.
The reserve behind the school glistened in the aftermath of the rain and it offered sanctuary to his dilemma. He squelched his shoes as he walked along the grass to the toilet near the boatshed. The sun shone weakly through the grey of the morning. There was no one about in the reserve and Maurice Murphy relished the abandonment of its emptiness.

He sought his favourite drawing against the wall near the urinal and as he leered at someone’s imagination, his eyes caught hold of a new, bold figure drawn in green above the urinal cistern. The artist must have carried a stepladder to sketch this graphic high on the wall. There was the unmistakeable nakedness of the girl he had watched this morning, her legs wide open and the bespectacled man licking her like a dog at its bowl.
Maurice Murphy glanced quickly about the toilet and then stepped up to the urinal and opened his fly. A short moment later he was finished and he watched the white globs floating on top of the mess in the drain. He then left the toilet and took the path to where the rainbow had come to rest.


Chapter 5

McLuhan was numb from yesterday’s marijuana and beer, yet his mind itched to rage with his wealth, to celebrate! He left the house to its silence and, hunched against the drizzle, carefully let himself into the driver’s seat of the van. Inside the glove box there was a motor manual and a purse with twenty cent coins for the bridge toll, and, forgotten in a night of intoxication, a small cardboard box of marijuana. McLuhan drummed the engine moderately then reversed down the slippery drive to the muddy track outside.
Dali, luxuriating in the warmth of the bath, vaguely heard the van drive off. Otherwise she remained oblivious of everything.
Max cursed his son from within his slumber and Rane realised their transport was gone. A day at home again!
Breakfast was eggs and toast and coffee poured many times into their cups. The embers of the old fire glowed heatless beneath the final log in the ash. Max grunted with the effort to rekindle the damned thing and eventually gave up the struggle. He sat in his chair within the bookcase with his food on his lap and fiddled with his cutlery as he considered his adopted son.
The boy had discovered a new aspect of his remarkable powers and Max was uncertain of how Rane would cope with it. That the lot of them had ended up at the tables was not his concern; he himself had adopted The Cross when he was fifteen. But Rane was different. He had that indefinable magic of the very few, and his psyche may be too sensitive to the vileness which gnaws at The Cross.
Dali had completed her breakfast and, after taking her plate to the sink, switched on the music. The air was restful now with Mendelssohn lovely in the background.
Rane had returned from the kitchen with an orange in his hand and he was peeling the skin with his thumb. His face had the innocence of a small boy and he sucked at the fruit with his eyes opened wide. He sat and looked at his Dad watching him.
‘You know,’ Max began, ‘years ago when the clubs were spread thin and The Cross was in the hands of people who were good to me, there was this wol. He was a psychopath. Still is. A really demented bastard. One night he walked up the stairs of this fuckin’ daggy joint, ya know, where the sluts suck cock under the tables, and in front of everybody there pulled out his revolver and blasted the shit out of a bloke’s head.’

Max paused and searched the back of his brain.
‘Ya know, no one did a bloody thing! He simply strolled over to the bar like King fuckin’ Louie and gulped down this other bloke’s fuckin’ beer and walked back down the stairs and back to work. He’s still on the force. And, he still runs around The Cross like a mad hood, swingin’ any poor mug into the back of the van for a bashin’.’
Mendelssohn hovered on his final note and died with the hiss of the tape: ‘ ... thwap thwap thwap thwap ... ’
‘Want it changed, Daddy?’ asked Dali.
‘Yeah, sweetheart, put on somethin’ for the mood.’
‘Did you know the bloke, Dad?’ asked Rane.
‘Yeah!’ was all Max said. He then arose and moved to the verandah and gazed through the sight zones. He caught sight of his neighbour walking along the track.
‘You’re still crook at me for winning all that dough, aren’t you, Dad?’ Rane had followed his father and had assumed a similar stance against the railing. The neighbour was now distant along the track.
‘Son, it’s not that.’ Max replied. ‘We’ve got the brass and we’ll spend it like fools and have a bloody great time. I mean, don’t take me wrong, Rane. I wouldn’t try and change what’s happened for all the tea in China.
‘But if ya think where the bugs came from in the first place, well ... whose was it before you got it, hey? You have ta realise it was in someone else’s pocket. Now you’ve got it. That mug who owns the club ... ya reckon he’s feelin’ like he’s had a good night? Hey Waddya reckon, son? He’s fuckin’ fifteen grand down the fuckin’ drain.’
The neighbour was gone. Max had seen him on few occasions. They had not met. His arrival had been a strange and irregular bunch of visits with furniture and belongings almost secreted from a small white van into the house next door.
‘You keep clear of that garbage, Rane. Don’t fuck with The Cross. Don’t fuck up that sensitive head of yours. The bugs aren’t worth it. Simple as that!
‘Don’t spoil the way you are. Once ya do somethin’ that’s worth the applause of ya mates but what annoys someone else, you become part of that someone else. Ya become a sort of point for his concentration.’
‘A focal point!’ Dali interjected neatly.
‘Yeah! A fuckin’ focal point! When the rough blokes are concentratin’ on ya, son, then you become the gold-toothed dinosaur, and he’s been fucked for years. Ya know what I mean?’


The grey of the day was changing as the sun rose along its low arc in the sky. The lounge warmed as the heated rays swept the floor very slowly. The tamari matting showed its age in the spotlight of the day; dust showed as a solid clump between the fibres. From the ceiling hung objects of art, a cultural history of the children’s awakening on display.
The sun took its time moving toward the hills. The lake was a mystical shimmer in the distance. Cockatoos squawked from gum trees. It was a winter’s afternoon in a cathedral of birdsong and their conversation had become light and witty as they succumbed with smiles to the charm of the changing day.
From the verandah where they sat in comfort the sounds of Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain gave an intense expectancy to the setting. The hills seemed to quieten their ambient noise, like the hush-hush-hush-hush before a concert performance.
Suddenly the colour was gone. The mist thickened and Aranjuez was a plaintive background to the footsteps up the stairs. They moved through the mist quietly, softly, appearing at the trapdoor in overcoats and smiles.
‘Thought you might be into something ... ’ Lamont said easily. His eyes immediately sought Dali who moved to greet him.
‘What you got in mind?’ asked Rane.
‘Well, I wouldn’t mind jumping back into yesterday.’ Juno smiled.
She had discovered that Australia was a more evenly tempered country than the ones she’d lived in. She had now realised that her initial perception of boredom was mistaken. ‘Frankly, Monty and I haven’t had so much fun since we helped Dad smuggle shit out of Zambia.’
Max looked across at Juno as if she had squashed his pet lizard.
‘Talking of shit ... anyone for a joint?’ Lamont produced a stiff thin cigarette from his hip pocket.
‘I’ll give it a miss, kids. You blokes give the arvo a burl, hey?’ said Max as he returned to somewhere deep in the house.
‘Dad’s telling us he’s got worms in the brain and he needs time to sort them out. Alone!’ Dali laughed as she took amateur tugs at the joint. She didn’t inhale. It pleased her to be among their smiles.


Chapter 6

It was three thirty and once again the sun pushed the cloud and mist away. From the darkened hollow of the lounge Max stared idly through the shaded verandah greenery to the colour of the day beyond the shadows of the cliffs. Another hunk of wood for the fire and Max finally relaxed. The money he’d left in the kitchen cupboard had been tampered with and he would wait for McLuhan to return before he found how much had been taken.
He was thinking how an ironic twist in life could jolt a family from its treadmill continuum and abandon it to the vagaries of chance. He thought it was funny that the history of some of his fellow humans could be recounted in a matter of moments, while others he knew could live a lifetime in a hectic hour or so. His memory had failed to hold in store all those he had known who had suffered death because of their disregard for caution. Their lives had been run along the quintessential death road; every step was a violent injection of adrenalin into their beings. His friends of long ago would have had it no other way. Those who survived the iconoclastic period now languished in a life of useless nostalgia or regret.
Max had allowed his own nature to chart his life. Even though he was no less responsible for the outcome of his random existence, he was addicted to the uncertainty, the passion and the melodrama of crisis. Yet it was with enormous restraint that he sat back and watched his own children moving into the world he had abdicated years before. He had wanted to block their drift with intellectual stanchions, but the lessons of his own upbringing under the eyes of repressive reform institutions had told him to lay off; and with no more than an occasional gentle puff on their sails he had watched his kids steer their own course.
Now with his children gone for the day, as he had intended, Max selected Dostoevsky from the bookshelf and turned the pages to where the slip of white paper marked his place. As his eyes told him of Raskolnikov, his mind dwelt in other quarters. He waited for his visitor to arrive and it would be an extra feather in his battered cap if he could advertise his shift from the mindless years of violence to the sedate intellectualism of his world today.
At four he lifted his eyes from his book and listened to the footfall up the stairs. The tall man was graceful in movement as he lifted himself through the trapdoor. He stooped and rapped on the glass of the sliding door, his vision being limited by the dimness inside.

‘Come in, Frank. It’s been a long time.’
Frank Donleavy smiled as the gruff uncultured tones of his old mate awoke a vast network of memories, kept under wrap until the time of their resurrection. He met Max’s hand with his own and his eyes registered the new lines in that tough, bearded face.
‘Well, well!’ said Max as he groped with his emotions.
‘Well, well!’ Frank repeated the ritual that had begun one late night at the back of the Sound Lounge in the earliest years of the sixties. The fist that had hit him all those years ago had begun from a point near the ground and had been driven by the biggest set of shoulders he had ever encountered. He had felt his head snap and his body had followed like the tail of a comet.
When he scrambled from the gutter, his assailant had already turned his back and was on his way inside the discotheque. Frank chased the big man through the door and for the next ten minutes the two of them battled in a relentless struggle for supremacy. Their eyes met during a lull when the lungs of each fighter were screaming for air. Simultaneously they dropped their arms by their sides and smiled.
‘Well, well!’ Max had wheezed through his sweat and blood.
‘Well, well!’ Frank groaned in mimicry.
‘I reckon we’ve sorted that one out, hey? The name’s Max!’
‘I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, Max.’ Frank bent at the waist and sucked oxygen hard. ‘I’m fucked. And I’m Frank. Donleavy. Fucking Frank Donleavy.’
‘Ya the bloke who flattened the big bloke in the red shirt, hey?’ Max sat down in the gutter and stretched his legs out in front of himself.
‘Ya left him half-fuckin’-dead in the alley, ya know?’
‘He a mate of yours?’ Frank asked quietly.
‘Mate? I don’t have mates who can’t look after themselves.’
For hours they sat and mused in the gutter of the Kings Cross nightclub. Music became loud as the back door opened and muted when shut. Steak on grill and oily smoke wafted across from the kitchen window.
‘Shit on ya, Frank. That punch of mine would’ve flattened Tony Madigan. Ya mother married a fuckin’ brick, hey?’
They had managed the sixties together, dropping amphetamines and used women wantonly. They excelled at bouncing hapless heads of awful people between their fists. Then Frank had followed his travel bug to Africa and Max had returned to his gang and a life of brutality and waste.
‘What’s doing, Max?’ asked Frank as he found Dali’s chair by the fire. His face wore a smile.

‘Boredom and frus-fuckin’-tration, me ole mate.’
‘I’m glad you phoned. Sorry I was out. But we get out of the place as often as possible. Ghastly people next door. I say!’ Frank tipped the end of his nose upward with his little finger in a gesture of disdain. ‘We’re a bit closeted up there in the sky.’
‘Yeah? Hey, I nearly slammed the fuckin’ phone down on its fuckin’ cradle when I heard ya stupid voice on that fuckin’ machine.’
‘What can I say?’ Frank ushered his arms in supplication. ‘You won’t touch technology?’
‘Don’t like creeps intrudin’ into my peace of mind. Don’t mind technology, Frank. I’ve changed since the old days. But when technology sticks its gummy leg out and trips ya on ya arse then it’s time to fuck it off. Hey?’
Beer flowed and whisky flowed and eyes became red and happy and their voices grew happier and louder. The two men jumped from one piece of banality to the next, both glad to talk about anything with a friend. Then Frank asked, ‘Your wife?’
‘Buried her along with my youth, mate.’ Max replied and they drifted into silence. Their eyes crept over the room and outside to the approaching evening. The heavy surf was a shifting sound in the distance.
‘Your young bloke pulled my temporarily demented daughter from the surf. I’m indebted and fucking glad. Rane? Have I got it right? I don’t get it.’
‘Polynesian god, mate.’ Max retorted almost defensively. Then he laughed. ‘Anyway, might’ve cheated a bit. But I love the sound of rain. Haw Haw Haw!’
‘You must be the only cunt in the world who keeps his word, Max.’ Frank declared solemnly. ‘Except for me, of course.’
‘I didn’t know of your thing with Victor Jory, Frank.’ Max leant forward with a joint. ‘The Shadow! Yeah! Remember those fuckin’ rubbish comics! An’ the serial at the flicks? Lamont Cranston, hey? Bet ya kid hates ya fuckin’ guts for stickin’ him with a label like that. For Christ’s fuckin’ sake, Frank!’
‘You ought to talk!’ Frank laughed. ‘McLuhan! If ever a bloke’s labelled for life it’s gotta be McLuhan. Bet he gets the medium message/massage fuckup?’
‘Mac’s the world authority on Marshall McLuhan, mate. He’s the world’s fuckin’ pedant on message and massage.’
Frank carried his smoke out to the verandah and he stood peering through the sight-zone in the greenery. The helter-skelter of traffic on the cement bridge at the end of the lake held his attention. It fascinated him. Vehicles raced across like strings of sausages, intermittently bursting forth from the green of the traffic lights. Max carried a bottle of whisky and filled two glasses. Frank took his and balanced it on the railing.
‘What the fuck ya doin’ in that fuckin’ place?’ asked Max suddenly.

‘Uh? Oh yeah! Marquesas!’ Frank replied with a start. ‘It’s got furniture and it was available. Great view but fucking noisy!’
‘Too nosey?’
‘Too nasty also.’ Frank admitted. He was at ease on the verandah. Late afternoon imbued colours with a sparkle, as if the sun exuded just that little extra before it disappeared behind the cliffs. ‘Max, you been reading the papers?’
‘Yeah! Ya wonderin’ about fuckin’ Krulis?’
‘Fuck you, Max!’ Frank laughed and swigged his whisky. ‘You’re right in the navel, aren’t you? Yeah! Dear old Milan. He’s come a long way since he pitched up at my place with his little black bag of tricks. The papers seem to have it in for the poor bastard. Any strength in what they’re saying?’
‘Dunno, Frank.’ Max replied equably. ‘He’s a different form of life nowadays. I reckon he’s coated himself with all the layers of protection ya need at The Cross. Havta I s’pose. Ta survive.’
The marijuana slowed their conversation. Frank described his life in Africa and Papua New Guinea and when he saw the vacant eyes he swung the talk back into the more comfortable arena of their mutual past.
‘D’you remember that prick Fitzgibbons?’
‘Frank!’ Max said squarely. ‘I just been drillin’ the kids about his type. Didn’t want ‘em to feel easy at The Cross. Yeah! Fitz still lurks. Three stripes at The Cross. Yeah! A fuckin’ sergeant! Fuck me dead, Frank!’
Frank chortled at memories of probationary constable Fitzgibbon. The young policeman had travelled from Queensland to join the New South Wales Police Force in 1961 and by early 1962 was walking the beat along the streets of The Cross. On a hot Saturday night he had accompanied his senior partner to a break and enter at a brothel in Killit Lane. Frank and Max had parked nearby when they noticed him patiently marking time outside on the street. They had gone off to the pub and two hours later when they returned the young probationary constable was still outside the brothel. They had greeted him with humour. He ignored them.
A week later they met him again outside that brothel and he was smoking a cigarette with an interesting aroma. This time when they greeted him he smiled and ebulliently displayed his infatuation with the night. His cap was on the iron-frame fence and his hair was unkempt. It was obvious he had no idea his cigarette had been spiked and that he was beginning to unravel.
‘Usually begins this way, hey?’ Max observed drily when they got onto their bikes.

‘He was a wanker from way back, Max.’ Frank laughed as he spoke for his mind was welling with the memory. ‘Do you know Milan gave him his first blow job?’
‘Ya fuckin’ kiddin’!’ Max exploded in a fit of laughter.
‘Hang on, Max!’ Frank wiped his eyes of hilarity. ‘I’ll rephrase that. Milan fixed it with one of his molls down at the Birds Nest in Orwell Street. She gave Fitz a real humpty-doo headbang. I was down in the club at the time when Carmen the Queer whispered a show was on upstairs. We shoved on up and some of the molls had a chair outside the door. I had a bo-peep through the fanlight and there was Fitz having his balls drained. Jesus! The next week the bastard broke her arm because she wouldn’t swallow him. He’s a fucking psychopath, that cunt! A fucking psychopath from the moment he fell out of his father’s arsehole.’
The process by which a naive police initiate gravitated to the order of corruption began with an invasion of the pleasure senses and an eventual settlement of the sensible pleasures of greed. The indoctrination of police novices is a structured necessity of The Cross. Each business was located within the structure and contributed in some form to the maintenance of the structure. This was a function or a result of the dichotomous relationship between police and crime. The dialectic dependence between police and crime was facilitated and enhanced by the structures inherent at The Cross. It was as if its reputation spared it from examination; as if being expected made it inevitable and thus excusable.
‘Yeah! But the bastard’s changed.’ Max added with gusto. ‘He’s worse! He got away with the Golden Nugget shootin’! It sort of set the fuckin’ pace, if ya know what I mean. The Cross is chokin’ with his kind now. It’s bigger, dirtier, richer and here’s a lot more fuckin’ wol control. The cunts are up ta their fuckin’ eyeballs in heroin and hittin’ the mugs who scam their bets. Just the same as poor fuckin’ Bobby Walker got his. That poor fuckin’ cunt! Couldn’t make a fuckin’ telephone call without some cunt blastin’ shit out offim with a fuckin’ machine gun! Ya can’t score a joint without a hit of arsenic or morph! Young Mac brought some shit back from The Cross a few months back and it stank of dog’s piss! They whack rat’s poison in everythin’. Battery acid! Ya gotta develop a stomach for that stuff! But there’s blokes out there who’ll stick anythin’ into their corpses. Fuck me roan! Oh shit! Talkin’ of battery acid. You couldn’t forget our old mate Liberace?’
‘Liberace! Fuck no! He tossed down with me for a few days back in ‘61. He’s a harmless cunt! Tried to suck me off once. I nearly let him I was that fucking desperate. But not that much! No, Max! Don’t look at me like that? Have I ever put the muscle onto you?’

Max ignored Frank’s jest. ‘Ya were always hard up, mate. But never enough to be swayed by that poor cunt. Yeah! He was a real silk with the safe, hey? I ran the bike through The Cross a few months back and nearly ran over the poor bastard. He was a fuckin’ mess! I tell ya, Frank! He copped nitric acid in the puss. Lost an eye! He was still patched up a bit but ya could see the skin had melted. Like wax candles. He was on a bad bet. Threw in with some money specialists and paid the price of idiots. He’d be better off dead!’


Chapter 7

It was Dali who suggested the split. She had said she wanted a stroll somewhere quiet. Rane had other ideas. With quicksilver finesse he led Juno away from the lake’s edge to the path up the cliff. As they weaved their way into the mangroves, they waved back at Dali and Lamont who stood awkwardly among the cedars like Hansel and Gretel with their breadcrumbs. In the shadows Rane and Juno clambered up the cliff until they reached the ledge where they began the cumbersome crawl to the cave. She had no idea of where they were heading. There was an enthralment in trepidation as she shifted her overcoat from her knees and followed Rane along the ledge.
‘Terrific view!’ Rane called back to her.
Juno lifted her head momentarily to see the expanse of peninsular and sea where balloons of black cloud floated over the beaches to the north and dropped grey cylinders of rain down on the earth. Elsewhere, the sun poured its rainbow prisms obliquely through the panorama of open sky and pillars of downpour.
Far below, she could see her brother and Dali. Then she noticed the figure of what looked to be a man lurking in the trees adjacent to them. She had an urge to wave and shout. But Rane had dismissed the scene and was assisting her past the lantana and into the cave.
Juno removed her overcoat and laid it across a smooth mossy rock. She wiped her perspiring forehead and eased her underpants from the furrow between her legs. She panted slightly as she examined the wondrous cave. ‘You know,’ she spoke slowly without realising what she was to say next, although after she had said it, she knew it was on her mind all along, ‘guys have gone to great lengths to get me alone with them, but this ... ’ she swept her arms expansively as an indication of her wonderment.
Rane understood what she meant. Nevertheless, the hint of suggestiveness caused him to stir uncomfortably as he riveted his eyes upon the full body of his companion. ‘Juno! If I were in the mood for a fuck I wouldn’t waste my time and energy scampering over these cliffs. My bed’s a lot more comfortable and warmer.’
With that he led the girl further into the cave and down the narrow corridor to the sanctum and its tabernacle. ‘Follow my voice. It’s completely black for a bit then it brightens. You’ll be okay if you stick with me and listen to me. Okay?’
Descending to a chamber in the ground, with the touch of feet against the floor being the only point of relevance, following a disembodied sound into the blackness can be a fearful experience. Persons can fall, believing the surface their feet are touching is no longer underneath but to the side, or on top.

Juno realised her panic was increasing. She scrambled after Rane and grappled with his arm. She was trying to retreat to daylight. Another step forward was a step into space, away from the mother ship, frightening, little girls dreaming of falling, falling, falling ... her steps turned to shuffling, sliding, skating movements, afraid to lift her feet from the surface, stiff, robot, mechanical grinding of her feet against the floor.
‘Hey! Loosen up, will you!’ Rane demanded with humour. ‘It’s not that bad. You’re alright! Relax!’
‘God! I’m paralysed!’
‘It’s not far.’
Rane knew her fear had receded when the beam of soft green noctilucence eased the awful grip of dead blackness. Her movements became more supple and sure. She squeezed through the shaft into the chamber and gasped in astonishment at the sight of the three spongy rocks glowing weirdly within the tabernacle.
‘It’s like a mausoleum.’ she whispered uncertainly as her eyes roamed the chamber, over the smooth walls to the tabernacle.
Rane’s face had all but disappeared; only his eyes and hair and teeth shone as apparitions in the green. A smooth carpet of moss extended to all surfaces, reducing resonance and creating a comforting, snug as a bug in a rug feeling.
‘How did you find this ... place?’
‘Tell you later.’ said Rane as he stood and guided her to her feet. ‘Just watch out for that hole.’ he indicated a colourless area of the floor where form ceased to exist. ‘It’s very deep.’
The gap in the floor invited inspection and Juno crawled to the edge. It was about two feet across, smooth rimmed and terrifyingly vertiginous. She shivered slightly and nervously shuffled away from the hole. Then she approached the tabernacle and pushed out her hands to touch the rocks. She was hit in the face as her hands were gripped by a force and flung violently back.
‘God!’ she cried as she staggered away from the rocks. ‘What is this place, for God’s sake?’
Rane cradled her hands within his as she stuttered and trembled. They sat at the end of the chamber with their backs content against the wall. The rocks glowed evenly with a hypnotic ambience. The pulse of life had been reshaped. Their hearts slowed as their minds began to see without their eyes.

The tabernacle had gone. At the far end of the cave the lights from fires illuminated the dense smoke rising above. Figures like wraiths had gathered about and were looking at them. There was a sense of excitement as voices rose and a solitary figure moved toward them. It was the old woman who appeared to Rane on his first visit to the cave. She was sweeping the air before her as she crossed the cavern floor. Then she stopped and stared at them. With another sweep of her hands her eyes seemed to bulge and float from her face to orbit about her head. Her mouth opened and distended until it was absorbing her entire head. She seemed to eat herself to oblivion, with her eyes hovering in witness to the incredible event. Then the eyes were gone and the tabernacle resumed its surreal comfort to the chamber.


Outside where the sun was low they sat and gazed out onto the vista. Sheaths of coloured rays all pointed to the sun like images of a Hindu painting. The rain clouds had gone and the lake was coloured by the sky.
‘A strawberry milkshake!’ Rane whispered while he held her coat for her. And she understood as the pink came over the sky.
She moved into her overcoat in a gesture of insecurity. Her face was pale and her eyes carried the trauma of shock. A hot wind had blown through her mind, like some ghost with the thoughts of a thousand years. Suddenly she shuddered and felt a pain splitting her chest. For a brief spasm of time her mouth opened in a terrible silent scream. Then she relaxed and her arms became slack by her sides and her eyes blurred vacantly in her face.


Lamont had become ungainly. Alone with Dali he had difficulty joining her small talk. His throat had become dry and constricted. Images of a syncopated love visited him. He was awkward in understanding his attraction to her. His tall robust frame dwarfed the fragility of the diminutive girl. As they had watched his sister and Rane disappear into the mangroves, he had the feeling he was intruding and that he should offer to take her home. He was adolescent confusion.

They spent much of the afternoon around the lake’s edge, watching the sky change its colours, and generally being polite to each other. Slowly her laughter drew him away from his dilemma and he began a gradual courtship of her. Still clad in his overcoat he offered her the protection of his body when the day chilled, drawing her to his chest and wrapping the coat around her. Then he would fluster as his libido caused him to swell with blood and press hard against her stomach. Lamont had become a casualty of a wily girl’s design.
The peninsular had been for most of the day a necropolis of empty wet streets but with an almost messianic interruption the sun erupted in a violent flash of colour and the streets came alive again with children and their games. As the reserve by the lake received a trickle of kiddies in search of sport, Lamont and Dali sought the seclusion of an isolated bamboo patch on the edge of the mangroves. The water lapped gently through the reeds and came to an abrupt end as the bank rose sharply to the woods. Within the bamboo was a hollow circle where they crawled and felt alone.
‘Here, this is private enough.’ suggested Dali as she turned to face him.
‘Yeah.’ said Lamont uncertainly as he looked down into her beautiful black eyes.
‘I don’t think that lonely-looking guy will bother us here.’
‘That character with the big hands?’
‘You’ve noticed him too?’ smiled Dali.
‘That clown’s been popping in and out of view for most of the afternoon. You seen him before?’
‘He’s our neighbour.’ Dali replied matter-of-factly, as if that explained everything. ‘He’s a bit of a weirdo. But that’s his life. He doesn’t bother us. Dad ignores him. He ignores us. Well, sort of.’
‘Why doesn’t he talk to you, then?’ Lamont asked as he removed his overcoat and spread it over a dry patch of ground.
‘We don’t talk to him. It suits us.’ Dali said with finality. ‘Forget him.’
They sat together on the coat until the shadow of the cliffs engulfed them. It was an evening when the setting sun spurts its kaleidoscope across the sky. It was one of those times when the human spirit is restless and wanton. Suddenly with a reckless laugh from deep in the throat Lamont began undoing her clothes.
‘No, Monty! Stop!’ Dali insisted. She removed his hands from her buttons.
Lamont’s face screwed in embarrassment then paled to a sickly look of guilt. He moved away from her and fiddled with a stick on the ground.
Dali brushed her long hair from her face. ‘Stand up!’ she ordered gruffly as she moved to him.

He did. Then Dali knelt in front of him and undid his zipper. Her right hand reached inside his trousers and gently exposed him. He stood transfixed in a parody of some primordial rite of passage with his female discovering the deliciousness of his manhood. Her head vibrated against his groin like a woodpecker and the fierceness of her onslaught caused him to topple backward. Dali hung tenaciously to his body as they fell, her arms grappling his buttocks as they hit the ground.
She felt his body shake and she waited for the rush of his fluid into her mouth. The fury of his convulsions made her look up. She screamed into the cushion of her palm. Her face was of death. A bloodied point appeared through his pullover as the crimson stain spread across his chest.
Lamont had become impaled on a short sliver of bamboo.


Juno followed Rane in a bewildering flurry down the steep track. He had muttered something about a spear. He was quickly leaving her behind as he bounded toward the mangroves. Now Dali was running wildly toward him. They both turned in her direction. Rane came forward. He held his hand to slow her. Then he took her hand and together they followed Dali into the bamboo grove.
Lamont was stricken by his predicament. He was sitting against a bamboo bole with a lunatic grimace on his face. It appeared Dali had heaved his torso off the bamboo spike with surprising ease, ‘like slipping a fillet from a skewer’ quipped a laconic Lamont. Her shredded blouse had plugged his wounds successfully. There was surprisingly little leakage as the bamboo sliced neatly between his scapula or collarbone and his upper ribs.
Lamont gurgled softly as he breathed. Rane leant over him and wiped saliva from the wretched mouth. Then he removed his own shirt and gave it to his sister. ‘Get Dad.’ Then he turned to Lamont. ‘Jesus!’ he grinned, ‘what some people will do for a laugh!’
‘Fuck you, Rane!’ Lamont gasped in a sepulchral tone, his bass voice bubbling to the surface of his throat.
‘Haven’t you had enough, mate?’ Rane guffawed crudely.
‘Fuck you!’ Lamont repeated with a twisted, frothy smile.
Juno was standing in a composition of alarm and hilarity. Her brother had been seriously injured. Yet the comedy of his situation forced her to smile. And she was ashamed because of it.


The man with the hopeless eyes did not miss a thing. Maurice Murphy kept the dark-haired girl and her boyfriend in view as they merged into the dense bamboo grove. He sought the height of an old cedar tree nearby. Pulling his flaccid body up into a fork within the cover of the canopy he adjusted his weight so that he could perve through the foliage at the couple down below in the bamboo.
He kept vigilance as he had since he was old enough to feel the thrill of movement through his loins. This was his way; close enough to see, hear and almost taste, and yet undetectable in his role as voyeur.
He nearly fell out of the tree when Dali knelt before her lover. He anxiously wriggled his body so as to reach his aching erection, shaking the branches of the tree with his struggle. At the sight of the awful penetration of Lamont’s chest, Maurice Murphy cupped his sperm in his hands and wiped the sticky liquid over his bloodshot face. He had never experienced a climax like it, and he loved it!


Chapter 8

It was a mellow Cross afternoon, a Saturday which tempted the aged into unlocking their shutters; one that allowed the yapping midgets a run in the park, where inert bodies lay on the grass, drying out among the barnacles of pigeon faeces.
McLuhan had shuttled from one place to another since his arrival in the morning. He visited whores and drug merchants, spending his family’s money in a self-indulgent spree. As he lounged vacantly against a huge Moreton Bay fig, his eyes followed the sallow and sunken faces of nightlife, dream-like floating by, all pimples and pancake. Across the street, leather jacketed heroes sat sentinel astride their gleaming Hondas. On the pavement, under the spotty cafe umbrellas, muted heads with television eyes stared at nothing. Life was an amorphous slump over the tables.
A heavy dose of amphetamine had hurtled McLuhan through the day and now his languor was apparent to the big man in the grey suit. McLuhan’s sense of timing had warped and, except for the regular chiming of his wristwatch, he had no accurate perception of the passing of the hours.
His pocket still contained the phial of pills that gave his heart a jump. Imitating a cough, he fetched some pills and managed to spill them into his mouth. They bounced inside his parched gob, exuding a bitterness that made his face pinch like withered lettuce.
It was when he bent to suck water from the bubbler that the big man in the grey suit exchanged a few brief words with another of his kind. The girl with the purple buttocks and matching spiked hair was dipping her toes in the fountain when McLuhan looked up. He gazed at her with nothing on his mind until his view was interrupted by the big, brown, friendly eyes that bore into his.
‘What’s doin?’’
Gerry the Doorman in crocodile shoes extended his hand and ruffled McLuhan’s hair. He was vibrant and his moustache grew into his nostrils and quivered with every breath.
‘Gerry!’ McLuhan smiled with his teeth. ‘Shit eh? Wacha doin’ ya self?’
‘If it wazzen Saddy, I’d be shiftin’ me fat arse down ta Bondi.’
‘Ya goin’ ta work later?’ McLuhan’s eyes were invisible dots in the sun.
‘Nah!’ Gerry spat at the ground. ‘Got the fuckin’ khyber from work, mate.’
‘Eee doan like losin’ dough, that cunt.’

‘Who?’ Lamont was sewing threads together.
‘Tseridis, the fat bastard.’ Gerry spat again. Then he smiled. There had been a slight frantic tic in his eyes, but his face now relaxed. He encouraged McLuhan for a stroll and they moved out of the park toward the navy base down the street. They crossed to the other side, passing within inches of the big man in the grey suit, and after a small journey, found a nondescript coffee lounge nestling beneath a plane tree.
Mario’s was nearly empty, as usual, except for the sour faces above the dominoes. The cappuccino machine hissed and a pizza aroma hung tantalisingly in the air. A thin, creased woman in a blue and white apron piled dishes into a sink and sprinkled detergent on top of them. She glanced at Gerry with a worried frown and returned her head to her task.
‘Yasu, George!’ Gerry approached the rear. ‘Ti kannis?’
George was sitting at a vinyl table. A racing form was spread untidily in front of him. He dragged his eyes up toward Gerry and nodded with difficulty. He ignored McLuhan. His foot swung reluctantly and pulled the rear door open.
‘Ya got a tip tidday, George?’ Gerry asked before the door swung shut. Already the man had begun scribbling on the racing form, as if the world were to end after the next race.
‘A Greek owns Mario’s?’ McLuhan observed for observation’s sake. His stomach was a cauldron of effervescence as the drugs went to work on his organs.
‘Nah!’ Gerry replied quickly. ‘Doan cha know?’
They walked along a narrow hallway to another door that opened to a sumptuous baccarat school. Ornate chandelier hung low from a blackened ceiling. The walls were covered with deep blue paper, quite in contrast with the thick pile coloured blood red. The effect was striking.
The clientele were casually dressed and at home in the room. Nasal tones of a race caller droned for six old men sipping wine, six old men sitting apart from the bustle of the baccarat pits.
‘Don’t I know what, Gerry?’
‘Wassup?’ Gerry was showing that panic in his eyes again. He broke away and headed for the bar. Obviously taking his time the doorman leaned his elbow heavily on the counter while his right leg stamped exaggeratedly on the floor. ‘Chrrryyyst! Where za footrail, Nick?’


When Gerry slipped quietly from the room, McLuhan was in no condition to notice. The doorman had been coaxing him into a tequila-coma. McLuhan’s motor activity was extraordinarily high and no one wanted to be near him. He had become demented and his clay had been moulded to the fate of the afternoon. By evening he was a pariah, a lip-chewing wild-eyed lunatic whose abusive behaviour drew smiles from the big man in the grey suit.
Two men in dark glasses, each with his pitch-black wavy hair combed in the style of the forties, moved gradually to McLuhan’s side and whispered hoarsely.
‘Take a walk, pal!’
Their message was slow in reaching the brain of young McLuhan who was beginning to vibrate. His eyes filled with madness and violent red rings. ‘Why don’t ya go and screw ya selves, ya fuckin’ bigheads!’ he screamed.
There was not much he could do in the circumstances. His arms were pinned behind his back and he was being walked to a side door where the big man in the grey suit was waiting.
‘In here!’ ordered the big man in the grey suit.
McLuhan was pushed headfirst into a musty storeroom. As he landed heavily against a stack of crates, he heard one of his bones snap. He had felt nothing. At least the noise was there; a brittle personal noise which registered weakly in his befuddled brain.
He tried to lift himself from the splintered crates but a boot caught him under the chin. His head crashed against a sharp corner of a crate and his body reeled crazily to the floor. He tried to shout but his jaw was stuck. The arms that swam the northern beaches and cuddled the cuties on the sand were useless to him now. Desperately, McLuhan frog-kicked his way into the wooden crates, his head and arms limp and cumbersome.
The big man in the grey suit waved his men away from the grotesque form of McLuhan. The boy was all feet. The top of his body ploughed into the space between the rows of crates as his legs strove to push himself away. Then the big man bent and gripped an ankle.
McLuhan was jerked into a clearing and tipped over. He watched from the floor, dizzily, as the pointed toe of a boot swung viciously to his head. He tried to protect his face but his muscles would not respond. They were caged in uselessness. The pointed boot was well aimed; it nicked McLuhan’s left eyeball from its socket.

It hung on his cheek by a grisly thread of tissue for a few seconds before another boot popped it like a small balloon. McLuhan glared stupidly out of one eye at his assailants. Trussed by the paralysis of his upper body, he tried to get out of the way of the boots that came crashing down upon his head. But his nervous system had failed. Slowly, his other eye closed as he drifted away from consciousness.
‘Dump him!’ came the order from the big man in the grey suit.
‘Find cement.’
The two men in dark glasses carried McLuhan’s mangled body out through the service entrance to a waiting car. The boot was open and McLuhan was trundled inside. The car’s engine started and revved for a while before the vehicle drove off.


An hour later the ex-wrestler opened the door to his pokey office behind the two-way mirrors and sat himself in his specially built chair. He picked up his pen and began writing in a book. His gnarled hands gripped the pen in a clumsy squeeze. There was a knock on the door.
‘They tole me yawanna simmee, Mr Tseridis?’ grovelled Gerry. In the presence of his employer the doorman reduced his size by bunching his shoulders and bending at the waist. His head remained frozen in a gesture of utter meekness.
‘Gerry!’ beamed the ex-wrestler in an expansive mood. ‘You did good today.’
‘Yeah, Mr Tseridis.’
‘You see, Gerry, I don’t like mistakes. My people should not make mistakes. Never!’ Tseridis’ voice rose in pitch.
‘Next time ... next time ... ’ Tseridis paused effectively and the doorman appeared to fold further into himself. ‘ ... next time, Gerry, you look careful ... you watch the customers ... you say good night to the people we like ... our friends ... you say fuck off to the people we don’t like, neh?’
Gerry the Doorman nodded solemnly and uncurled slightly as a slight tide of optimism swept through him.
‘Now you got your job. You make mistake ... ’ Tseridis glared malevolently at his doorman and wagged a fat finger in the air. ‘You make mistake, but you fix it for me. This is good. You prove something. Now your family ... they very happy now, neh’ Later I give you some present for your wife ... she give you plenty jiggijig, neh? You go buy something for your children ... make them all very happy, neh?’

‘Yeah, tanks, Mr Tseridis.’
‘Okay! You go now. Come later. This time ... okay ... you know better. Neh? Maybe … make you in charge of security? Here and Mario’s? Neh? More better money, neh? Now you go!’
‘Yeah! Seeya, Mr Tseridis.’
As the Maori opened the office door he heard the big man’s voice rasp.
‘Gerry! You keep your mouth shut, neh! Tight! Like cunt of nun, neh?’
Gerry the Doorman nodded politely and closed the door behind him. ‘Shit!’ He walked sombrely through the Club 69 and out the front door, knowing he had secured, for a little while at least, his position of trust on the door.


Chapter 9

The All Ordinaries had fallen forty-six points on the day’s trading and Milan Krulis was mustering for early disposal the following morning. The December boom had not materialised the way he had expected. The August Budget had augured well but few had envisaged the repercussions from the collapse of the Federal Treasurer.
Earlier in the week Milan Krulis had been labelled with the sobriquet ‘Mr Cruel’ by a jaunty television face with acne on her nose. The weekly Bulletin enjoined the government to establish a Royal Commission into his business affairs. Rumour placed the Krulis touch within the state legislature and judiciary.
‘He’s in conference, Mr Krulis.’ The voice was polite and final.
‘Thank you, my sweet, but you’ve told me that once before. I haven’t forgotten in those two or three minutes. No! Wait! I’m speaking!’ Milan Krulis pushed his lips into the mouthpiece of his phone. ‘Could you please relay the fact that it is I who is on the phone?’
‘Wait one moment ... ’ The melody of the experienced voice chimed like a front door bell.
Milan Krulis reached for his Sobranies and lit one. He filled his mouth with smoke and puffed it away from his face with the rhythm of the cha cha cha. Puff puff, puff puff puff; puff puff, puff puff puff ...
‘Mr Krulis?’
‘His Honour regrets his time is unfortunately unavailable to you now. His Honour extends to you his availability in his chambers at seven thirty tomorrow morning. May I inform His Honour of your reply?’
Her voice was closing on him.
‘Yes!’ Milan Krulis stated after a moment’s hesitation. Then he continued. ‘That should be suitable to me. His Honour should expect my presence at that time. At that place.’
He replaced the phone and, walking across his office, opened the wall safe. The twin combination Chubb was camouflaged within a montage, as if the safe were not a safe but a structural edifice of artwork. He pulled at the handle and the door opened slowly. He selected a thin manila folder and closed the reluctant door.

Milan Krulis crossed the empty space of his office that he’d voided of furniture so as to highlight the Persian ostentation on the floor. Visitors would step around the rug as they would a sandcastle or electric train set. And they would comment on the rug and somehow this would neutralise their nervous and often acrimonious intentions.
To the side of his elaborately carved rosewood desk and chair, adjacent to the wall-size windows with their giddy view of Sydney Harbour and The Cross, coffee and sandwiches lay spread on a smaller rosewood table. Two comfortable sofa chairs sat warm in the muted light of the late afternoon sun. Milan swept his gaze in a tireless arc across Woolloomooloo, following lines of pudgy houses until the bright green lawn of the Domain fell under the shadow of the city. Blue blazers moved about the grounds of the cathedral school as the streets choked with traffic and a turbid smog.
Milan swivelled his head and found the lazy warmth of the harbour where ferries ploughed through happy water. White sails skittered among merchant ships that were moored stoically in optimism of an end to the Dockers’ strike.
With the noise of the city a gentle murmur at the back of his mind Milan tucked into his sandwiches. A headline stared at him. Absent-mindedly he rummaged through the paper. There appeared to be no mention of his name. With the last of his sandwiches in his mouth Milan sat back and rested. Slowly his sharp features softened slightly and age sauntered back to his face.
Then the intercom broke his reverie.
Back at his desk he answered. ‘Yes, Margaret?’
‘Mr Krulis. I have a gentleman on the line. A Mr Frank Donleavy.’


The hot white afternoon sun rattled the iron roof. Pigeons sheltered under the eaves in the lane at the back of The Cross. In the shadows were gutters of litter. Hawked-up phlegm from a thousand throats pebbled the pavements. Hunched windows opaque with grime daunted the atmosphere. Few ventured into this lane since the mutilated girl had been found scattered among the debris.
Milan Krulis picked his way through the rubbish that piled upon the steps down to the old disused nightclub. He unlocked the bolted door and stepped confidently into the darkness. He sniffed the stale air and made for the switchboard. Soon, coloured lights doused the room in a strident pattern of psychedelia and Milan was momentarily imbued with the swish of the seventies. Slowly, the air conditioners came to life and shook in protest as they tried to suck mawkish air through decayed ducts. Milan spat dust from his mouth as he entered the kitchen to prepare coffee. Cockroaches scurried from his outstretched fingers.

When Frank Donleavy walked down the stairs he found Milan sitting patiently in a chair near the stage. Smoke from a Sobranie hovered about the crinkly face and drifted upward through a red beam of light. The soft sound of Mantovani came from somewhere back of the stage.
‘I suppose you’re feeling the heat, Mil?’
Frank added honey to his coffee. Steam rose from the pot on the table and mingled with its Sobranie mates. The tablecloth was sticky enough to paint his elbows.
‘The heat?’ Milan laughed derisively into his cup. He wore jeans and an open blue shirt. His greying hair thinned on top and his face was woven in an intricate pattern of wrinkles. He put his cup on the table and leaned back into his chair. ‘I love irony, Frank. Life’s full of it. From US Presidential politics to Marxist unions controlling the wharves. Full of irony. Soap operas. Inventions. All irony.’
Frank finished his coffee quickly and rose. He examined his past in this room as a familiarity infused him with a sense of displacement, as if he had been divested of all his life since this room.
Once they all had congregated here and their lives had radiated from this room. It contained the rites of passage and was sacred in memory. It was ironical that peace was worked out during long hours in this room. Violence was instigated by agitated people in this room. It was a hub for the paybacks and acts of reciprocity that The Cross reified as structural necessities. Now it was in operation again.
‘You must remember, Frank, that where I came from, the hopes of young men like myself were meagre.’ said Milan, a bit pompously. ‘Our homeland was being crippled by communism and our neighbours were cutting into us with the permission of those communist bastards. We wanted to fight but it was hopeless. It wasn’t easy. The irony of it is rich, Frank.’
‘I fail to see where irony exists.’ said Frank.
‘I reject communism and come to Australia where communism was vilified. I become a businessman. This is very Australian. I behave as an Australian. Australia becomes communist and I am vilified by Australians. That is irony, Frank!’
‘Who said Australia was communist, Mil?’
‘Why am I subjected to harassment, intimidation and threats? It is because it is no longer the same Australia as it was forty and fifty years ago.’
‘Doesn’t make it commie, Mil.’ Frank insisted automatically though disinterestedly.
‘What would you know, Frank?’ Milan threw his arms about his head as though he were chasing flies. ‘Is this Africa?’

‘Oh, shit, Mil! ‘ Frank shook his head of the argument, leaned on the table and fixed his eyes on Milan Krulis. ‘I didn’t come here to argue politics with you, Mil.’
‘My theme is simple, dear Frank.’ Milan Krulis eased Sobranie smoke through his mottled teeth. ‘It is ironical that I sacrifice my life with my sisters, my mother, and the graves of my forefathers, and then to face the absurdity of Australian wharfies rudely insisting we go back home, even before we disembarked from those cattle ships which brought us here from Europe. Home? Most of us laughed and cried, Frank. What home? Our country no longer existed. It had become something else with another name.
‘Even fellow countrymen who had settled here earlier were antagonistic toward me. Suddenly I was a foreigner; not just with you Australians but with my fellow countrymen who had become New Australians. Never before had I been a foreigner. What’s a foreigner, I asked! That had always been someone else who looked different. Not me! Never! And they? They were mere peasants from the fields of Ireland and England, and they yelled ‘Dago’ louder than the others.
‘You were there, Frank. You saw how I was treated. I was the little wop and the butt of every joke in The Cross. I never forget the many times you scraped me from the floor, Frank. The bully boys! You haven’t forgotten them, Frank? No! I didn’t think so. You, of all people, would never forget. You never forgot to help, Frank. My tap lessons were always paid for, Frank. Because I dared to approach the forbidden fruit of the Australian male, the Sheila!’
Frank said nothing, only smiled. His little friend was still the expressive drama queen. More coffee was poured and a gentle silence pervaded them both. Outside, the day darkened. Pigeons rested easily against the fanlight windows. Milan saw Frank watching the pigeons and said quietly, ‘Frank, I am very successful today, as you know. You also know how resented I am. Is it because of that success? Is it because I have transcended their mediocrity by moving, pushing, violating areas previously under constraints of archaic taboos structured by lily-pink-shit-scared social planners? Haw! They glare at me from their armchairs.’
Frank removed his eyes from the pigeons and pointed them at Milan. ‘Probably that’s why they are limited to watching others instead of being themselves, Mil.’
‘Accurate, but soft, Frank.’
‘I have the same regard for the remote scrutinisers of the media as you have, Krulis. And you know it. Don’t fucking preach that jazz to me. Even a wop like you couldn’t forget the lessons I gave you on the fucking lecherous leeches of the press. It was I, remember, who imbued you with the phrase The Faceless Pundits!’

‘Pundits, Frank? I frown upon them all. I frown upon the mutilators of style. I frown upon their arrogant misuse of the vernacular. For years it was infradig for their kind not to sound English. Their schools tried their utmost to soften the twang of Australia.’ Milan groped inside his trousers pockets for his spare Sobranies. His long thumbnail tore the packet open. A flame rose from his gold lighter and sparked the tobacco to glowing life. ‘Switch on the radio or television and what do you hear? The poofs with their plums and pucker and elocution! That’s what!’
‘Only the diehards listen to 2KY? Is that it, Mil?’
‘That’s not what I am saying!’ Milan snapped. Then he eased the expression on his face into a blancmange of comic confusion; every wrinkle vibrated. ‘I don’t represent the push for Strine. I strive for authenticity in our culture and that authenticity must spring from within Australia instead of being ushered in from Britain and the United States via the charlatans who abhor the authentic Australia.’
A drone and a thump had developed in the air-conditioning and Milan thrust his hands together in a gesture of ardent prayer. ‘But your sentence was utter rubbish. A meaningless piece of piffle.’
Milan Krulis stood and began searching the ceiling with his eyes. Then he sighed, deeply, and took his seat again.
‘Take Hawke. In your opinion, and that is in concurrence with most Australians, the former Prime Minister was the quintessential Australian. An ocker, if you prefer. His influence upon us was immense and incalculable. We took a certain amount of our standards from him; even those who opposed him, or even hated him, were influenced by him. He directed debate. And most importantly he was listened to. Not just heard, mind you. But the reality is obfuscated by the influences that bid Hawke toward a particular lingual usage.
‘Take for example his usage of the ay sound. Why did Hawke say ay dog instead of uh dog, which was the common usage of Australians up until the Hawke era?
‘The answer is simple. Hawke in his own mind equated power with the United States. To Hawke power emanated from and was legitimated by the United States. To Hawke, power was essential and it was consumptive.
‘And power is expressed through the medium of language. Thus, a simple reflex change from uh to ay illustrates the unconscious influence of power linguistics upon even the most complete of Australians, such as our beery bodgie at the Lodge. And once he’d gone, it was only a matter of time before the rest of us were braying the ay sound as if it had been imbedded within our language forever. You’ll see, Frank. People will deny there ever were an uh sound to begin with. Language is like that. It is ironical.’

A serious knock now came barging into the club from the air-conditioning. The unpleasant odour of ozone was with them. Milan lit another Sobranie while Frank worried his coffee with the end of his spoon. The spontaneous compatibility of the two men had overlapped into the world of social introspection as Milan drew Frank into his auditorium of dramatic and political reverie. Frank guessed that few people would have ventured into that theatrical space. The angst of society’s Mr Cruel was directed by a social conscience toward a society that bade him no good at all.
‘Utter rubbish!’ Milan continued into his fever. ‘Today, their ilk attempt a gauche Strine. Suddenly, it’s fashionable to make a sound that constitutes an Australian accent. Mind you, Frank, it’s not the rich vocal sounds that spring eternal in places such as Dubbo and Kingaroy, but an artificial noise structured upon notions of what an Australian accent should sound like. It’s as if the ordinary working Australian doesn’t exist. The latter-day Ockers would prefer to re-construct the language rather than take notice of the people who actually speak it. They edit our language, softening the harsh and rounding the sharp. It’s a belated chauvinism, Frank. But soon they’ll discard it as they did when they fled to Britain to learn how to speak like a Pom. This time they’ll emulate the Americans. That’s why Hawke was the mainspring for the gradual usurpation of the Australian language by the American language. He had given his imprimatur to all of us to discard our traditional lingual sound for an imported one. It’s particularly important for this reason; Hawke sounded Australian and his use of imported lingual noises provided us all with the notion that the sound always was with us because it now sounds Australian because Hawke used it.’
‘The circularity of argument was always your forte, Mil. But I agree with your reasoning. Cunning and guile are political instruments alright! But lingual usurpation by stealth has always provided languages with alternatives, options, choices ... ’ Frank had been sucked in. His vocabulary had become elongated. It was now contest between them, adversaries in a linguistic conatus, so to speak! He continued. ‘... the choice made by Australians is an Australian choice, nevertheless, Mil.’
‘Don’t be naive, Frank.’ Milan spoke unctuously. ‘There is no choice. Language is a symptom of relationships. It is also an instrument. Language acts on behalf of people within relationships. The nature of the relationship is translated through language. By examining language use between those in a relationship the nature of that relationship is revealed. It should come as no surprise to you that the nature of power in a relationship is expressed through language. It is an axiom of power relationships that the powerful control the creation and the usage of language.

‘Thus Hawke’s responsible for a couple of things. He released Australians from the bondage of lingual Britain. He’d told Australians that it was permissible to emulate Americans in the use of the indefinite article. The sound uh, as in ‘I went to look for uh dog’, has almost become an anachronism. The quantum leap of communications impelled Australians to emulate their leader. Those who resisted soon found themselves out in the cold, alone with their correctness. They alone spoke the correct way. But it all began with Hawke.’
Milan stared at Frank for a moment with absent eyes. Then, ‘The chauvinism in language. Yes. The cry for the dingo. I’m not for the lost cause, Frank. I suppose I am a realist. Have to be, I suppose. In this game.’ Milan drifted his eyes across the club’s scrappy interior. Then he squeezed his lips into a smile. ‘I’m simply anti-phoney! Take journalists.’
It was clear Milan was organising himself for a lengthy harangue.
‘They attack me when their front page is vacant. These second-rate no-bodies missed out when the real talent was selected. They hide their lack of talent within criticism of others. They prey upon others and tell on them. They are the dobbers of society. They are the nose rags of society. They collect the refuse of their neighbours. They are the spals of the media, the bicycle-seat sniffers of journalism.
‘Oh, while they’re cotton-wooling through subsidised university education they dress themselves as hippies and march for the Left. Always in groups, sharing and hesitating before the awesome realities of the free spirit. On their own they can’t cope with that.
‘Mr Cruel! Really, Frank! What utter nonsense to infuse their perceptions into the phonetics of my so-called foreign name. It’s so obvious and pithecanthropic, isn’t it?’
Frank couldn’t help his widening smile. His friend had an amazing turn of phrase. And he bet Milan hadn’t been allowed many chances to exercise that facility. He decided to throw one in himself with ‘Well, they are the gods of antennae, aren’t they?’
Milan bounced in his chair. Another Sobranie was lit and the churning and grinding agony of air-conditioners bore into the atmosphere. ‘Ah! Richard Nixon.’ He leapt to his feet and threw his arms up in mockery of Nixon’s victory stance. ‘A great, no, perhaps the greatest tragedian to emerge from the United States.’ Milan resumed his chair and grinned in a wizened face. ‘I loved that character, the voice, the hunch of the shoulders, the almost comical denouement of his presidency. Frank, the precedent established by Bernstein and Woodward has every journalist in this city sniffing his arse for shit.’

Milan’s face settled into a Bela Lugosi mould. His eyes deepened into Europe where superstitious folk feared the arrival of the stranger. ‘I remember when raisin toast was a feast at The Cross, Frank.’
‘Is there shit to find?’ asked Frank suddenly.
Milan stubbed out a Sobranie and lit another. His pale green eyes showed traces of merriment. He reached over the table and gave Frank a friendly clout on the chest. ‘What’s on your mind, Frank?’
‘You circular bastard, Mil!’ Frank laughed rudely. ‘Remember Max Hollard?’
‘One of the more remarkable men I’ve met, Frank.’ Milan was suddenly like a little boy at communion with his fingertips pointed together in an attitude of piety.
‘To be brief, Mil, his son came a cropper against some nasty work.’
‘How is he, Frank?’ Milan asked with lack of expression while his hands drummed a staccato of nerves on the table.
‘Fucked!’ Frank declared bitterly. ‘For life, it seems. He’s lost an eye. His spinal chord is snapped and he hasn’t spoken a word since he came out of a coma.’
‘And Max? His wife? Is he married?’
Frank thought of the woman who had married Max. He knew nothing about her. ‘She died years ago. Max has taken on her role since then. Poor bastard.’
Milan Krulis signalled the end to the afternoon by collecting the coffee cups and rinsing them in the kitchen. He cleared the ashtrays and smiled as he sprayed the air with sweetener. ‘How ironical, Frank. You men protected me when I was defenceless. Now you are defenceless and I can help you. I am ready. Where are the nasties, Frank?’


The building had disgorged itself of its business life and now the corridors would be silent for an hour before the cleaners moved in. The security guard signalled his recognition of Milan Krulis and promptly returned to his routine. The lift stopped on floor twelve and Milan alighted, walked briskly along the corridor to his offices. His secretary had left and the computer room behind the frosted glass was still. His clerks, all female and young, had left tidy desks.
Milan assumed his position at his desk and began dialling his crafted ebony telephone. A gravel-throated woman answered promptly. Milan asked for Hans Dorfman.
‘Hang on, willya!’

There was a long wait.
‘Dorfman!’ in a flat voice through the phone.
‘Hans! Milan here. I need you.’


Maurice Murphy sat watching television as he did every night. He stared at the newsreader and was irritated. He didn’t understand why this was so. A particular woman affected him severely. Her singsong voice was irrelevant to the content she was reading. Another affected him because the woman was monotonous, seemed to become exhilarated only by glib phrases and ceremoniously clicked her tongue when the mood struck her fancy. The can of beer warmed in his hand as his fingers clenched and unclenched with each annoying sentence.
‘ ... and the Minister for Immigration repudiated the Opposition’s charge that the government had neglected non-Asians for Asian migrants ...’
Maurice Murphy hurled the beer can at the screen and watched ruefully as froth dripped down over the face of the newsreader.
‘Fucking Asians!’ He screamed at the set, his only companion in his dreadfully lonely life. ‘They should burn the lot of them. Don’t talk shit ... ’ he screamed again, ‘ ... you lying bastard!’
The he suddenly lurched forward across the room and kicked the speaker cabinet until the woman’s voice squawked and died.
‘Fuck you!’ Maurice Murphy glared idiotically at the silent, frothy newsreader.


Chapter 10

One by one the mowers began, signalling the start of the weekend along the peninsular. A cacophony of competing noise belched from overburdened television sets shattered the peace of Max’s wooded enclave. A summer mood had set, luring inhabitants of land-locked suburbia to the long stretch of white sand facing the eternal break of the sea. The lake had become a carnival of colour with gaily-painted sails billowing in the breeze. Flotillas of cruisers decked with beer-laden weekend sailors partied at their moorings. Brigades of picnickers were spreading themselves around the lake’s shore like ants around a glob of honey. It was the mad season that sent the aged scurrying indoors to escape the perversity of humans on holiday.
Rane had wakened with the sun. After three miles of sand jogging he tore into the surf and revitalised his body in the agitation of the breakers. Then he drove himself farther out to sea where he trod water as he waited for the seventh wave. When it came he turned toward the beach and swam furiously. As he crested the roller, he instantly recognised the tugging at the back of his mind. He lost concentration and cursed as the breaker moved away from him and hurled itself upon the shore.
Rane grudgingly acknowledged his hunch and made for the sand. He dried himself and without questioning the logic of his actions, headed off to sort out the nagging trouble in his mind. It was a frenetic Saturday morning. The air was a haze of salt and exhaust. As he walked through the streets of hair curlers and open bonnets with amateur mechanics lost amid the oil and confusion of fuel-injected engines he concentrated on the effect of McLuhan’s calamity upon the family.
Max seemed to have been in a state of irrelation, moving through the motions of reality yet remaining oblivious of it, like a dream in reverse. He had sat on a lonely chair by McLuhan’s hospital bedside, staring at his son’s face. He was silent for a long time.
Dali had not coped well either. When her father eventually returned home after his vigil by his son’s bed she had tried to coax Max out from his gloom. She had nearly screamed in frustration as he moped in his lonely chair by his books. ‘Say something, Daddy!’ she had pleaded with her father as he sat, remote as the moon. ‘You can’t just sit there! There’s nothing macho about holding back your tears. You can at least cry!’
Dali had experienced a feeling of collapsed spirit, of bodily enervation. Without Max to guide her, she had felt the sickening lurch of being rudderless. Her life had changed course and she faced her future with dread.

As Rane walked leisurely by the trees in the reserve, he knew he must revisit the cave. Instead of turning left for his home he continued along the path through the cedars, past the mangroves and up the slope to the ledge. By the time he had climbed beyond the lantana into the mouth of the cave he had become extremely tense. His mind already was slipping into the nether world, as if his seraphic mentor were impatiently beckoning him to hurry.
The walk along the narrow corridor was fraught with a strange and compelling emotion. Rane was confused. There was no definition to his feelings. He was alive with the certainty that at the tabernacle he would be confronted with the answer as to how McLuhan met his horrible fate.
The babble of noise beyond the corridor perplexed him until he reached its end and the door opened inwards to a sumptuous room fitted out as a casino. Like a film on fast forward the incident of that terrible Saturday afternoon impinged itself upon his brain. With dreamlike detachment, like a ghost beyond reach, he saw his brother and the men with dark glasses; he saw the back of the big man in the grey suit as he went to the door and opened it and disappeared from view. Rane then experienced McLuhan’s drugged dull panic and a strange anger of betrayal pervaded the vision.
As if he had tripped along the path somewhere he verged into a blackness that hid all reason and as he struggled to find the light he felt himself being drawn further into the unshining nihility. Then far away he saw the outsized hands and then he saw no more.
A chill had crept into his body and he longed for the sun. After a minute he stepped out from the cave and the memory of what he’d seen kept the chill within his bones.


Max searched for a solution to his predicament. His queen’s attack had backfired and the lofty ruler was in danger of capture. There were two options and he chose bluff. Moving his queen forward he was inviting Frank’s queen into the centre of the board.
‘You leave me no choice, mate.’ said Frank as he sent his noble cleric in a diagonal sweep to apprehend the queen.
‘Thanks, mate!’ Max uttered with unbounded sarcasm as he toppled his king in surrender.
‘Think it deserves a beer?’

‘I agree.’
The soft tread up the stairs was Rane returned from the cave. Max searched Rane’s face urgently. But his instinctive hope his first-born was repaired died quickly before he made a smile on his face. ‘Hello matey!’ Max roared sanguinely as he took a beer from Frank. ‘Want one?’ He plied Rane with a drinker’s grin and proffered his beer.
‘G’day Dad. Hi Frank.’ said Rane a little uncertainly. He shrugged into himself and went to the railing. Without direction he asked, ‘Where’s Juno and Monty?’
Frank glanced at Max who ushered him the role of giving an answer. ‘G’day Rane.’ Frank smiled warmly. ‘You’re a bit late. They were here looking for you. Dali’s gone with them to the beach. They said to tell you they’ll be at the surf club end.’
Max saw his son’s uncertainty. ‘What’s up?’
‘Where did you pick up the van, Dad?’
‘Shit!’ Max frowned. ‘You’re full of surprises, son.’
‘Someplace. A friend found it at The Cross. What’s the matter?’
Rane did not reply. He looked pointedly at his father and then directly to Frank and back again. His was the silent questioning look.
‘It’s ok, son, Frank’s family.’
There was no drama in Rane’s recitation. He gave a matter-of-fact rundown of his vision. He began in the cave’s corridor and finished with the onslaught in the storeroom where his brother lost consciousness.
‘I don’t think he felt a thing, Dad.’ Rane said in an effort to reassure his father but the contact with his brother had shaken him severely. ‘I think his pain had ended when his back broke, Dad. But it didn’t cut him off from what was happening to him. Mac knew what was happening until he blacked out.’
Max sat quiet with eyes cold. His loathing was building a mighty edifice of revenge. He wanted the men who damaged his boy. After having spent much of the past few months in isolation he was now returning to life abroad. Apart from moments when McLuhan’s predicament was obviously pressing against his mind, he exhibited a calm and empty visage, with nary a stitch of evidence of after-shock.
Frank was bemused. He thought his friend to be balanced on a dangerous psychological blade and that if he were to sit there for too long without doing anything he ran the risk of emasculation. Why was Max giving credence to what young Rane had said’

Suddenly Max swung round and faced Frank squarely. ‘Dear old Frank!’ he said sombrely. ‘You’re lost, aren’t ya, mate?’
‘You’re kidding, aren’t you? Lost? Why would I be lost?’ said Frank in a struggle with a growing sense of resignation.
‘Because it’s true, ya fuckin’ oaf. Rane’s got the Merlin, mate. Dinkum! He’s got the fuckin’ Merlin. And he’s always right. Every fuckin’ time.’
They looked at each other from across the years. It did not require words for their concurrence. ‘I presume we’re off to The Cross.’ said Frank finally.
‘Ya betcha, mate.’ Max was shuffling into his pockets with his hands. ‘Ya wanna drive?’
The black and grey van gurgled along the coast road. The water was silver in the eastern sun. Traffic was heavy. The pre-Christmas rush to beat the Christmas rush was on again. Shoppers packed against each other in merry disharmony. Rane sat next to the window with Frank lounging in the rear seat. Max whistled a ballad that told of times of despair. Then the bearded giant laughed wildly, snapping the song in two.
‘One more and we could be the A Team!’ he roared.
‘I was thinking we’re more like the three blind mice, Max. How do you reckon we’re sane, huh? Going on like this! We’re fucking mad, you know.’
The drive to The Cross was easy on a Saturday morning. Sydney had shut and an almost gentle calm had descended upon its streets. William Street was all traffic lights and bleary eyes as the grey and black van eased east. A Lions raffle for charity was propped companionably by the shop with its erotica. Rane leaned forward and opened the glove compartment. Inside, the cardboard box sat securely under the motor manual. It was full. ‘Wassat, Rane?’ asked Max with his eyes in hectic search.
‘Mac’s supply, Dad. He picked it up in Killit Lane that night. We didn’t smoke it because we were all too bloody stoned anyway.’
The van slipped gently into the curb and the engine silenced. They were away from the hub of The Cross and the street was bright with the morning. A slight odour of urine infiltrated the air. Someone was coughing behind a window. At the end of the small street a group was preparing for a march and their banners were black and red. Max forced a road through this lot and turned into Macleay Street with its trees of shade and pasty people. The fountain in the park was asleep.
‘If we could snatch the prick who ... ’ began Max hopefully as he perched monumentally upon a stone wall in the park.

The hopes of men whose time is past are sometimes soured by memory. Max and Frank had lined these streets with their brief histories. Each had taken part in the drama of The Cross in a way that was to be unique. Indelible memories are confronted with unpalatable things that issue from the present and there is an uncomfortable realisation of this disparity. Max realised with savage irony the helplessness of his situation. He had no pull, he had no say. Young men with muscles and ideas were now in charge and he was dependent on them. ‘Fuckin’ bigheads!’ was all he could say.
It was Rane who tugged his arm. ‘That’s it!’ Several women with ice creams turned their heads and stared. ‘That’s what Mac called the bastards, Dad.’
Realisation was instant for Max. He waited for Rane to speak again. The women and their ice creams faded into a frosted image and his pulse was large and loud. He watched as Rane gathered his images and translations of hurt and it was not long before the boy was reciting what he’d experienced.
‘Bighead?’ said Frank in muted comprehension.
‘Yeah, Frank’ Rane went on quickly. ‘It’s clear now. One bloke’s about your size, Dad. A lot darker. Wearing a suit. No colour this time. Only a faded impression but very clear. I didn’t get to see his face. There were three of them, Dad. Suits. Dark glasses. Grey suit. Grey suit. He’s the one, Dad. Grey suit. Big bloke in a grey suit. He’s the bastard who killed Mac’s eye.’
‘Where?’ Max urged his son.
‘Back street slummy club. One of those ... Italian ... coffee lounge at the front ... Italian ... not Italian ... gambling club at the back ... a back door out to the back street ... not a lane but a small ... a small ... ’
The morning was moving into the thirties Celsius and the man from Lions spun the raffle wheel and its clickety clickety ratchet spiked the ear. A curious blend of prostitutes with their faces fixed in professional boredom and Mercedes men with puffy eyes looked on. The old ladies who had emerged from their neatly furnished retreats to crowd Woolworths for a while assembled in secure knots along the street. People seemed to be content to be rather than to be going somewhere.
‘It’s search and destroy time.’
Max decided to return to Killit Lane. It was from there that the trouble grew. His feelings of unease had been justified. The fifteen thousand dollars was cause sufficient for the payback injuries to his son. He would begin his payback there.

The Lane was still in shadows. The metal-plated door to the club was closed. Max curled his fingers into a fist and with shocking force punched the door. They waited patiently. A few minutes passed before he punched again and the door opened. A young man with pencil-line eyebrows squinted in the sudden daylight. He was painted for the stage and mascara had been crudely applied to his eyes. He was panting.
‘It’th clothed! Can’t you read?’
The young man pointed petulantly to the sign on the door. He gasped slightly at its bruised and dented state. ‘Oh my.’ he whispered. Then he straightened and glared defiantly.
‘You’re the croupier.’ Rane stated with some accusation.
‘This prick’s a croop? Fuck me!’ Max curled his lips in a sneer behind his bushy beard. ‘Outta the way, mug!’ He shoved the young man in the face and followed the collapsing form through the doorway. Rane stepped over him. Then Frank followed and put his heel over a pink hand and crushed it. The young man shrieked with pain, like a yelping poodle.
‘Shuttup, sweetheart!’ warned Frank and the young man whimpered in muffled agony.
Two grey women in clothes of austerity pushed vacuum cleaners around the floor. Figures from a medieval pageant, they ignored the commotion and continued their head-down drive through the dust and grime. They had lived their Spartan lives among rough people and they felt they were inviolable.
Frank had lifted the weeping croupier and was holding him at arms length, dangling as a fish fresh from water. A pungent stain was enveloping the young man’s trousers. Shame had engulfed his face and his makeup seemed vulgar rather than comical. ‘Where’s the boss?’ demanded Frank disdainfully.
‘Uh?’ cried the croupier fitfully.
Frank bent his arms slightly and straightened them again in one abrupt jerk. The croupier’s head snapped back and forth and his teeth dug into his tongue. Bright blood gushed from his mouth. Frank threw him away with disgust. The young man toppled back and his arms fought for balance until he allowed his knees to buckle and the rest of him slithered to the floor.
‘Stay there!’ Frank warned. ‘You got any sense you’ll act like concrete.’
Max had found the office behind the mirror. The desk was bare. A hefty filing cabinet dominated one wall. Rane had cursorily rifled its contents in a desperate search for anything that would help them. Max was staring at the casino through the mirror. His was a lost and hopeless stare.

‘This bloke’s office is emptier than a wol’s conscience, mate.’ Frank declared.
Max shook his head and walked out to where Rane was now examining the roulette tables. He was underneath on his hands and knees and his face had that alert expression of the keen dog.
‘It’s not that easy to spot the magnets.’ murmured Rane as he got to his feet.
‘Not a bad idea, though.’ yelled Frank cryptically and the two grey women paused and glared at him. He smiled at them and they quickly resumed their work. ‘Good girls.’
‘Take a gander!’
Max had a single sheaf of paper with writing in a Cyrillic hand. Its logo was in English.
‘Mario’s?’ Frank laughed without humour. ‘It’s all Greek to me, mate.’ Then he moved to where the croupier sat blubbering in blood and urine and asked, ‘Sweetheart! Where’s Mario’s?’
The young man with the pencil-line moustache was staring pop-eyed at the invaders. His mouth was engulfed by his pink, bruised hand and a lurid seeping redness.
‘It’th on the paper, you bathtard!’ spat the croupier and a ruby jet stained the floor.
‘This bleeder’s got spunk, mate.’ Frank said to Max. Then he waved the paper at the young man. ‘The name of your boss, clown! I want it.’
‘If you don’t pith off I’ll call the polith!’ lisped the croupier in a dreadful spray of spittle.
‘Defiant cunt, isn’t he?’ Frank winked at Max and smiled. The instep of his shoe fitted neatly over the young man’s ankle. He ground his foot. Screams and blood came from a painted mouth and the two grey women moved to the end of the room and mowed a strip of carpet. Frank released his foot and waited for the wailing to subside.
‘Mug!’ smiled Frank patiently, ‘Don’t cause yourself grief. What’s the cunt’s name?’
Max and Rane had moved alongside Frank. They were mesmerised by the way the croupier’s tongue wobbled as he spoke. Teeth had cut through most of the red flesh and the flopping chunk was terribly swollen.
‘Hith name ith Mithter Theridith.’ spat the young man with the pencil-line moustache. ‘He’ll thmath you mongrelth to peetheth!’
‘The cunt’s probably used ta foreign flesh in his gob, Frank.’ quipped Max easily.

‘Yeah!’ smiled Frank. ‘It does look like he bit off more than he could chew.’
Max began to the door when he turned and raised his voice. ‘Listen ta me, mug! Or whatever ya fuckin’ name is! What time’s this joint close?’
‘Oh you rotten thwine!’ cried the croupier. ‘You can thee I’m bleeding. I need to thee a doctor.’
‘What fuckin’ time, mug!’ Max seemed to poise on the brink of violence for a second. ‘Won’t be askin’ ya again.’
‘Get fucked.’ stated the young man defiantly and his eyes abruptly shut when the boot reached his mouth. A lot of blood fell on to the floor and when he opened his eyes he saw Frank’s eyes beaming into his. Heat seared into his brain as he realised his tongue could no longer reach his teeth.
Frank had not hesitated. He had rushed in with his boot and crushed it into the croupier’s mouth. Then he merely stooped and rescued the tongue tip from the mess on the floor. He held it delicately in front of the croupier’s sorry eyes.
‘Oh my Jethuth!’
The scream came in terrible stutters.
‘That’s not exactly the answer I wanted, sweetheart baby.’ Frank’s smile had crept back onto his face again. ‘Told you we wouldn’t ask again.’
Frank was about to trample on the pathetic flesh.
‘Thum timeth thwee. Thum timeth four.’
Frank thanked the croupier and tossed the tongue at his swampy groin. ‘Give yourself a lick, sweetheart.’
‘Oh my thweet Jethuth.’
‘Oh goody gumdrops, sweetheart. Now ... ’ and Frank gripped the poor young man’s head in his fingers, squeezing the cheeks and popping out another blob of blood, ‘now listen to me carefully; repeat after me: I SAW ESAU SITTING ON A SEESAW.
Max guffawed loudly.
Rane, in spite of himself, grinned in amusement.


Chapter 11

Dali allowed her body its delicious warmth. Skin sleek in the glare of the sun, she lay prone on the sand, her bikini top untied and loose beneath her breasts. Twisting her head to her right she rested a golden cheek on her forearm and watched Lamont. He was scratching the scar on his chest. The beetroot of sunburn had already stained his shoulders. Every now and then he scratched, easing the irritation. His wound had healed on his back and there was scant reminder of that bamboo intrusion.
He watched as Juno caught a wave and torpedoed the surf in a turmoil of sand and bubbles. She rose, brushed her hair from her face and ran up the beach. He watched her vaguely, as a brother sees a sister. She was curvaceous, he admitted grudgingly, but only because of her peasant stock. This epithet belonged to their mother who jokingly despaired of her own squat frame.
‘What or who are you staring at, sexy?’ asked Dali with winsome eyes.
‘Come on you two, let’s eat!’
Juno urged them to the kiosk where a queue of raucous teenagers waited, coins jingling in sweaty palms. A harried woman bent time and again into an ice cream tub. It was a wooden shack on the back of a trailer. A tree had been felled and its logs were stuck underneath to prop up the corners. Lamont took his place behind a red-haired girl. Her freckles sparkled in the sun, like fallen oak leaves on white sand. She was singing in a calloused tone:

‘I wonder who’s fucking her now
she takes on the boys like a sow
she’s there for the hunt ...’

‘I saw the fucken bitch, Jean! Don’t fucken remind me, hey!’ The girl next to red-haired Jean was staring at Dali and Juno who were standing off from the kiosk. ‘Look who’s spoilin’ the fucken view, will ya! Down for her weekly wash, the fucken Vietnamese slut!’
‘Ssssh!’ Jean had recognised Lamont and her confused eyes broke quickly from his. ‘C’mon, Shirl,’ she said with sweet tartness and tugged at her friend’s arm. ‘Let’s fuck off. The air’s fucken smelly all of a sudden.’
Lamont watched them disappear into the dunes. They were peninsular girls and were friends long ago. He trudged with ice creams and lessened verve to his sister and Dali. The three ate quietly and watched the sea.
‘Who gives a shit!’ Lamont asked the air.


Chapter 12

‘Frank! Good to hear from you so soon. I’d have thought you and your family would be enjoying the excellent weather. It’s so conducive to frolicking on the beach. How is Marit? And the children, if I may call them that. Goodness, they’re almost adults, aren’t they? Are you at home?’
Milan Krulis sat comfortably in his office. The Muzak was off and the building was quiet except for the tinny sound of a Hungarian rhapsody on his desk. The Dictaphone served a variety of purposes and Milan favoured the passionate embrace of his national music. His pencil continued to scribble numbers into a ledger.
‘No, Mil, I’m up the road in a phone box. Are you busy?’
‘Come down if you wish. We can lunch and talk.’
‘Max and his son are with me. Ok?’
‘No sweat, Frank. Five minutes?’
‘Five minutes.’
Milan pressed the line dead and immediately dialled. The gravel throat answered the red phone in the boarding house passageway. Milan politely gave his message and waited.
‘Dorfman.’ The flat voice grunted through sleep.
‘Hans, if I send a car, can you be ready?’
‘Thank you, Hans. Come prepared as usual.’ said Milan. ‘Frank and Max will be here.’
When Milan had hung up he realised it was the first time there had been a trace of animation in Dorfman’s voice.


Hans Dorfman took no breakfast. His habit was to roll into bed after dawn and to sleep till evening. A diet of hamburgers, chips and beer kept him alive. He never used a knife or fork to eat and never did he join the dinner folk of the paint-peeled slum of a boarding house.

The cupboard was a lonely piece of furniture inside the cramped room. Hans opened the top drawer and removed his shaver and toothbrush. With a towel on his shoulder he poked his thin, pale face into the passageway. The bathroom was fourteen paces away and he reached twelve when the woman with twins stepped into the hall. Hans glanced quickly into her untidy room with its waterbed and toys. She was young with a dimpled chin.
‘Hallo Hans.’
She smiled as he pushed past her and her twins and locked himself inside the bathroom. ‘Shit!’ she whispered to her uncomprehending twins. ‘He’s weird. Must be the only guy I know who wears his suit to the shithouse.’ The twins were herded back into their room.
Hans Dorfman’s suit was for all seasons and reasons. It was all he wore. Dark blue with pin stripes, with an almost invisible gravy stain on the lapels, the suit afforded his entrance to most clubs. He kept it immaculately pressed, cleaning it himself with an aerosol dry cleaner. The suit provided perpetual camouflage for his weapon.
After locking the door behind him, he unstrapped the holster with its Beretta and removed it with his coat. He slung them together over the doorknob. Then he turned the tap on. Water poured grudgingly into the porcelain tub. A hint of steam rose from the spluttering trickle. His face in the mirror was bleak in the yellow light.
A bass guitar resonated from the hollow of the boarding house. It reminded Hans of the toneless bang of a biscuit tin. From outside the door came sounds of queuing boarders. He washed, shaved and dried his face, then re-strapped the Beretta and put on his coat. He was about to open the door when he changed his mind.
Returning to the tub he tugged at the plug chain and watched the filmy dregs gurgling down the drain. He stood closer to the rim of the basin, unzipped his fly and smiled as the stream of warm amber urine bubbled into the final vestiges of shave water. Then he fastened his fly and let himself out into the passageway, past his fellow boarders and out onto the street.
The black Ford LTD was just pulling into the curb and a uniformed chauffeur gestured for Hans to get in. The limousine purred away and Hans touched its luxury with his eyes. He sat still and with little interest watched the outside pass by.
‘Saints’ve got an uphill battle today, eh?’ remarked the driver comradely.
‘Just drive, pal!’ spoke Hans Dorfman in the manner of someone talking to a dog.


‘Tseridis? Yes, of course I know him, Frank.’
‘He’s the fish we want.’
Milan raised his eyebrows and produced rows of creases in his forehead. Behind the earnest faces of Max and his son the harbour shone blue and white in the afternoon sun as the ever-changing patchwork of sails glided slowly to the Heads.
‘Oh?’ Milan poured wine and offered the bottle label for inspection. ‘You are certain, of course?’
Max showed no interest in the brown label and its foreign language. Frank moved from the Persian and nodded as he took the bottle. ‘Absolutely.’ He let it stand in the ice bucket and Milan nodded appreciatively.
Rane sat still. His attention was on the fabled businessman. Was there anything to warrant the respect he received? He had read of the notorious Mr Cruel and it was difficult to equate this wizened elf with the media images.
‘Well?’ Milan spread his hands, pope like, toward his guests. ‘Pray, where do we go from here?’
Max ignited his face and flared at Milan. ‘We just don’t wanna go bump in the fuckin’ night, mate.’
‘Aah!’ Milan said with a cunning smile. ‘You may need a torch perhaps?’
Frank and Max laughed but the humour did not carry to Rane. Frank replied, ‘Anything to blow his mind.’
Rane’s grin was stretched by hard lips as intentions were dawning.
‘Well, we seem to know where to go .... ’ Milan began as the red light on his telephone glowed. ‘Excuse me, please, gentlemen.’ He lifted the receiver and spoke his name. He listened for a short time and hung up. ‘One of our friends.’ Milan opened his mouth and, as if thinking better of it, said, ‘He’s on his way up. Shall we wait?’
Max shrugged his giant shoulders and kept silent, the way silence dominates elevators. Frank found the Persian again and studied its patterns. In moments the office door swung open and Hans Dorfman slid in. Both Frank and Max reacted as if their team had scored a try. They laughed and whooped, loquacious as drunks at a dogfight. They hugged and pumped his back and punched his shoulders and shouted his name.
Hans Dorfman lapped it up. He returned their enthusiasm with a hint of a smile emerging reluctantly on his terse face. He had given his friends his soul for a while.


Outside in the courtyard, jazz thumped in tight discipline with the snare pacing and the brass trying to catch up. Seats were full and the bar was crowded. Shadows covered the bar as the courtyard bathed in splendid sunshine.
‘That one! Blue shades. In the corner.’ Hans Dorfman’s lips tightened as he flicked his head minutely in the direction of the courtyard. His eyes were hidden behind tiny black glasses. He was the image of a B-grade movie killer and he courted this effigy.
They stared at her from the private lounge above the courtyard. She was vacant of expression as she pulled errant pubic hair from her crotch. Two women sat with her and they were talking in wild animation.
A plan had erupted from their short time at the pub. They prepared the structure for the entrapment of Tseridis. It would be early Sunday morning and it would be a pernicious act of revenge. There was no alternative. Rane would be home in bed and he would be able to continue his life unfettered by the violence of retribution. The rationale for revenge exonerated the act.
The bearded giant thought of McLuhan and his putty body between the starch of hospital sheets. His son hated starch and yet he couldn’t ask the nurse to unstarch them. Besides, as Max acceded bitterly, his boy’s body would remain ignorant of the affront.
‘Yes,’ Milan was speaking in a voice far away, ‘even within your tragedy your life blossoms. You escape decay. The romance of history is especially illustrated by acts of altruism. Concern for ... no, it’s something more, it’s ... ’
‘Bull-fuckin’-shit, Mil.’ Max stated without rancour.
‘Why, Max? Why is it bullshit?’ Milan looked from Max to the window and saw himself there, looking back at himself. The window had been shut against the music. ‘What motivates you? Concern for your son? No? It’s more than that, isn’t it?’ Without waiting for a reply Milan ploughed on. ‘It’s love, isn’t it? With altruism there’s no self. It is finished.’ He nodded his head repeatedly and eyed each of his companions seriously. ‘Jesus was an altruist.’
‘I agree.’ Max tucked his massive legs under his chair and leaned on the table. ‘Christianity survives principally because of the fuckin’ altruism of Christ. That sort of fuckin’ bullshit appeals to the downtrodden.’
‘So where’s the difficulty, Max?’ Milan asked honestly.
‘Who has known, seen, or even been known to have invented an altruistic lawyer?’
‘Max, they exist because they serve society in decay.’

‘Yeah!’ interrupted Frank with a smile. ‘Go on, Mil, tell us the one about the lawyers, will you?’
‘Thank you, Frank Donleavy.’ retorted Milan, smiling with all of his face launched into action. ‘This city was rotting until I roamed the misty back streets of sin.’
‘And fuckin’ Dracula Krulis fixed the rot by fuckin’ suckin’ the rot from every fuckin’ cunt in the fuckin’ cunt of a place, hey?’ Max edged him on, tauntingly, with laughter.
‘You jest not, my friend.’ Milan replied with wise contempt. ‘What do they contribute to society? These lawyers? Hey? Their only value is that of a scavenger. The jackals and vultures of society. The lawyer literally picks at the bones of the unfortunate. At a profit, mind you.’
No one answered. No one had the capacity to be stirred by Milan’s predilections for social dramatics. They were intent on revenge and only humour could break their violent concentration.
‘I, too, supply the needs of a decaying society. I don’t advertise. The client is panting at my door. So why are they treated differently from myself?’ Milan brandished his cudgel as the Ancient Mariner of The Cross, as if forever expecting an audience for his tales of distress. ‘Who castigates them? Do they wear public and constant ridicule? Who judges the judge? Who forgives the priest?’
The band had come to rest. The next ten-minute break lasted an hour. The stampede to the bar had eased and the mood was festive. Beer flowed as they moved toward Sunday.
‘How do you justify this?’ Max asked suddenly.
‘Well, speaking euphemistically,’ Milan answered a bit unsteadily, ‘ the human being remains nature’s lone vengeful animal.’
‘That’s justification?’ Max laughed sceptically.
‘My friend of long ago, I salute you and I love you, but there is no doubt that justification lies in the fact that, not even in your wildest imagination, could you contemplate a person such as Tseridis not having power lines connected to the inner circuitry of the judiciary? Do you think, no, you couldn’t possibly, but just suppose you thought that Tseridis has existed with his code of behaviour without the connivance of the pillars of society, you would quickly arrive at the conclusion that you were wrong. Why, his payments extend to many an illustrious political merchant who insidiously manoeuvres things his way.

‘How can you have faith in the status quo? The system has been perfected since the days of the Rum Trade when this great country was a colony of penurious peasants from Britain. Why, the landed aristocracy has maintained its grip on the economic and political power structures of this nation and it’s damn well not going to relinquish it to hordes of the dreaming middle class.
‘The system itself moulds the rot. It’s only wordplay about their ridding our society of all traces of animalism. The canine penis penetrates as effectively as the human prick, and it matters not a snot how much we voodoo the lower aspects of our nature, those very laws, the taboos of voodoo are evidence of what we really are. We are captives of our basest instincts.
‘Forget about the turn of the alternate cheek, Max. That’s for those who couldn’t win the fight under any circumstances.
‘Men of power have their enemies and sometimes it is necessary to attack those enemies. This must be carried out surreptitiously. This task occasionally lands with me. These people attack their enemies through me. I am a conduit for greed and the pursuit of power. I am an indispensable component of the political and social process and as such I am afforded a certain amount of immunity or protection. I manage my business within clearly defined parameters and I am a disciplinary force for those who transgress my standards, my ethics, so to speak.
‘I abhor the drug trade. It is society’s Draino. Pour it into the human system and humankind will vanish. Yet while I am vilified by this junket of jingoistic journalists it is they who procrastinate on the more serious issues of drug abuse and of corruption because of the drug trade. The creation of laws that produce and maintain the conditions extant for the drug trade are to blame and the journalists ignore this vital and dangerous connection.
‘The convolutions of irony are endless, my friends.’
His homily was over. His quest for understanding was an apology. He was not among their tribulations though he felt somewhere they had respect for him in their eyes. The three young women had been joined by a young man with a hairy chest and a gold something dangling in his down. They were animated by some activity under their table. Thunder sounded loudly. They stopped talking and listened to the afternoon changing its tune.


Chapter 13

The breeze began as a welcome sign that the day would cool. The Tasman Nimbus had drifted to shore after hours of threatening gestures on the horizon. People on the beach packed up and left, some for home, others for the enclosed beer garden across the road from the sand hills. Gradually the beach was emptied of its jetsam.
There is excitability present during those few moments prior to a storm. Indecision hovers; there is the dare to wait it out for as long as possible, or to scurry away to shelter. Car drivers panic when no one gives them way. People come alive with the breathless sensuality of electricity in the air and sometimes do things that in other times would appear irrational to them.
‘Look at them go!’ laughed Juno derisively.
‘They never enjoy themselves with their bundles and crap.’ Lamont agreed tersely. ‘Screaming kids and sand up their arses. Why they come to the beach I’ll never fucking know.’
As the storm wrestled with its resolve to drop its watery load, the five o’clock fitness mob moved at a trot along the water’s edge, like a hastily convened lynching crew, their eyes pained and mad and never wavering from their distant targets.
‘You know,’ Lamont swivelled his head as he watched the tits of the frantic females in the herd of bobbing lunatics. ‘I once saw a little kid nearly trampled to death by those fuckwits!’
Juno smiled knowingly. Since the morning’s treat of cokes and ice creams, her brother’s demeanour had soured. ‘What’s the matter with you? Someone bite your balls off?’ she teased deliberately.
‘Juno!’ Lamont shut his face as his eyes retreated to a sore point in his mind. ‘Go string your tits somewhere else.’
‘Oh, your great savage!’ Juno retorted with a mixture of understanding and contempt. Her smile stayed on her mouth like a pastry salute. Then, as if the ceremony had passed, it cracked and crumbled in the first drops of rain. ‘You couldn’t have treated her more ignominiously if you tried, Monty. One moment you’re all over her. Then pfffft! You ignore her as if a disease had lodged between her thighs. No wonder she pissed off. I don’t blame her!’
Lamont carried apology in the satchels of his eyes, but his mouth clenched and a vile taste met his tongue. He would not have another chance to express how he felt.


There had been no one at home to excoriate the blemish of rejection. The sun had peaked in the sky and it seemed as if the world had migrated to the peninsular. Dali sat listless as a discarded banana peel. The house was not the same without her family. There was no note to say where her father and brother had gone. So she sat on the verandah listening to the noises of the world at play.
When the wind was right the sounds of the weekend carried to the house beneath the cliffs. Today, with the sea breeze, she hoped that the voice of Lamont would climb from the beach. But the sounds were amorphous strangers and left her alone. She was displaced, unhappy and yearning for the boy with the scar to climb the stairs and remove the ache from the house.
‘Jesus!’ she muttered sadly. ‘Where does it end?’
A spur of the moment and Dali was down the verandah stairs in a flash. She kicked her toes into the dust of the track as she descended to the lakeside. A curved flap of skin unrolled from her big toe and beneath the dust the raw skin bled grey and red. She bent down in the middle of the track to stick the skin back onto her toe. It was too dirty and she allowed it to flap.
The lake waters washed the toe to a glowing pink stump with a flap of skin like the hood of a convertible automobile. She sat on the grass and examined the fine corrugations of newly exposed flesh. ‘Under the skin we’re all the same’ she muttered scornfully.
She removed herself from the stares of a line of fishermen and made her way around the lake. There was a busy activity on the water. The reserve was filled with families at lunch and an ice cream van rang its bell. Children poked about in the trees and shouted to each other. Dali wandered aimlessly and enjoyed the visitors to her backyard. Some of them gazed at her as if she did not belong. Others ignored their football to poke their lewd fingers at her. The afternoon passed slowly for her.
Dali wanted to rejoin Lamont and Juno on the beach, but the morning’s hurt still hurt. When the storm shuddered and bullied, Dali pressed herself against the trunk of a cedar. She cried in anguish for the storm to banish the foreigners from her domain. Shadows disappeared as the sun was swathed in blackness. A pall of malevolence settled over the reserve. Soon she was alone with the thunder.
The rain held off, as if the weather had merely played with the fears of the multitudes. Lightning burnt strips through cloud. Thunder echoed in pursuit. Dali moved tentatively into the trees and followed her will toward the cliffs. Below the foliage the air was calm and warm and the ground was smudged with rubbish left behind. Gusts of irritable wind belted the cliffs and sprayed granite with leaves and a furious dust.

Inside the protection of the bamboo grove she rested. Her sanctuary was clear of litter and was not trespassed by strangers. Her thoughts were bittersweet with memories of a few fleeting seconds with Lamont in her mouth. Since the accident her new life had enmeshed her. She had seen hope with Lamont. His family had become an extra arm around her shoulders.
She had buried herself in her studies and ignored the jealousies of her schoolmates. The distinctions of her final exams framed the wall behind her bed. She had tolerated her awful past and now she was free from the dog collar of destiny and its throttling hold. She closed her eyes to halt the flow of water from her heart.


They watched astonished as tears ran down his cheeks. It had been sudden and he had said nothing. The band played its final bracket and the pub crowd was boisterous with booze. Everyone had braved the storm as it made its ominous approach from the east. Without warning, Rane vomited on the floor. He was coughing and crying and heaving his body as the mess of food poured out of his mouth. There was a taste of death at the back of his throat.
He had seen his sister in the trees and he had been struck by a powerful sense of malevolence. There was a blur of ugliness and he realised the sickening churn of his bowels. As his father stretched a helping hand across his shoulders, Rane farted a long stream of noisy sulphurous wind and the stench drove through the room like an ancient plague.
‘Christ.’ whispered Hans Dorfman.


The storm allowed him to creep close behind her. Dali was sitting cross-legged, facing the cliff, when his large hands reached over her shoulder and clamped her mouth shut. Dali stiffened with horror. Her screams were stifled in her throat. She tried to bite the flesh that held her. Her jaw was locked. A pungent stink of rotting flesh clogged her nostrils. Her legs kicked in vain as her head was forced between her thighs.

‘Little wog whore!’
The hoarse sound of the man’s voice chilled her soul.
‘Chink slut! You’re all the same. You fuck like rabbits! You swamp our land with your vermin.’
Dali thought her neck would crack as the large hands forced her head to the ground. The hand that held her mouth came away and she gulped a mouthful of compost as the other hand forced her further into the ground.
‘Let’s see how you fuck-crazy slit-eyes handle a jolt of white love muscle!’
He ranted into her ear as his other hand cranked her body out of its painful pike. Dali’s legs were flung back brutally as her face was buried beneath the choking carpet of muck. She felt his knees upon her back. She tried flicking her heels back against his body but the effort was useless, like running in air.
Kneeling on her the man reached down with his free hand and forced her jeans from her waist. Her buttocks pinched and shivered under her pants as his hand ripped the flimsy garment away. ‘What’s the struggle for, bitch?’ he gloated as his fingers fought through her stiffened thighs.
Dali squeezed her knees together as the hand prised its way toward her vulnerable softness. She tried with every muscle in her body to free herself. As the pressure from his hand on the back of her neck lessened she spat out the filth from her mouth and screamed. The pain to the side of her head was sharp from his punch. There was a blur of ugliness in her head before she realised the intense pain in her lower abdomen.
As she suffered her pain excited her nerves. A dreadful ache beat upon her brain as she hovered on the verge of collapse. She knew when the blade tore open the flesh of her stomach and drove its rude passage through her bowels.
He had lifted her slightly to permit the blade to pierce her just above the groin. He was fascinated as he watched her blood spray violently at first and he was disappointed her fight had not lasted longer. As Dali’s body emptied itself of blood, he withdrew the blade and tossed it into the surrounding bamboo.
‘I want my bitches to bleed!’ He glared at the back of her head. ‘You hear me, you wog slut. I hope you can enjoy me. If you can hold on long enough.’
He then opened his trousers and with one hand straining to hold up her dying body, he managed the ultimate orgasm. ‘Jesus! Fuck me!’ he cried as his obscene act delivered Dali from her hymen and her life.
He left her carcass in the bamboo grove and walked away to the water’s edge where he washed the stain from his body.


Chapter 14

The black and grey van rushed across the middle lane of the Harbour Bridge. Max and Frank sat silently in the front. Their eyes were absently roaming the changing form of the north shore. Behind them Rane sat with his arms wrapped around his knees, his head down. He sought benediction from the forces in his mind as he willed his body to calm.
The road wound off the bridge and then into the swooping backs streets of Neutral Bay. They brushed through the parks and baylets, oddly idyllic in their seclusion. As the road blended into the arterial route to the north, Max ignored the stoplights and throttled the engine till it roared its fury into the traffic. They rode the road fast until they crested the headland and could see the vista of sweeping breakers rolling eternally toward the beaches of the north.
The storm had driven westward and the sun was a large orange ball across the lake as they sped into the peninsular suburb. Max allowed the engine to slow and the big van murmured heroically up the dusty track. The house was in darkness as the sun went out of view behind the cliffs. There was no splash of colour tonight, no summer mood.
There was no search. Rane went alone to the spot where she lay. He stood above his sister. In a moment he was there with her torment and her death and the large hands grew out of the darkness, taunting him to follow them back into the abyss. Rane smelled dead fish as his eyes again focussed on his dead sister. He bent and tried to bring her jeans into place, but her rigescent body was arched and it seemed her bones would fracture if he moved her. With his shirt placed carefully upon her exposed flesh, Rane began to tremble.


Max carried her home. He would not leave his daughter there like that. The police would see her on his terms. After her body was repaired and cleaned Dali was laid to rest on her bed and the pink sheet was tucked reverently beneath her chin. Max had tried to thumb the terror from her face but it was too late. The impressions of her final seconds had tempered the face that would go into the ground.
He asked Rane and Frank to leave him with her for a while. The playthings of her life lay sprinkled about her room. He always thought the drawing of his face was nothing but a melancholy patch on the wall, but she loved it and displayed it proudly. She had often told him that she kept it as the happiest point in her memory.
Max sank to a desperate stillness, an impercipient sufferer in his purgatory, a dullard in the furnace of grief. For an hour he stared at her face, the horrid images of her pain seemed incongruous to the sublime love he felt for her. Max bent and kissed his daughter and left the room.


The night had erased the last traces of twilight and a candle flickered solemnly in the lounge. The big beat of Count Basie filled a lot of the empty space. The American bandleader and pianist was Dali’s favourite. Max’s face was taut and a muscle twitched as he ground his teeth in a hopeless anger.
Rane waited on the verandah to watch the rise of the moon. He watched its pale reflection glide ever so slowly away from the chalky shores.
‘You okay?’ asked Frank softly.
Rane did not reply. He turned and looked at Frank with eyes the colour of clay.
‘I’m taking the van for a bit, mate.’ Frank continued. ‘Have to settle a few things. Be back in an hour or so. You’ll hang on, eh?’
Then the tall languid form of Frank Donleavy submerged itself beneath the verandah.


They sat silent and still as he told them. A warm, humid air pushed the curtains into the room. The surf could be heard as a distant relevant sound that bespoke culpability; but no one heard it.
‘Ag! My God!’ exclaimed Marit in Afrikaans. ‘Frank, you must return to them. You must take something for their grief.’

Juno and Lamont avoided each other’s eyes as their mother got up to search the flat for an appropriate gift. Frank phoned the police. He gave few details; the victim’s name and address was all he said.
‘We’re going with you, Dad.’ Lamont said gruffly.
Juno was staring through the window, half watching the images of sadness inside.


The police were businesslike and ever mindful of the anguish of the night. They offered comfort with their words as they accompanied Max Hollard to the bamboo grove. No one had mentioned the movement of the girl’s corpse. Police have families and tonight they understood. Sometime later they would find the weapon that caused the terrible death.
The dirt track that led to their home had become a circus, with bright lights and crowds. Voices were yelling as television crews jostled to film the Hollard house. One crew was washed down the stone steps by a torrent of garden-hose water. Once the ambulance had removed Dali’s body to the morgue the sightseers retired to their television sets to catch a glimpse of themselves at the murder scene.
A Sydney television station broadcast that the young Asian female had been a frequent visitor to the lake. Strangers appeared on screen to tell of their intimate knowledge of a girl they scarcely knew.
It was a young policeman with his mind still with the girl’s mutilated body who said it all upon his return to the station. ‘Must have been a lonely tyke, eh? Not many friends came forward.’


The track was quiet and eerie in the aftermath of murder. The moon was slipping behind the cliff top. Far away in the bush an owl spoke. It was answered a few moments later by another on the cliff where gums and wattle grow like curly whiskers on a craggy face. The world was asleep.
‘I’m glad Dad’s gone.’ said Rane suddenly.
Juno and Lamont shook their eyeballs and tried to concentrate, to hear and to see, to respond and to comfort. Strain had slowed them to a morose droop. No simile was potent enough to describe their mood.
‘I can’t believe it!’ croaked Lamont as he fidgeted with his fingers.

They sat outside on the verandah.
‘It’s too much to handle.’ cried Juno as Rane awkwardly sat beside her. ‘How much more can a person take?’
Rane eyed her intently with a new curiosity. He had surmised the ineffectiveness of his trying to assuage their feelings of guilt. He and everyone his sister knew were responsible for the tragedy. Just one word, this way or that, by someone or other, may
have thwarted fate from its invidious purpose.
A radio sang a song of the sixties and the three o’clock pips were heard above the final bars of the melody. A certain chill descended from the clear sky and laid a wetness on the earth, like a strange summer dew dropped from a tearful moon as it moved offstage.
Lamont yawned and Juno lifted her eyelids, only to drop them again. Venetian blinds of tiredness. Juno excused herself and went to McLuhan’s room where she crawled into a ball and slept. It was a male’s hermitage. Pendulous boobs hung from a rubber Bob Dylan on a cross above the bed. The rest of the wall was cluttered with memorabilia as a weird tale of McLuhan’s style.
‘You gotta admit Dad’s a demon with the hose.’ Rane twisted his lips into something that could have been mistaken for a smile.
‘They make me puke!’ Lamont spat his words with venom. He looked at Rane as one looks at a stranger in a busy street.
Rane’s eyes suddenly misted as if his thoughts were roaming through a fog. He began knocking his knuckles together in a broken rhythm. ‘I saw his hands, mate.’
Lamont became awake with a terrible start. The gorilla hands of the pervert in the park! The guy had been following them. Dali had said something. What the fuck was it?
‘Hands like an ape?’
‘Yeah!’ answered Rane with a sudden explosion. ‘Like an ape! That’s right! An ape!’ He sat bolt upright, statue still, as if his brain had forgotten his body, leaving it without its motor running.
‘We saw him!’ shuddered Lamont with a stab of memory. ‘We laughed at his hands. He was following us round the park. Jesus! She said he was your next-door neighbour!’
The act of savagery had been witnessed. The killer was now identified. Rane had decided that atonement called for reprisal. He found no paradox in what he schemed to do. While four men planned an execution of their own, he was executing his own plan.


Chapter 15

Hans Dorfman spoke in muffled sentences through his hamburger. He stopped occasionally and poured Foster’s into his mouth and let the swill slide noisily down his throat. His belches smelled of grease traps. ‘Look!’ he said, ‘The cunt leaves the 69 and he’s here within minutes. Usually, they tell me that he hovers a bit before scarperin’ off home to Vaucluse. And the cunt goes without his muscle.’
Milan nodded his gratitude as he adjusted his body in the back seat of the limousine. He hid his distaste for the post-prandial noises of his henchman by averting his eyes and humming a vague melody. Across the street, Mario’s was quiet. Buses had ceased to run. An occasional drunk wandered by. The lonely squandered their lives along the loop; perpetual motion for the lost, in search of deliverance, beginning with pilgrimage in Darlinghurst Road, exploring the western footpath before crossing Macleay Street and returning to the Moreton Bay fig in the park. Like sinners before the Stations of the Cross, they fulfilled their penance by trudging the footpaths of The Cross.
Each took a glance at his watch and was wary.
‘They shouldn’t be too long.’
‘Shouldn’t we be in another car? It’s advertisin’ a bit, ain’t it?’
‘I’d look out of place in another car, wouldn’t I?’


The black and grey van drove past, and disappeared around a corner. Soon, the tall figures came out of the side street and stepped through a few parked cars and approached the LTD. The door swung open. Max squeezed in first. Frank followed.
‘Where’s ya young bloke, Max? Tight as a nut in bed?’ grimaced Hans Dorfman from the front. His chin ran with hamburger juice.
Max nodded glumly with anger clouding his mind.
‘By all accounts this is where the atrocity occurred, my friends.’
They followed Milan’s look and deliberately fixed the details to memory. They waited behind the tinted windows of the long car, listening to the soft chatter of the radio. As the four o’clock news bulletin spoke of death on the peninsular, the ex-wrestler emerged from Mario’s and rolled his hefty body around the corner where Max had parked his van.

‘He’s on time.’ Hans noted unnecessarily. He wore a sinister face for the night.
Milan acknowledged with his eyelids.
Frank had watched the roly-poly man with interest.
Max could not care as long as someone in his fog died in pain.
Hans drummed the engine and swung the limousine in a cumbersome turn and waited by the corner for his mark. The brown sedan pulled away and cruised off into the back streets of The Cross. Hans kept his distance until his quarry halted outside an opulent Victorian mansion at Vaucluse. Metal gates slid aside and the brown sedan turned into the drive to a garage. A roller-door raised and shut behind the brown sedan. Hans drove to another street and parked the limousine discreetly beneath a flowering poinciana. He switched off the engine and the four men moved quietly back to Tseridis.
A steep winding terrace of steps cut through the front garden from the garage to the front porch. Tseridis had switched off his engine and heaved his great bulk from the brown sedan. He began his climb up the steps to the house. By the time he reached the front door his face was perspiring and his ears were filled with the noise of his over-worked heart. He fussed about inside his pockets until he produced a key. He fumbled with the lock. Panting, he pushed open the security door and entered his private domain. The door swung shut.
The house was in darkness as he moved confidently into his study to the left of the hallway. He switched on the light and dropped with a whooosh into his leather reading chair. No sooner had he relaxed when the chimes alerted him to his visitors.
‘Oihi!’ he muttered as he decided finally to answer the door. The ex-wrestler peered through the spy-hole and saw Milan Krulis alone on the porch. The little man was framed in the pastel colours of pre-dawn. Already the summer sun was sending advance warning of its arrival over the rim of the sea. It was an hour before dawn.
Driven by curiosity, Tseridis opened the door to his business rival. Immediately, the Beretta came around the corner with Hans Dorfman attached. Then two more. They ushered him back into the house and the door closed quietly.
‘Pos iste, Nikos?’ Milan opened his gambit with a wry smile.
‘Kala, Milan. What is this?’
Tseridis stood his ground against the threat from the Beretta. His hands hung loosely at his side, palms to the rear. His over-sized dinner jacket stretched against his frame, as if to verify his enormous girth.
‘Shall we have some refreshment, Nikos?’ asked Milan with deadly irony. ‘Perhaps a Mario Mickey, neh?’

‘No!’ replied Tseridis after a long awkward pause where they held each other’s eyes like two silly bulls vying for the only cow in the paddock.
‘I see you miss the point, my friend.’ Milan drifted slowly along the hallway and returned. ‘It appears you entertain some strangely wicked pursuits, Nikos.’
The ex-wrestler was drenching himself with his perspiration. His hand flicked the stubborn stud from his collar and pulled viciously at the neck of the shirt. Suddenly he thought he knew.
‘Well, Nikos,’ Milan paused theatrically, obviously savouring this rare moment, ‘what you have pursued is here to ask you why.’
Tseridis nodded with growing understanding. He searched the faces of the two big men and saw his final moments as belonging to them. ‘I have a heart condition.’ he said simply and ambled to his study. He turned at the door and watched them follow.
‘You first, fat man.’ Frank insisted evenly.
Tseridis entered the study and tumbled into his reading chair. His hands gripped his chest as his wild-eyed plea became panic. ‘Why do you do this to me?’
Milan left the study and began to meander through the house. Max was an ominous presence at the side of Tseridis and Frank faced the ex-wrestler and smiled. ‘Why?’
Frank kicked Tseridis in the shins and the big man howled in woeful pain. As the big man grabbed his sorry shin an enraged Max dragged him to his feet.
‘Ya got my boy, scumbag!’ howled Max as he lifted the ex-wrestler from the floor and crashed his face with a deadly head butt. Max lowered Tseridis and moved away quickly.
Tseridis faltered and moaned loudly as in an opera. ‘What are you saying? Why are you doing this to me?’
Max found his tongue tied by rage to the dry roof of his mouth. He stared at the window shut from the world by a 19th century Chinese print upon a silken curtain. The episode depicted in silk was tranquil with a solitary bird, a sparrow with coloured wings, he thought, drinking from a simple garden.
‘You’d eat your mother for her crap, pal.’ suggested Frank softly.
Tseridis glanced his way and then he shut his eyes and rested his head on his chest. Blood formed in awful clots upon his clothing. As he raised his head again and breathed out he sprayed crimson spittle in the air.
‘What fucking mother? You crazy bastard!’ Tseridis sniffled obscenely and spat a fat blob of red upon his carpet.

Frank was tiring of the game. He saw no point in dallying further. He walked to Tseridis. ‘Is that all, pal?’ When Tseridis turned away Frank drove a corkscrew into the bulbous neck. It stuck fast and hung as an ornamental fountain of blood. Tseridis gripped the terrible weapon and desperately twisted it loose from his neck. Then he suddenly raised his arms and the hole in his navel seemed to appear long before a shot was heard.
The Beretta had fired with a muted sound and a gingery flame. A powerful spurt of blood accompanied the whistle-thud of the silencer as the ex-wrestler blundered backward across the study. Hans Dorfman pulled a handkerchief from his coat pocket and wrapped the pistol securely. He then returned the weapon to the holster under his coat.
It took a couple of seconds for their shocked muscles to jerk back to life. Their eyes followed the trajectory of Tseridis, his motor pumping life from his blubbery chest. He landed on his buttocks against the wall.
Tseridis was numb where the bullet had carved its way into his spine. His eyes were glazed and a nervous tic played rumba with his eyelid. He moved his hands indecisively in front of the wet hole in his stomach, like a child keeping flies from his porridge.
Hans Dorfman stood over the injured ex-wrestler. He kicked the big man’s legs a few times and walked clear of the spreading stain of blood.
‘Looks like the cunt wants to plug the dyke.’
‘He’ll need Braille to find the fucking thing, Hans.’ smiled Frank as he extracted a teaspoon from his pocket and walked over to Tseridis. The ex-wrestler watched through uncomprehending eyes as the teaspoon came closer. He felt the pressure of the warm metal against his eyelid. ‘No!’ he screamed as the spoon dug in and removed the oval jelly from its socket.
Tseridis tried to scream his pain but his chest would admit no air. He was turning the colour of suffocation. The other eye was removed as easily, and the two weeping orbs hung like testicles down his cheeks.
‘Payback time, pal!’ Frank muttered sourly. ‘An eye for an eye, and a spine for a spine. Or, in this case, a couple of eyes for good measure.’
Frank glanced at Max who returned his look with a downcast shaking of his head. Frank smiled and understood. His friend would be avenged. He reached out with both hands and extended forefingers and thumbs over the hanging eyeballs and squeezed till they burst. A mucous gummy substance squirted over his hands. ‘What an eyeful!’ Frank said with reservation. ‘Sorry! Couldn’t pass that one up, could I?’ He then wiped his hands on a handkerchief that had decorated Tseridis’ dinner jacket.

‘Let’s go, shall we?’ Milan asked from the study doorway. He viewed the scene with little interest and was keen to leave.
‘Finish the bastard?’ asked Hans.
Milan shook his head. ‘What more can he do, Hans?’
Hans said nothing as the bloodied form of Tseridis grew grey with approaching death.
The four men left the house and found their way to the limousine. A sparse layer of Poinciana flowers had formed on the roof and bonnet. They got in and Hans drifted the limousine back to The Cross.
‘All that fool can do, my friend, is to fight against the blaze of pain and blinded stupefaction.’ said Milan as he surveyed his coterie of conspirators. Frank was amiable as usual and was engaging Hans Dorfman in a verbal walk through avenues of nostalgia. Max was tight-faced, his eyes opaque, soulless as a turd on a dung heap. ‘By midday,’ Milan concluded with satisfaction, ‘that dog will be dead.’


Chapter 16

It was nearly three in the morning when Rane and Lamont closed the back door and crossed the little patch of grass that served as a lawn. Washing hung damp in the dew. They manoeuvred the climb with ease, the grease of a thousand palms smooth on stalwart branches along the way. A ledge hung like a petulant lower lip on the face of the cliff and they cautiously moved along it to the rear of their neighbour’s house. Dropping from the ledge they crawled through the weeds and waited by the tool shed. There was suggestion of life inside the house. A row of wooden steps led to the back door and through the tinted glass a noiseless moon was shining.
‘Try the door.’ whispered Lamont nervously.
Rane slowly turned the handle and waited. Lamont was breathless beside him. No response came from within the house. The door opened easily and they went in, on tiptoes toward the light at the end of the passage. Rane tapped Lamont on the shoulder and pointed to the kitchen on the right. They moved in, awkwardly, trying to find the cutlery. Rane pulled on a drawer and it creaked slightly as it edged from its stubborn cabinet. An assortment of table knives, forks, spoons and chop sticks lay in tidy compartments.
Lamont murmured softly with a different anxious vibration. Rane swung about and stepped lightly to where Lamont stood by the sink. A big snapper had been scaled and cut and the newspaper was soggy with blood. A large fish knife rested alongside. The blade was honed and the double-serrations on its upper edge were caked with meat, scales and blood.
‘God!’ Rane uttered with shocked discovery.
Lamont felt the chill of discovery. His predilection for revenge against the outrage upon his sister spurred him to lift the grisly weapon. It was heavy and it imbued him with wrath. Rane offered his hand and Lamont made a wry face as he gave the knife to his friend. They each took a deep breath and stalked their fate down the passage.
Maurice Murphy sat in front of the soundless beaming television as though he were baby-sitting a mute friend. His face was nondescript with hair cut short in a business-like style. Though he was far younger he looked every inch a man in his early forties and his waist had begun to thicken.

Rane grimaced at the sight of those enormous hands resting on the lap. The man’s fly was open and the material of his trousers around the groin was awash in a white gluey substance. Bloodstains covered his wrists and forearms.
They avoided the beer cans as they placed one foot after another onto the parquet floor and inched toward the man. He stank of fish. ‘He’s dead drunk!’ said Rane in a subdued tone as he lifted a floppy arm and immediately dropped it as blood stuck to his fingers. He stared closely at his fingers then said sharply, ‘Get some cord or something, Monty!’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘Tie him.’ answered Rane. ‘Try him. Judge him. Sentence him.’
Lamont searched the house and returned with nylon fishing line. He saw that Rane had wrenched the man’s sock from the right foot and had jammed it into the gaping mouth. A tie formed a tourniquet around the head to keep the sock secure.
Maurice Murphy shuddered belligerently when he was awakened from his drunken sleep. The fog of alcohol had numbed his brain and he thought stupidly of getting to work on time. He began to choke as he tried to breathe through his mouth. He shook his head then abruptly stopped. Nylon cut deeply into his neck. His outstretched wrists and ankles were bound to the wicker chair in an attitude of a cheery grandfather welcoming his grandchildren into his embrace.
His eyes winced as he saw his erectile organ exposed between his thighs. At first he was afraid his captors had done something horrible to it, but then he remembered with relief that the bloodstains on his precious flesh were from the fish he used for gratification.
Suddenly he tasted the sock and he wretched. With nowhere to go the fetid vomit retreated down into his gullet, causing repeated vomiting. He heaved violently against his bonds and putrid slobber squirted out his nose. His trousers became damp as his colon squeezed itself of its contents.
‘The pig stinks!’ cried Lamont with revulsion.
Rane wagged the fish knife before the shrinking face of Maurice Murphy. ‘You remember my sister?’
The hopeless eyes blazed in their confusion. Strips of blood appeared where nylon cut into his flesh. Spaghetti-like discharge seeped from his nostrils and spumed into the folds of the sock in his mouth.
‘They say murder is the ultimate expression, sort of like the ultimate thrill.’ said Rane with another voice. He shuddered and looked again at the man who killed his sister.

Lamont stared at Rane and then at the knife. ‘Finish him, Rane.’ He nodded his head slowly with emphasis. ‘Yeah!’ as if he were reinforcing an earlier decision, ‘finish the cunt!’
Rane’s eyes stayed with Lamont’s for a while before he too nodded slowly his decision.
‘There pig! You heard the jury.’
The bounded neighbour rocked the wicker chair as his anal region expelled its excrement of fear. They looked from the ugly victim to the scene where Alan Bates is swinging a pram of sorts around his head while Janet Suzman was either crying or laughing. They did not know which. Rane went forward and switched it off. When the coarse silver flicker of the tube imploded, Rane swung the fish knife in an underhand arc. The blade and its serrations sank deeply into Maurice Murphy’s fly.
Maurice Murphy felt the thud against his body. Then he felt the jolt of the blade between his legs. Then he arched his body in a futile attempt to get away from the pain. The chair toppled back. He wriggled in agony as his restrained ankles struggled in the air. The wicker chair rocked from side to side as he tried to free his wrists from the arms of the chair.
‘He’s taking this lying down, mate.’ said Lamont and they sniggered nervously.
Maurice Murphy was thrashing his head and the cord was burying itself further into his flesh. His pain was a passage of steam through his loins, burning the flesh that had loved pleasure. Suddenly the pain changed direction and moved slowly up his body to his stomach. A squelch emitted now and then from the bubbling bright red mess as Rane sawed through the flesh. Maurice Murphy was being gutted by his own fish knife.
‘Aw for fuck’s sake, Rane, take it out!’
Lamont began to panic. He was sick and his vomit passed easily onto the floor. He stole a glance at the neighbour and shut his eyes. ‘He’s still alive!’
Maurice Murphy groaned dreadfully as the serrated blade tore its bloody way to the surface. His body was profuse with perspiration. Rane wiped the knife carefully down his victim’s face and with his other hand removed the sock from the man’s mouth. Looking at his neighbour for the final time he plunged the fish knife between the man’s teeth and thumped the hilt until the head of the man was held in crucifixion to the parquet floor.
Rane and Lamont left Maurice Murphy like that, a grim testament to revenge.


Chapter 17

‘When does a wog stop being a wog and become an Aussie?’
‘Er, when he’s dead drunk, sarge?’
‘Not bad. Not bad!’ Detective Sergeant Roy Fitzgibbon and his assistant wove through the Vaucluse house and noted the general state of things before they ventured into the lounge where a large woman in working clothes was distraught. ‘But you’re only half right.’ he said as he hastened a female police member to smother the woman’s blubbering. They returned to the study.
Constable Rippov still expected the sally and demanded, ‘Well, what then, sarge?’
‘When his corpse fertilisers gum trees at Woronora Cemetery. Get it?’
Constable Rippov dutifully showed his mirthful appreciation of his senior’s wit with a bout of laughter and a quick repetition of the joke. ‘Haw, that’s good, sarge, that’s good!’
Fitzgibbon, homicide’s ‘duty manager’ at The Cross, brusquely directed fingerprint specialists to scour the house. It had been a few weeks since his Sunday shift had been affected by some form of human explosion. The corpse on the floor reminded him of his appointment with the optician. He wrote a few words into his notebook.
‘Go and shut the bitch up, will you, Rippov, before I book her!’ Then, as the young policeman made for the lounge Fitzgibbon suggested, ‘And get some bloody spray, will you! The flies! They’ll finish this bastard before the wagon gets here.’
A few moments later Fitzgibbon heard the placating voice of Constable Rippov asking the woman if she knew where the aerosol can was.
‘Shit!’ Fitzgibbons swore. ‘That idiot!’
Nikos Tseridis had complied with Milan Krulis’s prediction. The pain in his head confused the benumbing pain of his shattered spine and his heart gave a final flutter before stopping. The bullet from the Beretta had ground its way through a heavy burden of flesh before it petered out in the splintered bone of his spine. Now it rested comfortably, awaiting removal by forensic fingers.
Hans Dorfman had done his homework well. Tseridis’ wife and children lived apart from the ex-wrestler. It was his cleaning woman from Killit Lane who discovered her employer in his sightless torment. She had panicked and run amok through the house, creating a hysterical disturbance on that sleepy Sunday morning.

It was a belated complaint about her noise that brought the police to the door and it was then that the dying form was discovered. Tseridis was dead when Detective Sergeant Roy Fitzgibbon and his team of homicide specialists arrived.
The young constable came out from the lounge and jerked his head over his shoulder. His face showed defeat and frustration. ‘Can’t shut her up, sarge.’
The big detective sergeant did not smile when he was pleased. His eyes became hooded and moist, and a blush appeared to colour his face. He was very tall with thick black hair, his nose the plasticine shape of a boxer’s. His eyebrows joined in a ferocious scowl across his forehead and his thick red lips pressed hard together to hide their femininity. He felt a sudden burst of pleasure now, and he opened his mouth to whistle then realised how he looked and shut them tight in a resumption of toughness.
He dismissed Rippov to another part of the house. Then he strode into the lounge. He banged the door shut behind him. Dragging the sobbing woman to her feet he swiped her face roughly with the back of his hand. Her flesh opened below her lips and a smear of blood coursed across her cheek. She howled fiercely and received a shocking slap from the other direction.
‘Shuttup slut!’
The woman was dazed and increasingly beyond control. Fitzgibbon glanced quickly at the door then punched her solidly below the ribcage. She oooofed the air from her lungs. He shoved her back onto the settee. No further sound came from her except the wheeze of air filling her lungs.
‘That’s better, love!’ Fitzgibbon said encouragingly. ‘That’s one thing you wogs’ve taught us. Belt your women and they’ll love you for it.’ He stared at her, nonplussed by her hysteria. He said, ‘Now! What can you tell me about Big Boy next door?’
The woman gaped at him through tears. Her head moved from side to side and her twisted swollen mouth tried to form words of the noises that rose from her throat. She shrank back as his hand curled for another strike. Then she collapsed.
‘Constable Rippov!’ barked Fitzgibbon.
The young constable scurried in, looked at the woman and said nothing.
‘Get this hag washed up and down to the station. Hold her there!’
‘Do you want her charged?’
‘Nuh! Just threaten her with hindering. I’ll see her later this afternoon. I’ll be away for a bit.’


Chapter 18

It was down a lonely wooded avenue that the final vehicle wandered in search of the house named ‘H’. Amid the trees and ornamental jungle of opulent Killara, a mansion nestled far from roads and noise. Covered with gardens and style it rested comfortably out of view.
The vehicle slowed to a crawl. As it came upon the pseudo-medieval brass plaque a hint of sunlight shone upon the single letter. The car turned and drove under a stone archway. Disappearing into the greenery beyond the driver followed the poplars along the winding track of colour and gardens.
The low thatched manor eased away from the kerbside, where liveried servants stood as ancient chessman in the sun. A tall male broke ranks and strode forward and opened the rear door of the vehicle. An elderly white-haired man put his hands upon his knees and helped his legs to the ground. With the aid of a black oak walking stick he cranked his painfully thin frame from the vehicle. He leaned into the stick as he crackled his way to the waiting assemblage in the library. His eighty-year eyes, rheumy in the space behind the thick spectacles, adjusted to the shadows of the long entrance hall. The tall servant halted to allow the old man to catch up.
To a man the committee rose as their patriarch appeared in the doorway. The library became still as the walking stick thumped weakly over the carpet. Nine pairs of eyes gazed in awe as the white bony hands forced the walking stick toward the head of the banquet table.
Gold candelabra along the oval ceiling dipped soft haloes into the smoke-filled room. Leather-bound books of law decorated the walls like ornaments from a past imperial epoch. The finger-dip woollen carpet swayed with the shuffle of feet as nine finely chiselled goblets rose in obeisance to the patriarch.
‘Your Honour!’
The old eyes peered down the table, blinking recognition of the men he had recruited over the years. ‘Thank you, gentlemen.’ croaked the patriarch through a throat full of phlegm. He pressed a skeletal hand over his heart and, with measured movement, gathered a white handkerchief from his breast pocket. The other hand opened the handkerchief. Nine faces averted as he drained his throat into it. Then with his mouth agape the old man blew his nose. He carefully folded the handkerchief and deposited the soggy cloth in the receptacle at his feet. ‘I must congratulate my colleague,’ he said between sniffles, ‘in choosing, what I think, must be the most inconspicuous retreat in Sydney.’

A cheery chorus of agreement warbled diffidently around the table. The tall servant retreated and closed the door. The patriarch leant on the table and slowly bent his knees. By leaning forward onto the table he was able to ease himself back into his chair. When he was safely in place the door opened and a servant deftly furnished the patriarch with his cover. Then the tall servant led his retinue in. The door closed again.
Steaming roasts were carved on an enamelled bain-marie. Servants silently guided lunch to the committee then abruptly left, their departure as unobtrusive as their arrival. The door swung shut again.
The meal was eaten without chatter. When all was done the door opened and the servants filed in. The table was cleared and the bain-marie wheeled out. Servants replaced ashtrays and decanters. Within minutes the door finally closed. Smoke from cigars again rose into the candelabra and a gentle conversation was allowed to tranquillise the atmosphere.
Basil Horgan tapped the table.
‘I believe we can begin. Your Honour?’
The patriarch nodded from the far end. His large forehead shone like a full moon above the crystal lenses of his spectacles. The mouth had shrunk to expose discoloured false teeth. Red veins and parched skin gave his throat the appearance of a rooster’s claw.
‘Yes, Basil. Please continue.’ The old man’s teeth clacked against each other like a castanet accompaniment to his gurgling voice. ‘Thank you, for your patience. My driver did his best with the traffic, but ... you know, come to think of it, the state of the roads parallels the state of our nation.’
There was a gentle patter of hear-hear. Feet stirred as bodies adopted more comfortable poses. Cigars were puffed and an air of contentment pervaded all. A white handkerchief appeared in that bony hand and cleared froth from a withered mouth.
‘Gentlemen,’ the patriarch continued slowly, ‘it is indeed heartening to see all of you here today, especially when your affairs beckon so urgently.’
The murmur of assent came awkwardly, like shy recognition of love. Heads tilted back as cigar smoke wafted upward.
‘But then,’ the patriarch intoned, forcing his enfeebled underwater voice down along the table, ‘I would never expect less from our kind.’
Applause suddenly burst into the room. The committee rose to its feet and the old man opened his mouth in a geriatric smile. Basil Horgan was the first. He formed a fist and rapped the table. Others took up the cue and soon the banquet table thundered to the beat of knuckles. The patriarch raised his hand and all fell quiet.

‘Sixteen years ago, gentlemen,’ the old man rasped as though drowning, ‘we were an embryo in search of a womb. We were formed to make manifest our own singular set of ideals. We wanted to decide our own destiny and our own shape. We had rejected the false notion of universality. But we were naive, so hopelessly naive. As artless as they come, gentlemen. You will not have forgotten our ineptitude.
‘I often wonder, gentlemen, if it were we who began this Chapter. Surely those of us who contrived to establish our structure are no more with us? Surely we who are in this very room are separate identities from the creatures who breathed life into our Chapter?
‘We are not little boys. We are not the little boys who banded together sixteen years ago to protect the interests of our nation. We have changed, gentlemen.
‘Today we extend throughout every financial institution in the land. Today we influence political direction. Our support overwhelms us when it is needed. Notwithstanding the closed nature of this Chapter we, by our positions of power and influence, extend our ideals into the alleyways of the cities where Australians are being hemmed in by the hordes of indecent foreigners who, gentlemen, by any right, should be packed off for their home countries to mend their own brittle and corroded fences.
‘Gentlemen, Australians are silently crying out for us to do something.’
‘Hear! Hear!’ a voice sounded through closed lips.
‘Alas!’ the old man sighed theatrically, ‘we do not yet have absolute control over the media. That day, however, is nigh. Meanwhile, the tide is turning and every whore of an editor floats with the tide. Mark my words, gentlemen, mark my very words.’
Basil Horgan led another spate of applause.
‘We can wait, gentlemen, we can wait. I’ve been waiting all of my life for the moment when the Australian people awaken to the dangers inherent in uncontrolled avalanches of migrating peasants smothering our established values. In time no amount of soft-pedalling by the romantics in parliament will deter real Australians from rising from their slumber and ridding our nation, for once and for all, of all foreign vermin.’
The patriarch paused to swallow water. His colourless mouth drained the glass while the back of his mind was searching for epithets of chauvinism: his dib dib dib for their dob dob dob!
The decanter passed from hand to hand and smoke clogged the pale lights above. Eyes searched wrists for the time. Fingers pulsed muffled messages of impatience.
‘The time is close at hand, gentlemen, when realism will not obfuscate reality and that the insidious and fantastical notion of a melting-pot will cease to be a cancerous stitch in the fabric of our homogeneity.’

‘Hear! Hear!’
‘Let us not equivocate!’ The old patriarch was straining with his delivery and beads of perspiration squeezed from his leather face. ‘We will prevail, gentlemen. Under no circumstances are we to waver from our ideals. It is our ideology. We have the commitment and the calibre to enter the arena and eliminate all opposition to our cause. Never forget, gentlemen, that the enemy is a cunning sewer rat which has forged a weapon of war, not from the heroic blade, but with the poison of deceit.’
The patriarch’s voice was failing and there was a noticeable leaning of heads toward him. A white handkerchief wiped his dribbling mouth.
‘How do we combat the enemy?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘We use his tactics against him. We brand him. Brand your enemy and his whole world swings out of kilter. Imagine pinning the racist tail on a political donkey. Immediately the link to that Germanic idiot Adolf Hitler is a tenet of fact! With that appurtenance the donkey cannot deliver his political wisdom, his manifesto, without the accursed Nazi tail swinging him off direction.
‘For untold generations it has been anathema to speak patriotically of our nation. Even the word chauvinism has been hoisted on the lance of feminism and rammed up every male backside until the sphincter of male-hood virtually has become a loose flabby piece of impotence.
‘Let me assure you gentlemen here: chauvinism has absolutely nothing to do with females and their sexual dilemma. It is patriotism and the expression of that patriotism. As I said, the tide is turning and very soon the waters of truth will expose the manner of the enemy’s deceit.’
Basil Horgan again took to his feet and waited until the wasted throat had cleared itself into the wet white handkerchief. He then led the Committee in a rousing hurrah! Three times they cheered the old man, a chorus-line of saluting fists!
The patriarch stared at his hands that had been pressed against the edge of the table as a support for when he swayed. He was now still, his eyes unmoving, his speech complete, his mind at rest.
‘Gentlemen! A break for ten minutes.’
A gavel sounded and during the break the old patriarch was assisted to his vehicle and driven away.


Chapter 19

The frantic assault along the beach failed to exorcise the tension from his mood. For hours Max had kept to the beach. He ignored the occasional hello from a friend and well-wisher. An ache of death stayed with him as he strayed about the dunes. His daughter had become a hacked cadaver on a stainless steel table while necroscopic instruments prodded and probed for clues. The albatross of media and police attention hung about his neck. He bore on, following his own footsteps in the sand, retracing a never-ending surge of rage.
His boy continued to lie dormant in the sterility of a hospital. The young body that had romped on beaches and barged on football fields was withering slowly. Instead of a sinewy body a pale and flaccid imitation lay lifeless on the sheet. The tubes had been replaced by an intravenous drip stuck conveniently in his arm. Max suddenly stopped and looked out to sea. A ship was there and it hadn’t been there a minute ago. Closer to shore than usual, too.
The day had reached the point when the heat was intense. His body hair, though drenched with perspiration, stood stiff above flesh that had goosed into thousands of little bumps. Out there, from the ship’s deck, Tseridis waved. The noise of eyeballs popping closed in his ears and a seagull landed nearby and complained loudly. It was time to go.
He was relieved to be going home. He preferred the familiar zone of his wooden house with its memories and heartache to the insanity of infinity. When he reached his black and grey van he had again descended to a desperate desolate mood. He drove across the peninsular to prepare for the agony of his daughter’s funeral.


The two families stood stoically at the grave as her coffin was lowered. Decks of flowers coloured her departure into the ground. They had walked the bush that morning, before breakfast when the dew was about, picking the wildflowers she loved so much. Max gave her no religious send-off; a verse of Cheng The-hui was inscribed on the marble block at the head of her grave. It read:

Since we clasped hands and said farewell,
I am left languishing, and all in vain.

Surely the bitterest thing in life is parting.

When I speak I have little strength,
When I lie down I cannot sleep;
Of food and drink I cannot tell the taste,
No use of medicines I take,
There is no cure.

One moment I am floating,
Bereft of my soul,
The next all is clear,
And I am myself .....

Then all is confusion again,
And I cannot tell Heaven from Earth.

Love you.
Max McLuhan Rane and friends.

They waited for the earth to be tossed and the thud on the lid and the flowers. They then drove home without her for the first time.


Chapter 20

‘He does have a point, you know, Charles.’
The union representative always tried to alter his accent to conform to the tone of the meeting. He wore expensive conservative suits and dressed his hair with pomade. A delicate bunch of hair was meant to be a moustache but it always appeared as if he were trying on a joke.
‘I know that, Sylvester,’ retorted the newspaper proprietor, ‘that’s not at issue, is it!’
‘What exactly is at issue then?’ demanded Basil Horgan quietly.
The meeting had become a crossfire of emotional bickering. The patriarch, since the beginning of the Chapter, had tried to merge his racial philosophy with the constitution, but had failed. His legacy remained in the adamant minds of the faithful few.
‘What is at issue, gentlemen, is the very point His Honour was elucidating.’ Sylvester Meggs, the unionist with a cherry face and pinkish blue eyes, tugged at his lapels as he spoke. He was in his mid-thirties and he kept his glass of wine in his hand.
‘Meaning?’ Basil Horgan inclined an eyebrow.
‘We are all aware that the legislators in Canberra are continuing on their idiotic and suicidal course. The One Worlders are pandering to Beijing’s demands for an Asianised Australia.’
A titter of scorn ran up the table. The unionist felt uncomfortable. The eyes that faced him were as vacant as the eyes of a mask.
‘Come now, Sylvester.’ McIlray, the banker, chided.
‘Come now nothing!’ Meggs thumped his fist dramatically and glared pugnaciously at his colleagues. ‘The government is responding by encouraging the headhunters from South East Asia to communalise our cities. Not only are these peasants wrecking the job market for us but we, as a nation, sit back while the Orientals eat our dogs in their backyards and we, as a society, whimper hopelessly as Asian heroin floods the veins of our youth. I ask you, gentlemen, how will tomorrow fare if we delude ourselves into thinking we have contained the Asian germ?’
‘Yes, I agree.’ The industrialist, Shepparton, wore an earring.
‘Oh, what utter garbage, Ernest.’ Charles Fitzroy, the newspaperman, turned his back on the unionist and directed a sneer at the industrialist. ‘You and Sylvester need a good weekend together in Bangkok.’

‘It’s not garbage, Charles.’ Meggs replied piously with a touch of peevishness. ‘No use turning your back on the subject. You of all people should know what’s going on out there in reality land. Only the other day I read of their paganism with that ritual disembowelment of the young Asian girl on the peninsular. Thank God for my Christian ethics, otherwise, I might be gloating over the loss of one of them.’
‘You don’t go to church, Meggs!’ laughed McIlray, the banker. ‘The cardinal banned you years ago!’
‘That may be so, but I still retain a soul and I am not without my fear of God.’ said Meggs righteously. ‘Somehow, though, I cannot shrug off the feeling that next time it will be one of ours.’
‘Can’t we get away from the melodrama, gentlemen?’ Basil Horgan asked coldly. The jurist had returned with a tumbler of Glenlivet. He sat and reached for the cigars. ‘Our agenda does stipulate some discussion on the War on Terrorism.’
‘Where is the melodrama?’ Meggs asked in a wounded tone. ‘You lot want to meddle? That’s your prerogative. But don’t you think you’re being a mite hypocritical?’
‘Hypocritical?’ flared Charles Fitzroy with a startled look. ‘Look! They are here and they are here to stay. Neither you nor I nor anyone is going to change that. Besides, what’s so wrong with that? Your Irish ancestors weren’t so removed from the swamp; the bog, as you wish. You can’t talk! You’re worried about their intelligence, aren’t you? You’re reacting to the situation in much the fashion of the Malays with their minority Chinese population. And, by the way, why don’t you familiarise yourself with the constitution of this Chapter?’
‘I’m not Irish!’ declared Meggs who appeared to be deeply offended.
‘Oh, whatever you are then!’ Fitzroy clapped the lid on the digression. ‘We are not about to engage in a self-defeating exercise such as shunting Asian immigrants into the ocean. That would be tantamount to flapping your arms to the moon. No! We are, or we are to be seeking the means of containment, of utilising the status quo to our advantage. And that, gentlemen, means the nation’s advantage. We seek the national interest, of course. After all, that is the purpose, the rationale for our existence as a Chapter.’
Basil Horgan opened his hands, placating, and moved his eyes sternly around the table. ‘There is a gradualism in the seeping racial tap. But it is a tap that leaks universally. Australia is not unique, gentlemen. Australia faces similar ideological impulses as its neighbours. It is in the interpretation that we as neighbours differ. And that is the crux of the dilemma. Interpretation.’

All acquiesced to his authority and moved from scattered and isolated positions to a central point of congruity. The Chapter’s constitution lay beyond reach, beyond the whim of individuals, beyond, it seemed, the morality of race.
‘I know some of our colleagues here are sympathetic to the Fundamentalists. I also know that some hold ideas of race that pale into insignificance the strictures of apartheid. Be that as it may, gentlemen, the accord by which all of us here are duly bound is dictated by our own constitution.
‘Let us fortify ourselves with a reconsideration of why we convened. As we all are aware, everything we do is designed for the eventuality of the Superstate, a world government presiding over the economic cooperation of Earth’s differing regions. Our banks and multi-nationals have been planning for a future that is far beyond the existing political concepts of the so-called Nation States. It is an axiom that no nation can fulfil the needs and aspirations of its own people from within its own borders, or from its own resources alone. We all know that the Nation State, standing alone in the world, is as anachronistic, or threatens to be as anachronistic as the Greek City States finally became in ancient times. I stress to the dissident minds within our midst that our principal aim is to abolish the narrow dictates of national interests and create a New World Order.’
A furore of protest erupted from the segregationists. The unionist, Sylvester Meggs, stood and delivered a vociferous objection. ‘I think I speak for the silent majority when I say that talk of a New World Order is futile without the backbone of a truly homogeneous society. We may find that a new world order already exists within the boundaries of this continent. A congregation of Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Scandinavian, Slavic, and … even … even the Slavs have sectioned themselves in terms of their differing ethnic and religious heritage, and, of course, our South Pacific cousins, the New Zealanders; gentlemen, all these disparate enclaves are technically Australian yet they hold no allegiance toward each other. There is no adherence to a commonality among all these camps.
‘Really, gentlemen, I implore you to reason. Let’s solve Australia’s problems before we go naked into the world, sorting out the predicaments of other countries.’
Basil Horgan drew on his cigar. He had heard it all before, the same tirade from the same dull minds.
‘Does the United States have a homogeneous population, Sylvester?’ he asked directly. ‘How is it that during the past decade our fraternity headed every key agency in mapping United States policy toward the rest of the world? Is it not feasible to infer that our organisation impacted upon the world’s political alignment?

‘Does not the endorsement of the incumbent Republican President illustrate our strategic potential in international policy?’
‘That was the Yank chapter, Basil.’ Meggs tartly reminded the jurist.
‘Yes, Sylvester, you have made the distinction. However, these were men and women with no more imagination and courage than that possessed by us.’ Basil Horgan turned from the unionist to engage his other colleagues around the table. ‘Look, gentlemen, either we adhere to our constitution or we dissemble. What is it to be?’
‘Brinkmanship, my dear Basil, will get you everything you want. Of course there is to be no questioning of our quest. Is there, gentlemen?’ It was the banker, McIlray, who swept away the doubt from the doubtful.
‘Well spoken, Ivor.’ Basil Horgan acknowledged with a knowing smile. ‘Now, for our hapless pariahs in Iraq … ’


The sky was clear of the choking pollution that hung so gravely over the southern horizon. The sun at its summer zenith was oppressive. No breeze flowed to cool the flowers that withered in the heat. No movement disturbed the quiescence of the bush domain. The cliffs stood immobile.
They flung open the doors of the van that had become a veritable sauna in the dust of the track. As they reached the verandah, they were met by flies.
‘Shit!’ Max hurried with the sliding lounge door.
After the kettle boiled the two families gathered near the unlit fireplace. Rane and Juno stared at each other then they stared at Lamont. He stared at no one. Marit recalled some past life on the veld. Max had tried to draw his guests into convivial talk of Dali, but the effervescent Marit skipped over the tracks onto a different line and the conversation got nowhere. Eventually, Frank drew his wife aside and whispered hoarsely, ‘Sweetheart, give it a break, will you!’ Her eyes moistened and she returned to her chair and sat numbly through the remainder of the wake.
While Max was talking Frank noticed how fidgety Lamont had become. Dali’s brutal murder obviously had perforated the boy’s sense of fair play; there was nothing he could do to alleviate the anguish of his son’s nightmare. Lamont would, in the short term, be troubled by an ostensible loss of balance as he sought a sense of equilibrium in his life.

Juno, on the other hand, seemed to have grown stronger with her resolve to spread her mantle of protection over her younger brother. Her growing relationship with Rane was having an exponential affect upon her maturity and upon her sense of responsibility. She was structuring her life before his eyes.
Strangely relieved by this lightening of his emotional load, Frank began to withdraw to his own fortress where he metaphorically engaged in heroics with an Ivanhoeic pursuit, a last stanza at Bataan, a lyrical swish of the blade against hypocrisy and corruption. He was satisfied he had taken those steps at Vaucluse. For the first time since his return from Africa he felt alive!

Chapter 21

Rane and Lamont were in the lounge with the music. It was eleven thirty and the night outside was as black as their mood. Juno had gone home with her parents and Max was asleep with his grief,
‘Rane!’ Lamont grimaced. ‘Those flies!’
‘Yeah! I know. It’s fucking awful! Gives me the cock-crushing creeps, like they were fucking messengers of the fucking dead.’
‘What do you reckon?’
‘What d’ya mean waddia reckon? You know as well as me, mate.’
‘You’ve lost me already.’
‘We’re going to have to handle it, mate. Us! Ourselves! The guy’s probably melting away under a mass of feasting flies. If we don’t do something quick someone’s going to stumble onto the bloke and fuck everything for us. We gotta get in there and clean up.’
‘Clean up?’ Lamont cried in awful bewilderment.
‘Yeah!’ Rane looked at his friend and wondered if he were becoming unstable. ‘We gotta get rid of the bloke’s body, mate.’
‘You gunna make the cunt disappear? Just like that?’
Lamont sat like a clown whose tent had burned down in the middle of the night. His mouth pulled at the corners and his eyes burned with a desperate panic.
Rane didn’t wait for Lamont. He strode out the back and made for the neighbour’s house. Lamont was still probing for answers as they dropped into the weeds near the tool shed. Rane carried a pruning saw and a bundle of heavy-duty garbage bags. Lamont sidled up to Rane and almost reached out for reassurance. They waited in the darkness as their ears received the noises of the night. It was warm under the stars and dogs were barking in the distant streets.
Once through the back door they moved cautiously along the passageway to the room they dreaded. ‘Shit!’ They halted and rummaged through their pockets for something to ward off the evil pong of a decaying corpse.
Rane held a small torch in front of his body like a shield, as if the narrow world within the beam were all that existed, and that which lay behind the shield were sacrosanct. Maurice Murphy looked different in that narrow world.

He was climbing out of the pit as it swelled with flies. At the opening above, forever stretching from his grasp, an old woman made music with her sticks. He clawed at the cold clay as he rose, kicking insects swarming at his feet. The old woman’s face was peering down at him. Her toothless mouth opened and shut in a silent plea.
‘Switch on the light?’ Lamont pleaded, like a child tucked into bed.
Rane used the torch to find his way through the beer cans and filth. He reached the television in the corner and switched it on. The silver light jumped and wavered before settling into a Ronald Reagan movie. On the floor, where they had left him, Maurice Murphy was a grotesque caricature of death. Where the fish knife had opened the stomach there was now a glutinous form of maggots, seemingly held together with an invisible net.
‘Shit!’ Lamont vomited where he stood.
‘Mate!’ Rane wished he had come alone. ‘Scout around, will you, and bring back some thick towels. If there’s hot water, find a bucket and whack in some soap or something, and anything else you might find. Anything’ll do if it helps clean up this fucking place.’
Lamont vanished into the darkness behind his weak beam of light. Rane watched him go then examined more closely the carcass of Maurice Murphy. ‘Lucky this cunt was a slob.’ he said to himself as he realised the unkempt house was itself imbued with a terrible malodour. If the traces of the slob could be eradicated completely ...
Lamont returned with towels and a bucket of hot water that sloshed onto the floor as he walked.
‘We’d be up shit-creek if this cunt had a carpet, mate!’ said Rane as he cut into the bonds that held the corpse to the wicker chair. ‘Imagine the muck from this cunt’s gut, hey? Spilling all over the fucking carpet. We could wrap the bastard up in the carpet and beat it out of here.’
Rane noticed the unintended double entendre but let it go at that. There was little room for humour now. He began to dismember the corpse as Lamont disappeared behind a retreating torch beam.
The noise of sawing sent a queasy discomfort into Lamont’s testicles. His mouth opened in dentist-chair agony. He rammed his fingers into his ears. There was no escaping the grind of metal through bone. Lamont could hear his friend calling, but waves of nausea had him unbalanced. He clawed his way to the kitchen, seeking solace near the window where he could see friendly stars. He leaned against the sink where the stench of snapper was a welcome antidote to the metamorphic horror in the lounge.
The voice behind him jarred his nerves.

‘Hurry up! Where’s the rest of the gear?’ Rane came into the kitchen. He was wearing an anxious face. ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake, mate. You can’t go to pieces now. Snap it, mate! What’s up with you?’ he asked.
‘You’re not bloody normal, Rane.’ Lamont’s voice was helium squeaky. He pushed back against the sink and stared at Rane. ‘You fucking ask what’s up with me, for Christ’s sake. You’re fucking-well butchering someone.’
‘I’m doing what has to be done, mate.’ Rane could never bring himself to call him Monty. It seemed a clownish name with connotations of the circus. ‘There’s no point in surrendering on their terms, mate.’ He was about to return to his gruesome task when he dropped his eyes and stared at his shoes. They had become stained. ‘That bastard in the garbage bags wasn’t worth it, mate. We’re not going to the fucking boob for that cunt. Never!’
For the next two hours Rane hauled the weighty bags up the cliff and along an alternative and more precipitous route to the cave. It was a sluggish exercise. He could not afford to spill his load. Deep within the cave where the spongy rocks glowed he dragged the remains of Maurice Murphy to the edge of the hole and tipped them into a deep space.
The flies were up to his waist and he could smell the odour they carried. The old woman’s eyes were distended as she bent into the pit to grab his bloody hands. He could feel the flies at his skin, moving under his clothes, biting. She was close now, dipping into the darkness toward him, a familiar pain in her eyes. Behind the outline of her head, a hand appeared. It was large and awesome and it tore the old woman’s head off.
Rane watched the head roll away from the hand and drop. He caught it as flies filled his mouth. He pressed it close to his chest as his body left the safety of the wall. He was sinking into a molasses of flies with the old woman’s head in his hands, falling, floating, beyond pain.
‘That science bloke was right!’ he thought with final satisfaction. ‘It still took only six seconds to hit bottom.’
Rane returned to the house for the wicker chair and he found Lamont in the kitchen. He was sitting on the floor, quaking, shaking, gibbering. Rane led him outside and settled him on the grass that was moist with the dew. ‘Just hang on a bit, mate.’
Lamont watched Rane disappear into the house and after a while he too went inside. Rane smiled his welcome and together they erased all evidence of death. In time the house resumed its untidy disposition except for the irregular patch of scrubbed parquet floor where they had washed away any hint of blood and maggots. That, in a short time, would dry and blend.

By three-thirty Rane had dissembled the wicker chair, stuffed it into garbage bags and after another climb to the cave poked the remnants of death down the hole. Then he descended to his final duty for the night; the succour for his mate in distress.
Lamont this time was sitting among the weeds near the tool shed, like a Gogolian soul wrenched from the responsibility of reason. Rane took his friend’s arm and led him back to the sanity of the wooden house. In the security of their lounge room with their own music they sat the rest of the night with a smoke and an all-round view of where they had been. A haze obscured the view of where they were headed. But then, for the moment, they couldn’t care less.


Chapter 22

Detective Sergeant Roy Fitzgibbon sat back in his chair and stared at the calendar at the end of the office. It was one of those cheap nudes put out by tow-truck operators. Fitzgibbon was alone for a while. It was a temporary lull as detectives flowed in and out of the station at random. Covers draped precise rows of typewriters along last century’s walls made ugly with light olive paint and sticky-taped wanted notices and memos. It was a gaudy surreal projection of the men and women who worked in the room.
Roy Fitzgibbon heard the ring of the phone. He waited some time before answering it. He listened, his eyes staring into the distance like a ferry master’s in a fog. He grunted his thanks and replaced the receiver. His mouth formed an O as he pushed air from his mouth in an attempt at a whistle.
An hour later his young assistant strolled into the office with a spring roll hanging from his mouth. His polyester safari suit was crumpled where he had sat sweating against the hot vinyl car seat.
‘Aah! Rippov! Been waiting for you.’
The young detective removed the food from his mouth.
‘Good morning, sarge. How are you?’
Fitzgibbon ignored the greeting.
‘Get the car and meet me out front in five.’
The police sedan waited at the intersection as the duty traffic policeman urged the flow of vehicles to quicken their pace. There was a backlog as far as the eye could see and it was clear to Fitzgibbon that the uniformed man was new at his job.
‘Give him a blast!’
Constable Rippov pressed the horn and the traffic cop glared at the intrusion into his jurisdiction. He ignored the unmarked sedan and continued to wave his hands.
‘Fucking rookies!’ swore Fitzgibbon.
At last Rippov was given the signal to proceed. As the sedan moved into the intersection Fitzgibbon leant across the front seat and let fly with a torrent of abuse at the hapless young bloke doing his job.
‘Come on, let’s go!’ Fitzgibbon instructed with a deep sigh.

Rippov pushed the accelerator to the floor and the sedan leapt away from the intersection and sped along the road to the south. They pursued their course through the grimy littered streets of Redfern and crossed the bridge at the railway station into Darlington where the streets broadened and trees grew in defiance of all the laws of nature. Yesteryear’s grit covered houses and pallid kiddies played in parks. The road they followed continued alongside the railway line and dipped into the back streets of Newtown where dungeon houses squashed together in rows of awful monotony.
‘Fucking wogs!’
‘Sorry! What’s that, sarge?’
‘Look at the way they live, will you? In pigsties!’
‘Oh!’ replied Constable Rippov whose mother had recently moved into a tenement in nearby Camperdown.
They entered the street where the boarding house receded from the fence line by a few measly feet, so that pedestrians walking by could extend their arms and knock against the windows. Constable Rippov parked beneath a palm and carefully placed the accoutrement of his profession upon the dashboard. Usually a parking officer was bright enough to give the sedan a wide berth during rounds.
‘It’s pretty fair dinkum when you got to put up with fucking parking meters in these fuck-arse strings they call streets, eh?’ said Fitzgibbon as scorn mounted his face like a banner. He got out of the car and followed the young detective to the boarding house. A gravel-throated slattern confronted them as they wandered through the passageway.
‘Waddiyers wan?’ she asked with a cigarette stain moving with her mouth.
‘Police.’ Rippov stated proudly.
The bedraggled woman laughed with a cynical and tuberculous cackle. Her teeth were the same colour as her lips and her dressing gown exposed the creased breasts that had suckled many children. ‘Jesus! Any fool cudell yercoppers! Hoosit yawan this time?’
Fitzgibbon watched her carefully from his secondary position behind his young assistant who now riveted his eyes to hers and declared: ‘A mister Hans Dorfman, if he’s here?’


‘A life at the toe of a wol’s boot.’
Hans Dorfman had thus once described his existence. It was a favoured saying of his and many a cellmate over the many years had heard it. Hans Dorfman had become at home with his kind in the walled-in civilisation of the penitentiary. Almost like a different type of gentlemen’s club the gaol gave to its members an esprit de corps, a code of ethics and a sense of belonging.
In a different world, in a different time, he had gone to prison because of the code. He hadn’t informed on a friend. It was, ironically, Roy Fitzgibbon who had offered immunity to Hans to implicate his friend in a robbery. ‘Immunity?’ Dorfman had smirked at the policeman. ‘Against what, for fuck’s sake? I never poked my head into any fucking robbery!’ And it was Roy Fitzgibbon who assisted Hans into gaol for three years.
While inside the walls where armed men patrolled like panthers thirsting for blood, from the very second the court sentence begins, a coil starts to unwind, like a spring-clock, ticking away, releasing very slowly the debt demanded by society. The double-edged wound of Fitzgibbon’s perniciousness festered within Dorfman as the Coil of Honour that required his silence unwound, patiently, inexorably. Hans endured the wasted lonely hours, day and years. He reminded himself, as he had on previous excursions into the walled hell that the embalming of his spirit was temporary, and that upon his release his peers in the world outside would accord him the appropriate recognition. He constantly reminded himself that he was a member of a club, the elite who withstood the temptation to rat on a mate.
There was no way Hans Dorfman would admit of his part in the Tseridis affair, nor would he be the source of information whereby the likes of Fitzgibbon could trundle his accomplices off to prison. He was simply not that kind of person. And now with the one-eyebrowed policeman scowling at him from across a desk in the police station, Dorfman knew the pressures he was to endure. It mattered not a thing to him. It was all in the game.
‘Look, shitface!’ Fitzgibbon began on another gambit. ‘Don’t be a dill! You don’t want to face the bars again, do you? Just play the game this time and I’ll see what I can do for you.’
‘How’s your chicken farm, Roy?’ asked Hans with a straight face and a straight voice.
‘What? Chicken farm? What are you raving about?’
‘I dunno, Roy. Just about as much sense as your garbage, Roy.’
Hans Dorfman was charged with the murder of Nikos Tseridis on the basis of forensic tests on his Beretta. He was remanded without bail for trial two months hence. He was sent to the remand section of Long Bay State Penitentiary.


Chapter 23

The weekend before Christmas was slow to begin. It was as if the population had burned itself out during the mad rush to the stores. There was an atmosphere of anti-climax: people had been gearing themselves for the celebration, but somewhere along the line the brakes had been released prematurely and the race was over before it had begun.
Parties raged the Friday night. When a blessed relief of silence replaced the booze, there remained mangled bodies to be carted away. Twisted wreckage of vehicles remained like some gruesome exhibition of human frailty.
Lamont heard his father answer the phone. Juno and his mother were in bed. The sun was a few inches above the horizon and seagulls called their song on the beach. He visited the fridge and took a bite out of the cheese and gazed at the furrow his teeth had just made. There was a sway to his body as he stood there in his shorts. His hair was ruffled. His eyes were out of focus and he couldn’t think. He placed the ravaged cheese back into the fridge and closed the door.
Hot water came out of the shower and gave him his life back again. He peered at his reflection as he cleaned his teeth. Then he pulled on a red singlet and with his shorts an untidy heap in the corner he fastened his skin-tight jeans.
His father was still yakking on the phone when he left the flat. He heard the name Mil repeated often.
The reserve was empty as he drifted near the spot where she was killed. The tranquillity of the lake through the trees drew him to its edge. He kept looking toward the bamboo grove and thinking of her. He watched a flight of gulls and suddenly wondered how cleanly they could have picked the carcass beneath the maggots. Then he burst into tears. ‘Shit! I’m cracking up!’ He groaned into his hands as his torso heaved with his torment. He spent the rest of the morning huddled into himself in the park, waiting for the spectre to leave him in peace.


Juno awakened roughly with a smack of sourness in her mouth. Her head drummed constantly and she thought for a minute she was still in last night. The megawatt thump from the hotel down the street had driven her berserk. She moved slowly out of bed and stood at her window. She wondered if her hearing had been impaired because the street was in view but it sounded smothered, like under a pillow.

Fear met her and smiled briefly, then she remembered the plugs and dug the chewing gum-like clods of wax from her ears. The noise from the lounge sounded like visitors. She opened her door but it was her father on the phone.
‘God!’ she looked at her watch. ‘Who phones at this hour?’
Coffee and corn flakes and an appointment to keep. She washed the sleep from her eyes and put on her briefest bikini and brushed her hair. It fell back the way it wanted to be. She poked her tongue out at her hair and suddenly she felt better.
The surf was still-day flat. The sun glared and the sand glared back at it. A small platoon of disenchanted surfers blew disgust from their mouths, as their boards lay waxen in their racks. It was early, it was still, and it was getting hotter by the minute.
Juno spread her towel upon the sand and stretched her body on top of it. The sun beat down upon her covered eyes and she saw a swirl of white and pink in her mind. She was tired and careless, as if the night before had ended her dreams.
‘Glad you’re on time.’
Rane dropped beside her and gave her some cheer.
‘How are you?’
‘Much the same.’
‘And Max?’
‘Don’t really know, Juno. He’s off to see Mac today.’
‘Are you going too?’
‘I’m with you, Juno.’
They lay in the sun for hours, talking of their lives. The beach filled with visitors and the calm of the sea wrinkled as children ran in and out with their squeals.
‘Let’s piss off?’
‘Ok!’ Juno folded her towel and scrubbed hastily at the sand on her skin. ‘But I feel like some fruit first.’
They stood in the reserve where his sister had died. The apples they ate had a taste of sadness, a melancholic misery that stays behind after someone is killed.
‘There’s Monty!’
‘Leave him to himself, Juno.’
‘Why?’ Juno was surprised and sought an explanation from his eyes.
‘I saw him earlier on my way to the beach. Believe me, Juno! Your brother wants to be by himself for a while. You understand, don’t you?’


Their morning had changed with the sighting of Lamont, sitting there in his gloom. They left the reserve and dawdled the dusty track toward the wooden house. The heat and a strange unease flowed between them. Juno had an urge to look back, as if the spectre of madness were a few paces behind.
‘Shit!’ she shivered slightly as she turned to Rane. ‘What’s happening? There’s this weird feeling of ... I don’t know what it is, but ... shit! Rane! What’s happening?’
Rane had geared himself for the story that must unfold. How can he tell her of a night he didn’t exist? Would she understand dream phantoms? He had wanted to leave till the last drop, that last-wrung drop, the picture he must now draw of his actions and his state of mind when he knelt before the victim of his rage.
And what of the visitations on those strange nights? It is with a curious reluctance that a boy must pull the sheets over his body at night, knowing that when sleep finally comes so also will the wind to carry him off to worlds and dimensions beyond the Limit itself.
‘Juno,’ he began with sudden clarity, ‘supposing you don’t remain with yourself when you think or dream, that you, and I mean the actual you behind the facade of body and mind, behind the brain that bleeds or breaks in a fall; well, suppose you travel with your thoughts, hand in hand, at the same speed, in the same directionless spread, like, I suppose, ripples you see when you drop a stone into a pond or just any smooth surface of water, well, and that you leave behind in good working order with no parts missing, for say, a split second maybe, and nothing wrong with it at all, you leave behind your body and your brain and everything else.
‘Imagine for a second, Juno, imagine that for that infinitesimal moment, when the essence, I suppose you could call it, well, that essence of you becomes sort of blended in with the energy which makes up thought. Well, according to physics, you’re gunna reach the speed of light. Imagine, Juno, just imagine, that when that essence reaches the speed of light it ceases to exist! How’s that? Hey?
Instead you break through to the other world, to the worlds parallel to ours, to parallel universes that co-exist within different logic frames. But what makes it all fantastic is that the other universes are invisible to us because they exist at different frequencies. We’re out of sync, as Dad would say.’
Juno pulled a face that said, ‘Oh yeah?’
‘I can see you’re with me.’ Rane said hopefully and laughed. They ignored the sun’s censure and moved slowly up the track, lost to that space that sets around a couple.
‘Alright, it’s just a bit further, and ... ’ Rane halted as Juno stopped to clear a stone from her sandals. ‘Go on,’ she said, ‘I’m with you.’

‘Well, suppose you alternate between here and there at such a frequency that you’re almost here and there at the one time, simultaneously, if you like big words, and ... ’
Juno scowled at him. ‘I understand words of a polysyllabic structure, Rane. Don’t be so patronising. You males! I tell you ... ’
‘Okay!’ Rane put his hands in the form of surrender and laughed with a weak laugh. ‘Sorry. Suppose, okay, suppose you’re vibrating at such a speed that you’re nearly duplicating yourself, that you’re experiencing things almost simultaneously in both places, here and there, if you like, and that you go with your thoughts and also remain with your physical self.’
‘I get what you’re saying.’ Juno turned to him. ‘You’d receive images of two places virtually at the same time.’
‘Well,’ Rane paused for breath and looked at her for a long moment. Then, ‘it happens to me.’
They reached the stone steps and delighted in the coolness of their territory. Juno often wondered why they didn’t have a dog; it would have thrived in these conditions.
The garden was a rainforest that shaded and insulated the house from the track. Amid the ferns, palms and bush tucker trees lay old bicycles and toys that had had their day. Ropes hung from high sturdy branches and foot holes notched their way up into the canopy. A burglar would love this place yet surprisingly the wooden house remained untouched by felonious hands.
The verandah was in shade as they went up through the floor. Rane found the key where it was always hidden and opened the sliding doors to the lounge. A stale and solemn odour hung inside. While Juno flopped onto the bench and with legs astride lay back with her head hard against the wood. Rane appeared with drinks and she was slow to notice that he had returned to his ambitious account.
‘Like, on the way out I can, well, one aspect of me, at least, can be a host to immeasurable and indefinable numbers of experiences, which are way beyond the understanding of us in our present existence.’
‘You said aspect of you. What do you mean?’
‘Aspect is phase which in vibration theory is one side of the coin. Think of a pendulum. It goes from one side to the other, and back again. Like a return trip on a ferry. Well, the phase is like a one-way ticket. You don’t return. What I was talking about is the phase where I am on the way out, or, if you like, on the way back. During either of these two phases I pick up a picture or a feeling or something, an impression or whatever.

‘Your dad was saying something to mine the other day about thoughts getting stored in a vault and whoever’s got the key can get whatever thought they wanted. It wasn’t a bad way of putting it. Most of the books I’ve read talk about the way you move backward in time once you go faster than light; in other words, back into our past. You end up with negative mass, like a negative world in exactly opposite proportions to our own. That way it’s been theorised that we could read the past by travelling faster than light.’
‘Wag a bitjie!’ Juno shifted from the bench and adopted a near-Lotus position next to the railing. ‘Didn’t Einstein prove that the speed of light couldn’t be exceeded?’
‘That’s what Dad says!’ Rane replied agreeably. Then he continued. ‘But just for the moment imagine the possibility of thought being able to accelerate, or, if you like, to travel at irregular speeds; then it must be able to travel faster than light.
‘Imagine a whole bunch of universes in some form of relationship to one another. They might be parallel or existing within the same theoretical space or whatever; now, if thought, or energy, they are both the same anyway, breaks through from one universe to another, it ceases to be in the universe it’s just vacated. You see what I mean?’
Juno didn’t. She shook her head.
‘Once you trip over the speed of light you get sucked into another realm. Jesus! With that sort of infiniteness there would be an explanation for my ability to experience the past, and, the future.’
Juno accepted the logic of his argument but relegated the possibility and the actuality to the bottom of her priorities. So far the discussion had been interesting if not entirely relevant. But Rane’s sister and brother had been removed from his life and she understood his need for conversation and companionship.
‘I suppose you reckon that all this had something to do with your roulette performance?’
‘You know,’ Rane said with a hint of mockery, ‘for a girl, you’re not all that bad!’
‘Cut the crap!’ Juno retorted with false irritation. ‘I not only cannot see into the past, but I can’t even remember what happened yesterday!’ Then she realised what she had said, and was full of remorse.
Rane laughed nevertheless. He casually reached across to her and gently touched her on the shoulder. But in that touch there was a message, and it transmitted itself clearly. Juno’s features suddenly softened and she became a little more alive, more feminine.

‘I’m explaining all this because I know who killed Dali.’
Juno froze. There was a stillness between them and it was a few moments before she spoke again.
‘I saw his hands!’
At first Juno watched her hands while her mind concentrated on the images he was creating in her mind. Then she looked up at him and saw his distress. She waited. Then he spoke again.
‘Abnormal things, Juno. Huge crushing stinking rotten ape’s hands! They also saw them before she died.’
‘They? Who’s they?’
‘Dali and your brother.’
Another calm descended upon the verandah and they did not talk for a while. Juno wasn’t certain if the conversation existed in a dream or not. The beginning and end were not connected by a middle, as if the guts of a sausage were to be removed with only the hollow skin remaining to prove a relationship between start and finish.
‘We executed him in his house.’
Juno’s draw dropped suddenly. She stared at Rane with angry and pleading eyes. She wanted to avoid the avalanche of disclosure that threatened to bury her. Then she uttered, ‘We?’ and knew immediately the answer. Then she asked with a statement, ‘You killed someone!’
‘He murdered Dali!’
They were standing because it was impossible to sit. They were uncertain of the moment, burdened with the horror around them. Then Juno’s expression softened again, as if the meaning had become clear. She looked at him with the eyes of a priest in confession and her hand touched his mouth to silence. ‘I’m glad.’ she purred and sought to ease his trauma.
‘I’m not.’
‘God!’ she twisted her body away from Rane, as if she were to leave, and then twisted back again like a discus thrower. ‘Why not? Do you have doubts? About the guy ... ’
‘Because I enjoyed it!’
Juno saw purity in his awful honesty and a clumsy pleasure invaded her. She remained quiet while he fought for the right words. The day and the heat were passing slowly. Magpie music had begun as a distant and tingling effect.

‘I got a kick out of it. I would do it again. If I had to. Because I wouldn’t be afraid. I have been there now.’
‘Don’t feel like that, Rane.’ Juno went close to him and wrapped her arms about herself in a surrogate expression of a desperate desire for him. She wanted to say something. She knew the consequences of taking a life. She had grown in the land of the warrior where the act of killing satisfied a legitimate need, where the killer was worshipped as an icon of society’s strength. Then she said, ‘Sometimes we don’t belong where we are, Rane.’
‘That’s a curious thing to say.’
‘Yeah! Wasn’t it?’
For fifteen minutes or so they forgot their conversation. Rane sometimes looked at her and sometimes she at him. A profound and unfamiliar trust was forming between them, like an ethereal stranger come to stay. The verandah was cool as enormous ferns stretched their fronds across the roof of the pergola, shading Rane and Juno in their nest of poinsettias. Magnolias were almost sinful in their fecundity and scented beauty. Juno removed the bikini and bathed in the filtered sun as Rane went inside to fix fresh fruit juice and lots of ice cream. When he returned, she was lying there with the flowers, awaiting pollination.
‘I’ve taken the phone off the hook.’ he said gruffly and began to unzip.


Lamont returned home in time to catch his father hurrying out of the building. Frank Donleavy had the look of the search on his face, just as he had looked before a safari, or one of those other adventures where the quarry was man. His eyes were intent on discovery. They passed each other with a sparse greeting and Lamont went into the foyer as Frank broke into a trot across the peninsular.
It had been a difficult conversation with Milan Krulis. The fate of Hans Dorfman had been relayed in veiled phrases, a sort of lexicon of The Cross twenty years before. Milan had hung up, and because of the pressure of his other business concerns had phoned again hours later. Meanwhile, Frank had waited, steadfast, in a climate of suspense before the final arrangement could be confirmed. When Milan finally came on the line again Frank said he would contact Max. It was hoped that the big bearded giant would be able to cope with this new development. The line was still busy. ‘I’ll walk over there, Marit.’ he said and went out without hearing her reply.

As Frank took to the stone steps beneath the verandah he heard the smothered laughter of his daughter and Rane. He pushed his head up into the floor and, seeing the young couple, coughed ‘ahem!’
‘No! Don’t get up! I won’t be long. I was looking for your dad, Rane.’ It was obvious that Max was absent. ‘Any idea where he is?’
‘Er, he’s with Mac.’ Rane said with spluttered words. Juno just stared at her father.
‘Sorry to disturb you two.’ Frank said quickly as he began his retreat. ‘I’ll see you later. If I miss him at the hospital, will you ask him to contact me at home? It’s very important!’ He descended and they could hear his way through the jungle. Then his voice came back at them, ‘Better replace the phone. Things are up.’
Frank’s head was blurred with the impact of seeing his best friend’s son and his own daughter like that. Rane had his erector muscle wedged between Juno’s thighs and their bodies were shining with sweat.


Chapter 24

Milan went alone to the house named ‘H’. Basil Horgan met him immediately and led him to the library. The room was cool and a Christmas tree shone gaudily beside the cocktail bar. Basil Horgan fixed drinks while Milan settled onto the corner stool. They toasted knowingly and sipped slowly. Then Horgan laughed a rare laugh, like a rueful swallowing of a tasteless joke. He knew his humour was convoluted; it had to be in his society.
‘You performed admirably, Milan.’
‘Thank you, Basil.’
When their drinks were done they sauntered through the French doors and into a weakly frosted glass atrium where azaleas and orchids were on brazen display. Horgan spoke of his hobby and of his hours with flowers. ‘I often bring work home with me, Milan, and take it in here. You know, I would have been a gardener had not I won a scholarship at school. Bloody university. I sometimes wonder if my life on the bench is nothing more than atonement for those days. Frankly, I do admit of my preference for the bizarre.’
Milan’s wizened face exploded and clouded in a brief moment. He sucked hard at a Sobranie and noticed with a start that the jurist was quietly studying him.
‘Tell me about it, Milan!’
The Tseridis affair was explained.


‘He didn’t blink an eyelid!’ Rane was laughing as the cold shower beat down upon them both. ‘Pops his head up, takes a look, says a few words and pisses off. He saw, Juno, and he saw good.’
Juno pouted as she lathered the soft soap in the hair between his legs. She could feel his heat in her fingers despite the chilly shower. He had ejaculated three times and she knew there was room for more. Both her hands held him tightly as the suds washed away. The skin of his scrotum was wrinkled and firm and the oval worlds within the pouch were hard and ready to detonate again.
‘Let’s see if this hairy fellow blinks his eye.’
She crouched and tasted his flesh.

Rane relished the warmth of her mouth and the gentle tingle of her teeth upon his stiffened organ. He closed his eyes as he lifted his face to the hard sting of the shower. He breathed through clenched teeth as his chest expanded and collapsed with each surge of her head. It was a hundred-metre sprint and his pulse raced with him to the finish.
Rane was confused. It was the voice of complaint and ecstasy. Not now, he cursed from the back of his mind, not now. Through heavy lids Rane saw the squat man. A patchy stubble grew on his craggy face. His eyes were ravaged by alcohol and his hands shook violently. As the squat man spread his lips back from his teeth, Rane arched his body and came awake from a disturbing time. Then he calmed and his eyes came out of hiding.
They switched off the tap and dried themselves. Juno applied liniment to the skin where her teeth had etched thin scratch-lines. It was limp and sorry-looking, like a prisoner whipped for assault.
‘Don’t worry about it, Juno.’ smiled Rane as he tucked himself into his togs.
‘What happens to the scabs when your prick stretches again?’
‘I don’t believe you!’ she accused with mock sincerity.
‘I was a virgin when I woke up this morning.’


‘Games within games, Milan’ Horgan used his juristic tone and his favourite Havana. ‘If it weren’t so, then societies, governments, businesses and organisations could chart their ways through life without suffering the maladroit exigencies caused by quirks and foibles of human nature. Isn’t that so, Milan?’
Milan nodded stiffly. The equality he craved was a structure controlled by those more equal than he. Though they shared certain economic and philosophical perspectives they also shared a certain wariness of the other’s private and secret agenda. Milan was dubious about the concept of the so-called ‘private man’, as if the fact of being home altered the cunning and adversarial nature of the professional beast.
‘Who was the arresting officer, Milan?’
‘Fitzgibbon?’ Horgan visibly relaxed. ‘That dolt! He’s notoriously inept you know, Milan. Still a sergeant I believe.’
‘We can’t risk the chance of Roy’s having a good day in court, Basil.’

Basil Horgan was generous in speech. Like many people who worked with the language and used words copiously he became lost within the pictures he conjured and often the listener had to wait for him to emerge.
‘No, of course not. Roy? Yes, of course. It’s coming to me now. Doubtless your man refused to co-operate? Yes, I see it now.’
A rouge of alcohol spread across the jurist’s face and reached into his eyes. Horgan adjusted his thick horn-rim spectacles with his pudgy forefinger. He was of medium build, not so tall, and his thinning black hair was heavily greyed. Formerly of the Family Court he had recently stepped across the aisle to the State Supreme Court. He justified his reputation for conservative views for he applied his philosophy from the bench with almost puritanical fervour.
‘Another drink, Milan?’ Horgan asked as he poured again. Milan shook his head with a hint of impatience. ‘No? Alright, yes, I must remember you are driving home. I could, if you wish, have you driven. No? Alright, well then, yes, even we are susceptible to the rigours of the Act.
‘I bring to mind the time when His Honour approached me to discuss the Chapter. In all honesty I thought the old judge was senile. To me he’d always been aged, beyond his years, like a relic to be treasured and wrapped up in cotton wool and put away in a safe place.
‘But that old man, who is, incidentally, the hallowed orchestration of the spoken word, and doubtlessly the finest man in silk, once instilled in me the caution necessary to conduct the bench without interference from such surreptitious political and economic goals as are established by our Chapter. Caution, Milan, is what is now necessary. We are not a group of backroom boys who connive to thwart the law.’
Milan kept silent. A price was being asked. He had the means to pay but the cheque would be drawn elsewhere.
‘What is our gambit, Milan?’ the jurist finally asked.
Smoke from the Sobranie danced from his mouth as he hummed a Brazilian song. The smokescreen did not hide from Horgan’s scrutiny the hint of pleasure on the little man’s lips. The steady trained eyes of the jurist remained in focus with Milan’s. Horgan knew the entrepreneur with the pixilated appearance was capable of the most audacious acts of skulduggery. Horgan respected Milan’s unequalled qualities of brinkmanship, this wily self-educated advocate of laissez-faire could advance a concept farther than most, and he had the determination to succeed.
‘I have planted the seed.’

Milan paused to relight his Sobranie. He spoke not to Horgan but to images in his mind, chess pieces dancing about his world, manipulating.
‘You have been practising your speeches again, Milan.’ Horgan smiled genially.
Milan returned the humour and laughed. His face screwed into a terrain of incredibly twisted valleys and ridges. He spoke of his plan. Afterward, they refreshed themselves at the bar and Horgan walked Milan to his car.


The afternoon sun burnt brightly. Sprinklers caused hundreds of tiny rainbows to colour the garden. The conspiratorial use of the word ‘our’ by the jurist pleased him. He nevertheless warned himself against swimming alone on a dark and dangerous beach.
Basil Horgan watched the limousine glide from the house into the poplars. He was thinking of his peers on the bench and how apoplectic they would be if they understood the coagency between a respected jurist and an immigrant whose lifestyle conjured up various fantasies of rapacity.
Horgan returned to the bar and refilled his glass. The eyes that swam in claret struggled to focus as he spared a quick glance at the empty library room. He said, as if to an assembly, ‘If only men of principle had the humour and the principles of the Underworld.’
Horgan sighed into his hands, his body leaning on the bar. His eyes looked old for the moment.


Chapter 25

Max stared into the pit where his son’s eye had once sparkled. The bruises were gone and the skin repaired. His son had the look of a tranquil baby in its cot. Except for the mess of tubes with fluids flowing through them McLuhan could have been asleep.
The doctor was at his side and was pressing a needle into the soft part of McLuhan’s neck. Max winced as the instrument disappeared for a moment before reappearing again, emptied of its magic potion.
‘What d’ya think, doc?’
‘Mr Hollard,’ he began and Max knew when they started with his name like that the news was no good. ‘We can always hope for the best. His heart is strong and his organs are sound. There is some disturbance to the nerves along his spine and, of course, to his neck. We just have to wait. I have an idea he’s in there sorting things out before he awakens.’
‘Thanks doc!’
Max turned away from his sorrow and gave the surgeon a steady look. The doctor pressed his lips together and left. Max returned his eyes to his son, trying to reach beyond the intransigence of the inert body and into the soul that hung so desperately to life. Then he walked out of the hospital.
Frank waited by the van.


Max drove along the coastal road, bumper to bumper, the windows open and hot wind brushing his beard. The breeze had picked up somewhat and the sea had begun to move again. He looked through the windscreen from the limbo of his mind and steered the van by habit. The words of Frank seemed remote and unclear like a distant evocation at a far-off séance.
‘You didn’t catch a thing I said, did you?’
Max swung the van off the coastal road and hit the dusty track with a skid. His wooden house loomed as an object in a forgotten dream. He dreaded going inside to face his nightmare, preferring to remain with the van.
Frank waited.
‘You want me to handle this, mate?’

‘Nuh!’ Max replied with a gentle shiver. ‘Hannibal’d never send Murdoch in alone, would he?’
Frank grinned as they climbed the stone steps to the verandah. Rane and Juno were waiting in the cool of the late afternoon shadows. Their eyes were glowing and were full of the vivacity of youth. Juno smiled at her father, rather shyly, and he gave her a wink. Then Frank grasped Rane by the shoulders and gave the lad a good going over with his eyes, as if seeing him for the first time.
‘You may be good to have around, son.’


‘Ya know somethin’ I don’t?’ shouted Max as the big bike headed to the city.
Frank strained to hear. The helmet he wore flopped about his head and the toilet paper he had stuffed to make it fit had crept out and was flapping comically about his face.
Approaching the Spit Bridge Max gave the throttle a squeeze and the bike roared and leapt forward as if stung by its own exhaust. They passed over the bridge at two hundred kilometres an hour, two middle-aged knights on an errand of rescue. Frank crouched in behind the massive shield of Max. The road beneath their eyes was as smooth and black as a blackboard. At the crest where houses squeezed against the road the bike slowed to sixty and Frank had the disconcerting feeling that he could get off and walk faster than the bike.
Max parked the BMW outside a delicatessen in Victoria Street at the front of The Cross and they walked to the old club in the filthy lane. Up the way a bit they noticed the black LTD with the silhouetted driver inside. The late sun was nearing its rendezvous with the Sydney Tower and the rest of the city reached up to eavesdrop. The driver turned a page of his newspaper.
The way down the stairs was free of litter and the aroma of fresh coffee met them at the door. Milan came out of the kitchen at the far end and shouted his greetings. He was dressed in shorts that flapped around his bony thighs like a flag around a masthead. His floral Hawaiian shirt shone vividly in the light of the prismatic beams from the ceiling.
‘You are a Visconti creature today, Mil.’
‘But I’ve never been to Venice, Frank.’ said Milan as his hands decorated his sentence.

They lumped themselves around a centre table and slurped their coffee. Delicate pastries were on doilies until they vanished into Max who now pushed his chair from the table and extended his mammoth legs. He leaned back and folded his arms with his face angled away from the particular yellow beam that tried to encompass him.
‘When do you get to the movies, Mil?’
‘I own a theatre, Frank.’
Frank put his hands together in silent applause.
‘You win, Mil.’
‘I always do, Frank. More pastries?’
Milan chatted amiably about cricket while Max tried to fit comfortably into the cheap chair. Scurrying rats shrieked and interrupted Streisand wailing from the speakers. The air smelled of twenty years ago. Max shuffled his feet. He was bored and had that lecture-room glaze to his eyes. Listening to the rats he wondered if the woman’s song was upsetting them. He shifted uneasily; he couldn’t fold his arms with comfort so he dropped them to his lap. Then he rocked on his chair and draped his arms to the floor. He was watching Milan carefully. He heard each tilted word, each detour into cant.
‘I’m pleased you phoned when you did, Frank.’ Milan decided to ignore Max. ‘I only had come in the door when the music began.’
‘Music?’ Max laughed derisively as he listened to the nasal notes of the singer. He was reminded of a salesman he had once met at a dull party. He could always pick a salesman at a party.
‘Oh yes!’ said Milan to Frank, ‘I had my electronics expert install a series of rhapsodies in my phone, on tape, of course, and they play when I am wanted on the phone. It’s so much more pleasant than the strident ring of an ordinary telephone. I find that music obviates a certain annoyance one feels with the telephone. So, when someone is calling me I am interrupted by Beethoven and Brahms.’
As he was speaking Milan had begun to gesture to Max and his cupid mouth worked the words that spilled out like gaily-painted picture cards. Then he sat forward and placed his hands squarely on the table and craned his neck imperiously. His face moved into a beam of light and his wrinkles now glowed green.
‘Forgive me, Max?’ Milan pleaded obsequiously, ‘I have not taken the opportunity to commiserate with you on the untimely departure of your children. Please accept my sincerest condolences.’
Max shivered involuntarily. He was tired of eulogies to his children. He was fed up with those who had written off his son for dead. ‘I’ve lost one child, pal!’ Max said with heavy scorn. ‘Don’t bury the others yet!’

‘Of course.’ Milan replied with smarm. He smiled a green smile with rows of green teeth that reminded Max of green tombstones on a green night. ‘There has been so much death lately.’
Milan paused for effect. Alive with irony he lit a Sobranie and the flame at the end of the cigarette gave his face the appearance of someone opening a coffin. Streisand ended in mid verse and there was a brief and harsh sound of rats caught in electric wiring. The lights flickered for a moment. Then he said to Frank, ‘I presume you’ve apprised Max of the situation?’
‘Who’s payin’?’ was all Max could say. Over in a corner a rat gnawed at the skirting board. Max grunted loudly and it stopped and listened.
‘Obviously we cannot allow our friend Hans a further sojourn at the Bay. Nor do we charge in like valiant fools. We must remain aloof. We must allow other forces to work. There must be no thread from Hans to us. Any of us! That is essential.’ Milan glowered at Max for a half-second. ‘It may be possible to arrange for some activity at the other end of the Scales.’
‘He’s goin’ all cryptic on us, Frank!’ sneered Max. ‘What he’s sayin’ is he’s fuckin’ bought a fuckin’ judge.’
Milan eased away from the green light and into the grey twilight between beams. ‘No, Max, that script may be grist to the television mill but it has no application in our case. There is no way a judge can preside outside the law. He simply applies the law his way.
‘You see, Max, our representatives in parliament have not been meticulous in their drafting of the laws. There is so much scope for jurists; it’s ludicrous! If Parliament framed our laws to exactitude there would be faint use of the upper echelons of the judiciary. The law would be cut and dried and easily administered by the magistrates. There would be reduced grounds for litigation. There would be fewer solicitors, barristers and judges.
‘Now, could you imagine all those lawyers accepting redundancies? Never! And their regal honours would become old crows waiting in their barren chambers while the lesser birds peck at their crumbs. But, of course, I speak hypothetically.’
‘Yes, Max? Is something unclear?’
‘Ya’ve said a lot without tellin’ us anythin’. What’s the cop for all this shit? It’s fuckin’ plain to me that we’re here because the plan ya’ve got crammed up ya arse wouldn’t make it without us. And if ya don’t fuckin’ get to the point, I’m gunna get fuckin’ angry.’

Milan stiffened his shoulders and the light went out in his eyes. A sound like a separate cry from a splintered ego came from his head. He said slowly, ‘Frank has to go to Africa.’
‘What?’ Max stood and removed the stiffness from his body. From the little man he steered his focus onto Frank who had ceased to smile. ‘Ya knew ya were goin’ to fuckin’ Africa and ya didn’t fuckin’ tell me?’
‘I cannot disclose any details, Max;’ Milan continued with an abrupt, almost triumphant smile, ‘it is enough to say that for Hans Dorfman and, in effect, the three of us here, the whole element of prosecution shall be effectively eliminated.’
‘Bullshit!’ Max crossed the floor and towered over Milan. ‘It’s all fuckin’ bullshit, sport! I tell ya what, ya fuckin’ arsehole of a fuckin’ clown, ya fuckin’ ratshit bonkers!’
Frank interceded with a calming gesture, ‘Hang on, mate. Hear him out!’
‘Let him rant, Frank.’ Milan said contemptuously with a dismissive wave of the hand. ‘The poor man obviously has problems.’
He had seen Rane do it with snakes and he wanted now to pick the little man by the ankles and crack his head on the floor.
‘You’d better apologise to Max,’ warned Frank as he knew the violence that was certain to follow, ‘before we lose everything, Mil.’
‘Apologise? For what? It was you who came to me for assistance. You were disoriented and up to your eyeballs in deep waters. Now you blame me for delivering you from a fate you certainly wouldn’t care for. Be reasonable, Max, for heaven’s sake.’
‘Ya too smooth with words, Krulis!’ Max said with odium. ‘If ya can get fuckin’ Hans off the fuckin’ hook by sendin’ poor old Frank on some fuckin’ fool’s errand then ya damned-well can fuckin’ get fuckin’ Hans off the hook anyway. Ya’ve cooked this fuckin’ mess for ya own profit, ya cunt!’
Milan’s mouth moved slightly with an intention to reply. Then it stopped and set itself into a soft curve as the eyes above it fluttered. ‘Max, you’re absolutely right.’ he said cheerily, like an offbeat adolescent in his ridiculous outfit. ‘I do apologise for my ill-chosen words. I really have over-looked the fact of your terrible bereavement and utterly incomprehensible anguish.’
He moved his eyes to Frank. ‘Frank, you know I would never accommodate a malicious thought about my friends.’ Then back to Max. ‘I’m human. I am susceptible to moods and fluctuations of spirit and behaviour as the next man. I meant no harm, Max. Really!’

‘I suppose ya think there’s no better way of gettin’ to me than by ya fuckin’ mea culpas, hey!’ Max snorted. ‘Ya not cut out to be a fuckin’ breast-beater before the fuckin’ Wall. Ya can’t even beat the fuckin’ meat between ya fuckin’ legs, Krulis!’
The big BMW slipped gently away from the curb and joined the throng of traffic in the streets. Two middle-aged knights were returning from their joust with their armour dented.


Chapter 26

A day on the dole is a 24-hour stint of life that has been paid for by a begrudging society. The stigma of being a ‘dole bludger’ coats the psyche with a taint of decay, an insidious blemish that corrodes the very nature of the unemployed. Frank resented being resented. Fuck the pressboard cubicles and those boorish interviewers! No employer was interested in a globetrotter who had run out of steam. No one wanted the outsider.
‘We both know I’m getting nowhere here.’
‘You have said that before, Frank.’ sighed Marit, ‘I hear it every time we pack our bags and move to another nowhere.’
‘Jesus!’ Frank had not smiled all morning. ‘Every Greek, Turk, Italian and fuck knows who else; they all smile and say ‘yeah yeah’ when I tell them I’m an Aussie.’
‘Je’s ‘n Afrikaner kerel, eh?’
‘I’ll always be an Aussie, sweetheart.’ Frank smiled with warmth.


The chips went cold in Juno’s throat. Her hands pushed her lunch out of reach as she snapped at her father, ‘And what about your best mate and his kids?’
‘Max knows.’
‘And us?’ Juno resisted the urge to scream. ‘Did you ask us?’
‘Ask you?’ Frank stopped smiling momentarily as he sought his wife’s accomplice. It never arrived. He continued lamely, ‘Since when have I to ask you?’
‘Frank! Sies man! There is no need ... ’ and then Marit told her daughter, ‘Leave the room, please, I want to talk with your father ... ’
‘You piss off if you want privacy, Mum. I was here first. You two barged in on my privacy!’
‘Juno!’ Marit stood and brandished her will. ‘You will never reach my heart with the language of your father.’
‘Sorry, Mum.’ Juno said quickly, ‘ but ... ’
Marit’s eyes bore into Juno’s and created havoc in the girl’s mind.
Frank had moved to the open window. His face and hands worked together in a pantomime of worry. Then he suddenly shook his head as if someone outside had whispered to him. He poked his head through the window frame and tried to see into the adjacent flat. Then he smiled and recognised the deja vu. He turned and listened to his wife use up her words.


Frank had come to the wooden house by the cliff. Max was sitting on his verandah with a knife and a melon in his hands. His beard dripped with juice and seeds, his eyes like broken Jaffas. They had talked of their children with sombre words and there was a sag to the day.
A wren settled onto a flimsy branch of wisteria and Frank watched it as it wrestled with a feather. Beyond the verandah with the sounds of far away a guitar strummed a Spanish melody. It was New Year’s Eve and the heat made everything droop. There was not a cloud in the sky. Nor was there breeze. Conversation had halted as a litany of wounds cried out for relief and two minds whirred to the task of making amends.
‘We had an impact.’ Max said at last.
‘Didn’t we!’ Frank wet his mouth with a cold beer.
Then again the obmutescence as they pondered the effects their families had upon each other. That punch which had begun from a point near the ground and which had been driven by the biggest set of shoulders Frank had ever seen, was still hurtling as its jarring note reverberated through their lives.
Then Max laughed. Frank could never understand the laughter of a bereaved man. His friend sat on the verandah with his jaw on the floor, his dervish eyes dancing in his head. The huge fingers clawed at each other, trying to grasp reality.
‘I got a comatose cripple trussed up in a laboratory they call a hospital. I got a little girl mummifyin’ in the fuckin’ ground, and I got a lifetime of fuckin’ watchin’ over me fuckin’ shoulder for the fuckin’ Greek avengers. And ya off to fuckin’ adventure! Why the fuck, Frank?’
‘It’s not easy being a hero, Max.’ Frank smiled.
‘Nuh! It ain’t, mate, it ain’t!’ Max retorted savagely and suddenly he smiled. ‘The fuckin’ Shadow got lost once and ran into fuckin’ Diana Palmer and the fuckin’ Phantom, well, the bastard got all fuckin’ jealous!’
Frank let out his breath easily and slowly. It made the only noise for the moment. Even the birds were resting for lunch. Max raised his thick eyebrows and uttered a mirthless laugh. Then the breeze came upon them like an ancient blessing and carried off the incubus of Dali’s death.


Chapter 27

Two barristers had stood before him down on the courtroom floor. The accused was a principle of law over which the two men had berated each other for hours. Occasionally he interrupted the legal crossfire to establish a point of law; otherwise he allowed them free rein.
At eleven o’clock Justice Horgan adjourned and as he entered his chambers he removed his coat and pulled the letter from a pocket in his trousers. It had been delivered to him before the morning session and the ornate electric type of Margaret’s machine indicated to him that Milan Krulis had finished his task.
He slowly carved the ivory letter-opener through the rich paper fold of the envelope and studied the carefully phrased script. He smiled generously as he returned the letter to his trousers pocket.
‘Nicely done, Milan.’ he whispered as he prepared for the afternoon session at court.


Two barristers smiled at each other as the judge entered court. They bowed and the judge bowed and everyone sat. They had dined well and the claret of comfort took the edge off the debate. The judge rested his head upon his right hand and gazed down into his court.


The memo was dated 15 February and had been stamped by the warden. Hans Dorfman walked from prison as jauntily as he had walked in. He was met at the bus stop by the black LTD and taken to an address at The Cross.
‘You’re off to adventure, Hans.’ Milan said without looking up from the folder on his desk.
‘You want me to grab a bit of rhino horn for your cock, Mil?’
‘We fudged with your sheet and the visa was uncomplicated, Hans.’ Milan spoke to the folder. ‘Their justice is hard. They have a particular dislike for foreign criminals.’

For a slight moment Hans felt an odd sensation of resentment, perceiving perhaps that Milan’s condescension was verging on contempt. But then his naive nature assumed control and he began to caricature the image of himself in the window as the easy-going sidekick taking the fall for his pals.
‘This is my fate!’ he sighed as he watched his window image staring back at himself, ‘for the cost of a slug I get to feel all those beautiful exotic titties!’.
‘There’s more irony to this adventure than you realise, Hans.’ said Milan. ‘It is no pyrrhic victory that sends you to your fate.’
‘What are you gabbin’ on about, Mil?’ Hans ignored his image and stared at the man opposite. It was difficult; the image was there as a stark reflection in the tinted window, irrespective of how he tried to block it with Milan’s head.
‘Here!’ Milan pushed the folder across his desk. ‘Look at this, Hans. Turn to page five. I know it by heart: detective sergeant Roy Fitzgibbon was recently notified by Assistant Commissioner Craven of promotion to Inspector Third Class. Transfer Immediate, Rural Division, Gunnedah.’
‘You did that for me?’ said Hans in his Sal Mineo role.
Milan studied his employee for a while then ignored him. The view out the window opposite the desk had become as personal as a pocket photograph. It wasn’t much of a day; too hazy and humid and people were disgruntled with the heat.
The office had the crispness of early spring and Dorfman was in the summer fabric of his release clothes. He stood and began exercising on the Persian carpet. He worked quietly in the manner of the prison and soon his clothes were sticking to his skin.
‘Every night since I got busted, Mil.’ Hans said as a matter-of-fact. ‘Two hundred straight off. Used to think I was screwin’ the fuckin’ Queen.’
‘What did happen to you inside, Hans?’
Hans saw that Milan’s face was serious, and perhaps the little bloke did care a bit. ‘I’m okay I s’pose, Mil. They look after you when you’re in. They gotta, y’know! You ever been inside a zoo? All the animals are looked after. Fed enough to keep you shittin’. Even get rid of your shit for you! All into a great fuckin’ drain. It clogs and you smell what you’ve eaten. You complain about it and the next night your arse is broken and you drip with their rotten sperm!’
Milan showed not the slightest expression of sympathy. His eyes were as anaesthetised as his emotions. Hans peered into them and felt out of place. He said, ‘I’m okay, Mil. Just wanted you to know you’re in my debt!’

Milan continued to gaze through the window at the world beyond. He was manipulating the future but the present had not properly been managed to his satisfaction. Little bits needed to be tucked away, out of sight, for his future plans to be realised. ‘The Tseridis matter has been closed with your acquittal, Hans. Check page fourteen.’
‘I’m off the hook?’
‘Only as far as I am, Hans. Don’t you forget it.’ Milan was weary and he looked it. ‘Page twenty-nine, Hans. You will notice that Club 69 and Mario’s are now registered and licensed to Milan Krulis. With immediate effect.’
‘After Tyrone Power, Mil, you’re my favourite hero.’ sighed Hans for the benefit of the handsome fellow in the window.
‘Try page thirty-one, Hans.’ Milan said with a touch of asperity. He suddenly glimpsed behind him and saw the smiling image of Hans Dorfman insulting and insolent. ‘If you can take your eyes off yourself!’
‘The bodies of a Maori and two black-haired men were found in a capsized boat off Botany Bay.’ Hans read jerkily. He looked up. ‘Any more?’
‘Forget the page!’ Milan said with overt irritation. ‘You aren’t interested in a large woman in working clothes electrocuting herself with hair dryer, are you?’


Chapter 28

March came to Sydney in an angry mood. The somnolent summer semester was rudely shoved aside as the Tasman Nimbus swept up the dust of dryness and made it mud. Proud autumn leaves were torn from their branches and were sullied and squashed on the earth. Beaches were lonely for their friends of summer as melancholy grey skies with great black bruises of storms hovered in an endless period of penance.
Frank took hold of the chair and wobbled it, testing it, like a cricketer with a bat. Milan became uneasy and his hands moved together, reaching out for each other like babes in the woods.
‘Oh Frank,’ Milan pouted like a starved gremlin, ‘you’ve been reading those dreaded American novels again.’
‘Now you’re patronising, Mil.’
The office flared as lightning brushed the building. Instead of sounds of thunder, they were embraced by shock waves. The air itself fractured into nothingness and for a moment they could not breathe. Milan’s eyes were pained as he quelled his urge to run. There was panic in his face as he fought for air. Then he gasped the first inrush of thinned air and he coughed in wretched relief.
Soon his eyes settled into place as Milan calmed himself.
Frank watched him do it. It was his office; it was his game plan and he had regained control. Outside, a grey smirk grew on a grey and tartan bubble of cloud.
‘Mr Krulis.’
Margaret’s pleasant voice called from the desk-console.
‘Yes, Margaret?’
Milan hid his relief beneath a coat of oily charm.
‘Maureen’s collapsed.’
Milan smiled coyly as he crossed the Persian carpet.
‘Have to supervise the troops, Frank. Make yourself at home. You know where the drinks are. Help yourself, my friend.’
The door closed behind Milan. Frank waited by the window, watching the world outside. Bored by journeys into his past he moved to the desk and studied the console. Expecting a rhapsody Frank pushed ‘PLAY’. In a few seconds a voice spoke:
‘You’ve been emptying your night soil again, Sylvester?’
[A group of men laughing]

‘Basil!’ [Another voice laughed, closer to the microphone] ‘He’s just prejudiced.’
‘Prejudiced? By God I am!’ [A different voice again, alcoholised and aggressive] ‘If you recall the message by His Honour last year you would have no alternative but to agree that it is now impossible to weed out the bad seeds from Southern Europe, let alone the myriad sub-cultures from the Arab world and the Dago Latins with their filthy ways.’
‘Fair go, Sylvester!’ [A different voice again] ‘Some of my slaves are Latins!’
‘Fair go?’ [This was Sylvester, the aggressive bloke] ‘Christ! What are you if not naïve? These mongrelised animals slid ashore when our nation was slack and too bloody lazy to bother about the consequences of buryin’ the White Australia policy. While we were gabblin’ among ourselves in typically internecine fashion the hordes have multiplied and now pose a dire threat to our very civilisation. Furthermore ... hang on, mate, I haven’t finished ... furthermore, it is no wonder our society is in a mess when even our own police force cannot rid us of commonplace dago hooliganism. Bloody Hell! In the middle of suburban stability the dages break out in warfare. Just imagine a mob of mafia morons burstin’ into one of your homes ... ’
[Cries of derision mixed with applause. A faint sound of a table being tapped]
‘ ... yes! Breakin’ into one of your homes and then gougin’ out the eyes of one of your daughters or your wife? Not on your sorry life, mate. This is exactly what His Honour was sayin’.
Then there was silence for two seconds then a cough then a rhapsody began, softer and clearer than the voices. Frank pressed ‘STOP’ and walked away from the desk. He sat on the low chair by the window and gazed outward. The harbour was no more; a mist had swallowed the day. ‘I heard the tape,’ he told Milan as the jaunty wizard returned to his desk, ‘nice bunch of guys.’
Milan now had charge of himself. His crisp voice produced a crackling sound, like corn flakes underfoot. ‘That nice bunch of guys, as you described, help me pay your salary, Frank. Have you heard of the Vaucluse Club?’
Frank shook his head slightly and remained fixed to the window images.
‘It doesn’t surprise me, Frank.’
Frank watched Milan’s image stretch out its hands in a concerted yawn, at the end of which it shrugged its body as if to ward off demons. Then it rubbed its hands together as if it were unconsciously erasing a lie. Frank said to the image, ‘They always argue like that?’ He wanted to prise open this can of worms.
‘Dissension is healthy, Frank.’ Milan kept his finger on the lid. ‘We all achieve our individual ambitions eventually. We roll off the success of others until it’s our turn.’

Rain began to fall heavily. The brandy was rich and smooth and was the Hunter’s finest. Milan’s staff had been sent home early and the front door of the office was locked. The tape in the console spun silently as Liszt dramatised the incessant beat of water on the window. Their shoes were off and their socked feet leaned toward the heater.
Spread on the rosewood table were the remains of fish and chips. Frank read a newspaper. The sun had not yet set; it wasn’t time for that. No daylight shone beyond the windows, just the glitter of the city under the opaque blackness of the storm.
‘You’ll be the fingertip of a very large and powerful financial institution.’ Milan abruptly cut into the lull.
‘A good line from a novel, Mil?’ asked Frank absently.
‘In the event of your being disrupted by government officials from whichever country you will be whisked out faster than the spurt from a young boy’s cock.’ Milan warned, ‘but we don’t envisage that, do we?’
‘What the fuck am I supposed to be doing over there?’
‘Well, being there is probably the most important item on your agenda. But don’t forget,’ and here Milan paused and searched the storm for his cue, ‘you are out of Sydney, and I breathe more easily.’
‘You never answer questions, Mil. Wha... ’
‘Frank! You will settle yourself and activate any instructions you receive from this office. And you will have Hans Dorfman ... ’
‘He’s the one who’s been in prison, Frank.’
‘I’m not complaining.’
‘Well then, ... there will be others you will meet once you’re established. Apart from these few points there’s little else I can tell you. It’s not as if we’ve had years to plan this. Mr Tseridis was a recent event in our lives and I’m afraid this is the best we can do.’
‘In the meanwhile I’ll be an expensive itinerant blowing your brass about the veld!’
‘Ah! Veld!’ Milan sniffed the air rather lewdly. ‘A wonderful application of the Dutch. Pictures of lissom females in the glow of an African sunset.’
‘Er, that’s svelte, Mil, not veld!’


Chapter 29

They sat through dawn at the peninsular school. The sky went through its technicolour changes before the sun appeared in a blink of a puffy cloud. The schoolyard looked much the same as it always did, a huge square cow-turd fallen from the sky and dried where it landed. Splaat! The bitumen was cracked and crooked lines of weeds grew at will. Along the fence huge gaps were torn in the wire and wooden posts that held it all together needed paint.
‘The gentle visitors to your mind will not be coming to this place.’
The school building itself was the type that existed in pre-war Sydney, blue-black liver brick, and small multi-paned double-hung windows with wooden squares blocking the view, and red tile roof.
A scum of salt plastered everything in sight. A sad greyish domain for the children of the peninsular, the school began abruptly at the coast road. At the rear, the yard bled into the reserve, over a crushed wire fence that had long since grown into the ground.
There was no child in the yard. Windows and doors were shut. A few cards strewn by a local security firm littered the verandah mat. The only sound of schooldays was the flagpole halyard flapping in the wind.
‘It’s a peaceful land.’ said Rane with mellow passion.
‘It is.’ agreed Juno.
‘It’s been cut away from the rest of the world since it split the Gondwanaland scene. It’s the most unrelated land on Earth. When the rest of the countries were bubbling and crashing into each other, this one sat apart, you know, immobile, and arrogant of what was happening to the rest of the globe. It’s been washed over by the oceans when the ice changed shape. It hid under a wall of water for ages and didn’t mind a bit. Then she surfaced and sank again and after a few more million years she came up for air and then ... she handled it! Imagine that, eh? Flat as a pancake and nary a murmur as she went under for the umpteenth time. At least that’s how Max has it!
‘After all that, she’s hardly changed shape. She’s got a few more layers of rock where the mines have dug and a bit’s been washed away over the years but basically she’s still the same and that’s been a great comfort to the people who’ve lived here for thousands of years.’

They strolled the deserted schoolyard. He told her of George, the janitor, and of the old man’s tales of artefacts and drawings. He described his initiation in the cave, of the timeless nether world of his imagination. He laughed with her as he drew pictures of Stafford Wentworth and Leonard Marx, but he withdrew as he remembered those who laughed at him.
‘You’ve never spoken of Aborigines, Rane.’
‘Why should I?’
Juno kept quiet.
‘I’m nobody’s spokesman, spokesperson, spokes in the wheel!’
‘Yes! I know that!’ she snapped too quickly. He was being droll. ‘You don’t joke much.’
Rane lowered his head and appraised her through his eyebrows in a quaint gesture of mild mockery. Then he threw back his head and laughed as he did when they first met on the beach.
‘You’re curious, aren’t you!’ he accused her with a grin.
She flung a feigned fist at his forehead and as he ducked she curled her arm and embraced his neck. He looked sheepishly at her from the cradle of her love.
‘Seriously, Rane,’ she said, releasing his neck as he stretched to his full height, ‘don’t you feel drawn?’
They had left the schoolyard and were gathering coloured leaves from the ground. When their hands were full they would leave tidy mounds on the trail they had wandered.
The plastic waste of summer had vanished with the families and their caravans. Camping areas were empty and hire boats lay tired in their racks by the boatshed. It was over for another time.
‘Has it ever bothered you? Got you at least curious?’ she persisted.
Peninsular children congregated in the reserve for a final burst of energy before winter’s doldrums collected them for another year.
‘Has it ever bothered you?’ she insisted.
He was keeping curiosity alive. Then he said,
Juno was wondering if he was touchy.
‘Why then should I be bothered?’ he asked with double meaning again.

Old people of the peninsular
pensioners awaiting their time,
out of their flats and
nurturing their shrubs.

Autumn bursts of blossoms
were gazed upon,
and loved by these gentle citizens.

These fading souls squeezed their last days
between the decay of summer
and the exile of winter.

‘Don’t you have any kinship with Aussie blacks?’
‘Don’t you?’ he replied.
‘Me?’ Juno exclaimed in bewilderment. ‘I’m from another world!’
They came upon an empty bench. Rane cleared the seat of water and they sat with their arms hooked over the backrest. The peninsular council crew were at work in the distance and children ran past and waved.
‘They know you.’ Juno remarked wistfully. She waved back at the children.
‘Aw, they’re still a bit dubious about me. If I sit still, I’m like a comic book. You can see it in their eyes when they stare at you. If I move they get pissed off.’
‘Like their image of you is more important than the real you. They don’t want to know the actor behind the movie.’
‘Yeah!’ Rane said in abstract. He looked about. The reserve was alive with good spirit as locals took back their space again. ‘The people out there on the land aren’t any different.’
‘Eh?’ Juno lifted her nose, drawing her lips away from her teeth. She held the expression for a moment.
‘I think all the people out there have been robbed of their friends, Juno.’
‘I don’t get you.’ she said as she released her nose and her lips dropped over her teeth. Her eyes were paler now as she changed mood.
Rane had been half-watching the council crew at work. They were a squiggly bunch about a hundred metres away. A laughing group of kiddies drew nearer and shouted things at the workers. A man disengaged himself from his work and waved his arms at the children. They shouted all the louder. He returned to his work. They soon wandered away and took their sounds with them.

‘I think the people out there have been robbed of their friends because their friends are the essential beings of the world. When the people were robbed of their land they were robbed of their friends.’
They watched the truck approach, its council green in harmony with the trees. It stopped a few metres from them. Two men climbed down from the cabin and went around to the back of the truck. Equipment was unloaded and laid out on the grass. A radio blurted talkback from the cabin.
One of the crew walked past with rope and piquet’s and headed for the boatshed. He was short and very fat with no hair in front of his ears. His mouth had sunk into his puffy face, like a stone dropped into dough.
‘Hey!’ Rane used his arm to draw her close. Juno rested her head against him as her mind gave over to the raptures of the flesh. There was a yearning in her spirit and a drifting of her will to the times she had given herself to him. That spot in the distance had grown into her life, growing bigger by the surf, inexorably fastening on to her fate, taking her from the water and covering her with his clothes. The taste of him under the shower and his hot force in her throat. She shivered. She burrowed into him, chilled suddenly by the bleak wind of memory.
The other council worker carried a stepladder from the truck to the sign above the litterbin. He extended the ladder carefully and climbed it. Facing the sign he unclipped a small hammer from the stud on his belt and drove a loose nail home. He then returned to the truck and fetched a tin of paint. Up the ladder again, he painted where the rocks of summer had chipped the lettering. He was slow and workmanlike, his tongue licking his lips as he brushed the paint.
‘I’m tougher than you think, arsehole.’ Juno reached into his groin and held him. ‘I’m not fickle like the groping one-eyed trouser snake.’
‘You’re always on heat, bitch!’ laughed Rane.
‘Yes!’ she also laughed. Then she broke her laughter and asked, ‘By the way, Rane, you don’t always rely upon prescience to guide your life, do you?’
She was aware of the three children in the trees. They had been glued to the prospect of watching some sex. Juno began to rub her hand against Rane’s trousers and the children, giggling nervously, seemed to be delighted by it all. So also was the spreading chestnut tree between his legs.
The short man had returned and was packing equipment back onto the truck. The man with the paint was walking back with his ladder.
‘Sometimes I wish I could control it, you know, call it up at will, take a trip, shake out the past, that sort of thing. I’m a fairly normal bloke ... ’

Rane stopped as more kiddies were collecting by the trees and their cackle reached his ears.
‘Go on!’ Juno insisted. She withdrew her hand and poked her tongue unnecessarily at the children. They screamed with delight and returned her insulting tongue en masse.
‘What do you know about sanpaku?’ asked Rane suddenly.
The children had now disappeared behind the trees. Juno felt a flush of silly guilt for denying them their childish pleasure. She had been, for a while, an actor in their fantasy world and she had buggered it up for them.
‘Japanese.’ said Rane distantly, reciting a script from one of his dad’s books. ‘It means literally three whites. When the iris tries to hide under the top lid it leaves behind three sides of white. Sanpaku on the underside of the iris is traditionally known in the East as shit luck. Sanpaku signals the approach of death!’
‘Pity cocker spaniel owners!’
Juno forgot about children and thought of Kennedy, Lincoln and Caesar. Their eyes had been Sanpaku. In fact, she had seen plenty of people with their irises floating into the tops of their heads. They always looked so sad. Old people in the final act, dreading the curtain call, were sanpaku. So was the guy with the ladder.
He was moving awkwardly, hoisting his ladder onto the back of the truck. The short fat man was talking to him.
‘Dali’s eyes were sanpaku.’ Rane was wondering why the painter was so clumsy. He knew Juno was watching these council workers and he knew she had noticed the painter’s eyes. ‘They went that way only days before she was ... before she died. I should’ve been ... ’
The council crew were walking toward the truck cabin when Rane saw the painter’s hands. They were webbed, calloused and the size of wicket keeper’s gloves. The truck moved off.
Rane stared. Juno had her hands to her face.
‘No!’ they both screamed.


Chapter 30

The winter shower wet his head as he hurried along the footpath; small shoes bombing puddles and spraying water; pink office hands hidden in his trousers pockets; a penguin of a man waddling through the rain. Usually he entered the building from the basement car park, but today his mind had carried him to another part of the Cross. It had been urgent. The hallmark of his ruthlessness necessarily had to be stamped across a colleague’s forehead.
He laughed slightly as he jumped the steps and landed lithely into the foyer where the usual groups of businessmen were lounging behind newspapers and magazines. Whether his gaiety arose from the stimulus of his morning’s bout, or from the dramatic drop in the price of gold, he wasn’t certain. Happiness rarely elicits analysis. Only sorrow makes people wonder why!
Milan Krulis was still laughing to himself when he greeted Margaret, his secretary, and passed into his cavernous office on the twentieth floor above the Cross. It was Tuesday and Margaret had her shoes off.
He went through his mail quickly, despatching memos and telephoning brokers. Bank drafts to Barclays in Harare were approved before he settled into the daily newspapers. Relevant articles were noted as he had an ever-changing update on his world; financial, social and international.
‘Mr Krulis. I have Mr Donleavy on the line.’
‘Thank you, Margaret. You may come in.’
He activated the tape then the phone hook-up. Margaret had closed the door. An easy turn of a key locked it. She was standing primly on the Persian, her stockinged feet crushing into the weave.
‘Hallo Frank!’ he called to the console and waited for its reply.
‘You sound like you’re down a fucking well!’ it said from a distance with Frank’s voice, tinny, but definitely Frank’s.
‘It’s the console, Frank. How are you?’
‘You fucking-well didn’t tell me Dorfman was arriving last fucking week!’
‘He had your phone number. Didn’t he call you?’
‘I wasn’t fucking in, was I, you wog!’
‘Don’t fucking Frank me! It’s a fucking wog’s action and you played it!’

Margaret’s skirt had come apart at the waist and had fallen to her ankles. She was reaching forty and her brown hair was greying. Her wedding finger was clumsy with rings.
‘He’s a big boy, Frank. Where were you, anyway?’
‘There’s the wog again! Not over the fucking phone! Jesus!’
‘Why did you phone me, Frank?’ said Milan with forced authority in his question.
Frank spelt out his needs. While he spoke Milan made reassuring noises into the phone as Margaret dislodged her clothes. She stood in her pants and stockings, an ointment jar in her hands. A creamy film coated her sagging nipples. Here and there her skin folded as she tucked in her stomach. Her hips were heavy with collapsed flesh as she knelt before the desk.
‘You taping this?’
‘Of course.’
‘You alone?’
‘Of course.’
‘Hello Margaret!’ piped the tinny voice from Africa.
Margaret’s head froze beneath the desk.
‘I’m alone, Frank!’ Milan struggled with his words as he eased himself out of his trousers. He looked at the silent console and felt oddly conspicuous. ‘Frank?’
Milan moved his thighs apart as Margaret applied the cream. ‘Good! Good!’ he urged.
‘I thought you’d be pleased, Mil.’
Again Milan stared at the console with an absurd suspicion. He was covered with cream and was suddenly cold. The nipples on his secretary’s depleted breasts had grown into cold creamy thimbles of forgotten pleasure.
‘I am, Frank.’ said Milan with the voice of a marathon’s end. Then he huffed with artless irony, ‘I am being well satisfied by my staff!’
An international silence followed over the telephone line. Frank could hear his friend’s noisy breathing.
‘Have you thought of setting up office while you’re over there?’ asked Milan finally.
‘Yeah! Thought about it only. Got a secretary lined up. Though she can’t do things like Margaret!’

The secretary stopped her pumping hand and blushed. For a split second her eyes shifted to the console then back again to the red shaft she was gripping. The cream was heating the flesh, expanding it, hardening it.
‘Have to cut off now, Mil.’ Frank continued after a panting silence. ‘Don’t be a wog, mate.’
Milan closed his eyes as streams of whiteness burst from his body in a series of decreasing spurts, and washed upon the shores of Margaret’s face.
‘Mil! Damn you! Are you still there?’
‘Er yes. I was having a slight interruption.’
Milan glanced contemptuously at Margaret as she got to her feet and put the top back on the ointment jar.
‘More like a fucking eruption if I know you, Mil.’ Frank laughed light-heartedly.
He hung up.
‘Yes, Mr Krulis?’
‘How is your daughter?’
‘Well, thank you, Mr Krulis.’
‘Bring her in next Tuesday, will you?’


‘The hydrofoils not working today?’
The words had trembled from his lips as he observed the harbour through the window. His back had lost its uprightness. A halo of despondency shrouded his eyes; sleepless eyes that bore through the glass to the harbour beyond.
‘No?’ Milan Krulis did not sound surprised, just disturbed from his thoughts. The day outside had become a surreal anachronism. The clock on the wall displayed a different hour from the watch on his wrist; there was an eight-hour gap and the wall clock was lagging. The two cities of Sydney and Harare were separated by a good night’s sleep.
Basil Horgan coughed phlegm into his handkerchief, inspected it, grimaced, then absently returned it folded to his pocket. He moved from the window and sat in Milan’s chair behind the desk. The jurist was not comfortable there either.
‘It would be eight o’clock in Harare?’ he said absently.
Milan smiled at the wall clock and agreed with the judge. A tugboat farted a stream of oily smoke from its funnel. It was heaving against the stern of a tanker.

‘That tug out there, Milan ... ’
‘Yes?’ Milan peered from his low cloth chair.
‘Deceptively tough, isn’t she?’
Oscar Pitt frowned from the quiet end of the office. He and Adam Smith, the appropriately named university professor of economics, believed in biding their time. Pitt was a miner and in his world he was boss.
‘Built from Aussie steel, Basil!’ he droned with deliberate nasality.
‘But can’t we expect something a little more malevolent than a bloody useless regime of sanctions?’ cried Charles Fitzroy, the media man.
‘Like what?’ demanded Sylvester Meggs, the unionist.
‘Like why we aren’t taking advantage of the situation!’ retorted Fitzroy with added fury.
‘And what, pray?’
‘We can’t let SBS manage the plot, surely?’
‘Don’t make me laugh,!’ said McIlroy the banker with loads of derision.
‘I repeat, gentlemen, that we are stuck in the mire if we do not accommodate ourselves to the inevitable.’ warned Basil Horgan gravely.
No one spoke for a few minutes. No fears were allowed to be shown. Apart from Horgan and Milan Krulis no one was certain of events in Zimbabwe. Those who had resisted the effort in Africa had let their opposition be whittled to a reluctant acquiescence. They had been persuaded by the philosophically potent forces of herd instinct, power and profit.
‘Well, gentlemen?’ Basil Horgan rose and, with a dropped silence, invited a decision from his colleagues in the Chapter.
‘I doubt if Mugabe will let go!’
‘Oh! There cannot be any doubt about that!’ argued Eric Jansen, the financier from Perth, ‘the ZANU[PF] government already has loosened its hawsers. It won’t be long before they slip away and lose themselves at sea.’
‘Oh droll, minister!’ laughed Sylvester Meggs in his Sir Humphrey Appleby impersonation.
‘Droll it may be, Sylvester, but even you would be aware that a boxer is vulnerable when in retreat. That’s the situation in Harare, gentlemen.’
Everyone glanced at the financier and saw that he was right. The embattled Mugabe regime was floundering in a sea of their making.
‘We’re beginning to head in the right direction.’
‘Oh, that’s just fine, Oscar!’

‘What’s just fine, Ernest?’
They continued into the night, arguing, compromising, settling nothing, oblivious of the two men from Sydney who were now working toward a bloody conflagration in Zimbabwe.


The evening was cold. Slight showers continued to fall on Sydney. The black LTD was motionless by the high wire fence. A pale rickety aircraft looked out from a hangar as a line of people walked by. It seemed to be raining only where the lights shone.
There was very little noise to accompany the Lear’s landing. It glided in effortlessly and dropped like a gull onto the tarmac. It came to rest away from the terminal, close to the LTD. Part of the fuselage opened and out slipped a stairway. A heavily coated figure emerged from the jet and followed the stairs to the ground.
‘Collect him.’ Milan ordered his driver.
An umbrella was proffered for the man but he ignored it. The driver folded it and led the man to the LTD.
‘How was the trip?’
The man was tall with Victor Mature’s face. A briefcase hung from a gloved hand. He sat himself next to Milan and accepted the scotch with a look of relief.
‘Thanks, Milan.’
With the door locked and the darkened windows closed, the LTD was warm for the drive to the Cross. The cocktail cabinet glinted as the bar light bounced off polished chrome and cut glass. Only the slish-slosh of alcohol competed with the distant purring of the engine. The limousine was an acoustic bubble on wheels.
‘Uneventful, Milan.’
He drank his whisky with ceremony. Each mouthful was savoured for its redolence by passing the tumbler frequently under his nostrils. There was a sheen to the overcoat he wore; its high collar wrapped his head when he leaned back in the seat. He was Victor Mature with his creviced brow and cheeks, and the Sanpaku eyes dreaming in his head. He seemed to enjoy the tricks the light played on the glass.
At his throat, a black tie formed a knot.
‘Lovely city at night, this one.’ he said
‘Yes!’ Milan agreed out of habit. ‘Night shades the soot and imparts rusticity.’ He smiled secretly at his own little witticism. Rusticity, indeed! This rusty city! Indeed!

‘Er, yes.’
The man with Victor Mature’s face decided to finish his whisky in silence.


The Sydney Harbour Bridge died behind the rain. Its arched ghost was a faint taunting candescence above the darkness that was water. From the twentieth floor, Milan watched the red and white tail-lights of vehicles pressed against each other, clogging the roads. As they advanced to the Bridge they dissolved as meringues in the rain.
The man with Victor Mature’s face had removed his overcoat before he reclined in the chair. The whisky decanter had been drained.
‘I have you under the name of Henderson. You don’t mind heights?’
Milan came over and sat. His tumbler was empty.
‘You have no objections?’ Milan raised a theatrical eyebrow.
‘No, certainly not, Milan. It’s a regal name, Anglo-Saxon. I should fit it well.’
‘I think the decanter requires refreshing.’ Milan stood. ‘Excuse me, I won’t be a moment.’
At the desk Milan bent and opened a drawer. He touched the switch gently before taking the whisky and closing the drawer. Inside a locked drawer in another desk in another office, a silent motor stirred, and a tape recorder listened.
‘How is the scotch?’
‘Hmmm. Not bad, Milan. What first names have you baptised me with?’
‘I thought I would meet you halfway with initials only. B.A. You should find something compatible with that.’
‘BAH! How expressive!’
‘Yes, er, sorry about that!’
‘You won’t refer to me as B.A.?’
‘Of course not! What would you prefer?’
‘Hmmm. How about Benedict Arnold? That name has relevance.’
His accent had shifted as he slipped into an alcoholic high. At the moment he was flying over the mid-Atlantic.
‘Ben, perhaps?’
Henderson gave a satisfied nod and poured more scotch. The storm outside was silent misery.

‘Milan, like you I am a profiteer. The Chapters are full of modern buccaneers. We’re pirates and we’re looters.’
He waited for a reaction. A meagre smile of encouragement appeared on Milan’s weary face.
‘Yes,’ he continued, ‘when this adventure in Africa is concluded, then, and only then,’ he suddenly waved an excited arm about his head, ‘am I allowed permanence of abode.’
‘Would you settle in Europe?’
‘No, Milan. I have a taste for the tropics, in a small country where my future wealth can easily be transformed into power. From there, power breeds just about anything I may require. I shall be an institution, Milan, the Rubirosa of ... shall we say ... the Republic of Hendersonia! Ha!’
‘I can well understand the temptations of having your prize early in life, but will you survive those whom you are about to betray?’
Henderson looked sharply about the office until he brought his search back to Milan. Then he directed his craggy eyes to the desk. ‘Do you have a recorder in the office?’
‘Only for the telephone. Do you want one?’ Milan’s question was ingenuous and too obvious.
‘No, thank you, Milan. It can wait.’
His Victor Mature face had become unsettled by a worrying motion of his distinctive lips. He removed his eyes carefully from the desk and stared straight at Milan. ‘Betray?’ he said and allowed a pause to convey his uncertain self across space. ‘No, Milan.’ he resumed a mite too haughtily, ‘think not of such thoughts of revenge,’ with an accent now decidedly Slavic, thick and rolling and content to be home again, ‘but of conclusion.’
‘Death will be a heavy baggage.’ Milan warned the man he could not name. ‘We cannot harbour you so your plans must be watertight. Our link to you will sever once you land at Harare. The account we have arranged has an automatic key which is activated when your task is done.’
‘What of your man there?’ His accent had flown out of Europe and was now circling over northern Britain.
‘He’s no adolescently minded idealist. He is a man who adjusts to any situation. Besides, you won’t have the need to meet. His world is far from yours. More scotch?’
‘Of course, thanks, Milan.’ Henderson soaked his throat from a tumbler full of whisky. ‘But if he meddles?’


Chapter 31

Her name was there with the poem, branded into the marble like a trademark. The giant man was there on his knees; the moon smiled behind his face, a benign globe to soften the father’s lament. He glanced toward Rane. There was no recognition. His eyes returned to the grave and Rane passed on, through swirls of forgetfulness to a strange room where the face of the gladiator was moist in a glaring light. A sense of siege had permeated the cold clanky avenues of concrete pillars. Frozen in the glare were silhouettes of police.
Rane closed his eyes and opened them again. He was acheing. The window was cool to the touch and the carpet smelled of roses. Outside, the day had become hazy with the smoke of rioting, a panoramic video of violence. Redness glowed on several horizons as anger and savagery dominoed across the landscape.
The cave was a long way away, almost in another night’s dream. He was helpless and hating himself. He did not know how to answer her. He kept seeing the gladiator ... what was his name? Oh, the face was so familiar!
Insects thumped against the windscreen. The confusion ... insects, muck from their broken bodies stuck against the glass, the moon shining into the insect-filled garden, ambers from the river fires drifting into a cloudless sky of diminished stars. Cycads poked their spiky wings at the moon and Juno was biting her lip, corncob style. Where was she? She was not the woman with two children!


An incense lantern burned fitfully on the floor. A dust-frosted dome of glass covered an indistinct light bulb. A pale frugal glow barely reached the walls of the back room. One pencil-beam of dirty light escaped through a passage once cleared by a forgotten finger scraping over the dusty glass and illuminated Juno among the shadowy figures. Above her jacarandas bloomed purple and matted the grounds with a dusty carpet of colour. Some blossoms hung in the air, frozen artefacts of spring caught in the gossamers of a massive spider web. Then ugly brutes with eyes that ate the air and shrivelled petals with their stare crawled eight hairy legs across his vision.
‘I know the disastrous effects of jumping ahead of your own civilisation, Juno,’ their host was saying, ‘each of our civilisations is caused by centuries of trial and error and change. Some things we hold onto, and some we throw out with the dust.

‘But we don’t suddenly clear our houses of the things we have possessed all our lives. We would suffer immense anguish and our lives would never be the same again.’
Rane shut his eyes against the smoky room and tried to listen to his host, but the blade had gone in too easily, like a hot knife through butter, and he had not refrained from the pleasure of the sinking weapon. The power of rage and revenge, the tackiness of sawing a body into pieces. Gore and shit inside, wiping it up with a towel and putting the lot into garbage bags.
And the man with the hands in the reserve. Did he exist? The flies!
It was the absence of guilt that had triggered his unusual mood earlier in the day. For hours he had drifted with a mind littered with innuendo and paradox, absently kicking at the debris of the past months, the unconnected flotsam of tragedy.
It was the absence of guilt that made the arena strange, the spectators new, the grass different underfoot, the game something else. Without the attachment of responsibility Rane had given way to an incessant desire, an overwhelming need to set sail, to thrust out from the precipice, to dare the fatal fall. He had been composing a poem with his fight to get away. But now guilt was back; perhaps a mite awkward at first, shy of re-emerging because of the pimple on its face.
Rane opened his eyes again to a purple haze. He was on a couch, opposite Juno and a pale painting of jacarandas. The incense lamp fumed with an impossible warmth on a chill evening. The door of the little room stretched away from them and Rane occasionally sent his gaze that way, seeing into the space beyond and expecting strangers to call.
A carved wooden pipe moved through the air like a steam train in the night, leaving behind in its wake a smooth pattern of smoke and a blurred line of fire across their retinas. They gazed fixedly at the pipe, watching as their host sucked slowly at the mouthpiece, eyes ablaze, chest expanding, evening still.
White planets shook in his face as he blinked his eyes and a misty breath escaped his mouth.
‘Hello Heaven!’ remarked Juno as she accepted the pipe. A big tug and smoke stayed in her lungs for a long time and spirited its will to her brain. A euphoric numbness began to drop through her body, a moment’s weightlessness before the calm of the drug.
Their host gently took the pipe from her fingers and tapped an ash into a bowl. He cleaned the bowl and refilled it. There was a look of laughter behind his eyes as he offered the pipe to Rane.
‘Prepare to meet thy doom!’ warned Juno as her body lost its shape on the floor.

‘Ok!’ replied Rane, his face a honeyed backdrop to his brilliant blue eyes. He sucked slowly at the peppery fumes, feeling the itchy scrape in his throat. He too forgot to let go of the pipe as he thrilled to the waves of warmth in his body.
Their host’s eyes were slightly squint and his nose twisted to the right with a suggestion of a thumbprint above the nostrils. He was speaking very slowly, coarsely, his vowels discordant to the stranger’s ear. Each word was a different wind through the reeds, a jumble of chords, sounds of a different age where people in boats splashed with oars and the shining things in nets wriggled as a catch was lifted from the sea.
Rane was together with the crew at the prow of the bark canoe. He was dragging on the net when he felt the chill of a disappearing sun. What followed was an awful mess of mist, filth and despair of the night; a night which brought the terror and the screams as the four-legged ones came and dragged the people away, out from the cave, into the black death, the escape in canoes, over the water, water that was covering the world. The man with the squint and thumbprint was yelling for the others to follow and then he was gone, swallowed by an awful growing dark.
It was over; a brief interlude beyond comprehension, an experience which cannot be translated. Rane had transcended another’s dream. He had caught up with another soul and had returned with it. He looked at his host from a new perspective and wondered, ‘Is this the same bloke?’
Juno suddenly straightened and touched her host as she spoke, ‘Are you serious?’
‘Of course I’m serious!’ the host declared and gave her a glare from each of his eyes. ‘But you’ve got the wrong revolution, sister,’
‘What other type of revolution is there?’
‘You are a victim of the media, woman.’ He pinched his forehead into knots of tiny patterns of brow print. ‘It is a racist world which assumes all men of colour think the same.’
‘And you are a sexist!’
‘You men require your stipulations to be heeded while you ignore those of others, especially women. It is nothing if not sexist. And what is the difference between racism and sexism, if not degree?’
The mist returned and the man with the squint and the thumbprint was hobbling along on a bent stick. He was with three women who were bleeding terribly. One of the women turned to Rane and beckoned to him. He was about to respond when the man with the squint restrained him with a hairy and bony arm that had tentacle suckers sprouting from its palm.

‘Hello! You are back, brother,’ said the host with a knowing look, ‘I am being enlightened by your friend to a cultural post mortem.’
A fog remained over his mind. The particular face had not changed yet it was not the same. Rane felt he was confusing his worlds.
The ash lay cold as the host swirled the cupped blade inside the bowl. ‘Those bastards,’ he continued, ‘as you call them, are the frontline against an anarchist uprising. They know our frustrations. They are waiting for us, just as they did last century, and the century before that. They’d build an edifice for one only reason, and that was to lure the blackfella in, and once the poor bloke was in, ... you know the story.’
‘There you go again! ‘ Juno pouted abruptly, ‘assumptions. Your argument is a series of unrelated assumptions and ... ’
‘There were women invaders as well, you know!’
‘So?’ Juno accepted the pipe.
The host gave light and the marijuana caught in one vibrant fizzing explosion and was sucked back into the pipe and into the bulging eyes of Juno. He leant across and took the pipe from frozen fingers. ‘Good?’
Juno gaped from the balloon of her mind. Her eyes bounced above a mouth that was changing shape. She tried to speak but ...
‘Yes, I thought it might be good.’ grinned the host as he packed the bowl again.
Time passed quietly. Background people came and went, said hello, drank beer and talked and left again, a continuum of contact. Some voices were loud while others were whispers that were shy of these newcomers and some who were curious of Rane.
‘Aah!’ the host was saying, ‘your logic assumes an incompatibility between smoking an ancient herb and being realistic. Because the criminal smokes marijuana, as I do, it does not necessarily follow that I am a criminal!’
‘But you’re relegating a political revolution to the status of a footbrawl.’ protested Juno with dissolving conviction.
‘Political revolution! Hah! I live here. I am a black person. I am not white! Therefore I am not shielded from reality as whites are.’
‘You get along with them without rancour, don’t you?’ she protested lamely.
‘I’ve never called upon rancour for any help in the past.’
Juno thought she detected an irony beyond that intended. Then she lost track of it, and smiled. It was humour that was corny but with a bite to it. She let him know she caught the joke and he smiled in return.
‘Yes, I smile, Juno,’ their host continued, ‘because I am used to buckets of shit being poured over my people.

‘You all forget, you who live beyond the walls, that this is our country, and we do have a view of what is happening to us. And we don’t like it very much! We don’t want to be absorbed into the white state. Very few of us would wish for that. We don’t want to be victims. We’re sick of it!’
‘I need a cave!’
Juno and their host looked sharply at Rane. He was not asleep, for his eyes had opened, but he was very still, braced, as it were, by an unseen discipline. It had been his voice that had startled them, as if he had acquired another tongue.
‘You’ve been away, Rane.’ Juno said quietly as his returning soul refreshed his eyes. He smiled at her, shook his head as if to say something, and returned to the world in his mind.
The sounds were like a strange dog in the neighbourhood; loud, aggressive and menacing, yet fearful. Whereas before, when the sounds of his cave were comforting and close and made him feel welcome, he had ventured into strangeness and had made it familiar. This time, in this land of convolution, nothing made sense. He was caught in the static of a violent psychic storm. Battered from above, he couldn’t get off the ground. He grasped at the sky he yearned to travel, stretching his hungry soul toward the infinite zone. But the voices raged incoherently, out of reach of his need for succour.
‘Where are the caves?’
‘Caves?’ Their host’s face had melted into another shape; he had been soliloquising when the interruption came. ‘Why?’
Rane felt the pressure of the man’s stare. He was somehow being offered a glimpse of someone awash and in need of another to balance against the swell of life. But somehow it was as if the comrades of many centuries had retreated and he had become alone. The ether was no longer his alone to travel; it belonged to the psyches of warrior strangers. Bereft of contact with the Old One, he was dysfunctional within the metaphysical rift. His memory was denied access to his own thoughts, as it were.
‘Doesn’t matter.’ sighed Rane and the images retreated beyond the void.


Curry was dinner. Their host was wearing a benign face of saintliness when he brought the steaming pot of beef, lamb and rice to the centre of the room. On his feet were soft leather sandals. A white flowing robe covered him from neck to ankles.
‘My father was an Indian!’ he suddenly announced, ‘I have his culinary skills.’

Rane studied his host with new attention. The skin was dark yet not in the way of most black people. His face was a gallimaufried mould of ethnic confusion; no one could accurately assess the genetic heritage of the man.
‘And my mother was a Bundjalung woman,’ Rane heard him say, ‘who had been removed from her family and placed into an Indian home because they thought she could pass for Indian. That’s what I meant when I said that it was racist to assume that all black people think the same. It’s racist to think that all black people are compatible with one another. My mum was taught to think of herself as Indian and when she was old enough she was married to an Indian. And I was born. But I’m not Indian. I’m Aboriginal!’
‘What about your mum?’ Juno asked.
Their host held the ladle with his right while his left tipped the stew toward it. He dipped the ladle and gave Juno a juicy selection of curry. ‘I loved her.’ was all he said in reply.
Then to Rane only, ‘Only when you experience the struggle, feel the pain, cry the anguish, will you be able to evaluate properly what we Aboriginals have tolerated for two centuries of white colonial rule. I can talk and talk and you can listen till the cows come home, but you won’t know, you won’t know the pain that we feel. Maybe tonight you might see, and understand.’
And it was a prophecy he spoke as the front window of the house imploded with a barrage of bricks and smoking missiles.


They stood in the light of the cheap neon, five of them, maniacs with bars of iron in their hands. They stood beyond the burglar grid, beyond the triangles of broken glass, waiting hopefully for the Molotovs to ignite. They were five drab figures in brown and grey who, intrigued by their impotence, waited for the success that had to be. A rush of panic lit their eyes. While one was fumbling with a box of matches, the others faced along the street, spellbound by what they saw.
The host had thrown open the inner door and immediately was assailed by petrol fumes. Glass was everywhere. A forty watt globe in its jacket of grime swung on its long lead from the ceiling, its coolie-shade flicking shadows around the room. A hand was pushing a flaming cloth through the jagged window while its owner’s face was pressed hard against the grid. Behind in the street, the others had begun to shout and fluster; they were alternating their attention between the house and what they saw along the street.

The cloth dropped in front of a thick trail of black smoke and settled on the linoleum floor. It burned sporadically before it petered out and signalled its distress with a single puff of smoke. The hand had not withdrawn fully when the head against the grid burst open.
Rane joined his host in the doorway and caught sight of a red mess sliding down the broken glass. An arm poked through the grid and held the corpse pinned to the front of the house. Through a shadowy montage of blood and broken skin, uncertain furniture and sullen trinkets in glass casing, through the shattered window and grid, through to where the neon spluttered, Rane discovered a pinprick in the canvas that suffocated his dreams. The spectral howl of beasts rained down upon him as he watched the attackers being surrounded by armed men in blue uniforms. For a fraction of time it takes a heart to beat, he passed through the canvas and witnessed that which had to be seen. A Boschian drama unfolded before him and he was repulsed by it.
Rane had not heard the sound of arrest, or the keys in the lock, nor the inner door opening. Nor did he hear the bone snap in the forearm as the corpse was wrenched from the grid. The men in blue were opening their mouths, but the sound was a cry from behind the canvas, and he was looking out from within, back through the canvas at himself and Juno and their host, talking with the men in blue and the faces through the wire in the back of the police van.
‘And you say that the young one came and knocked at your door in the afternoon?’
‘That’s right, sergeant.’
‘And these four?’ the police sergeant wrote answers quickly before he lifted his eyes for another answer, ‘You say you saw them breaking your house windows?’
‘That’s correct, sergeant!’
‘Then that should be all for the moment, sir. Can I ask you to call at the station so that we can prepare a statement for court?’
‘I wouldn’t miss the opportunity, sergeant.’
‘Good night, sir.’
The police drove away with four faces at the wire; four faces with eyes soaked in misery as they peered at their past. The van turned the corner and suddenly the street lit up. Those who had espied the drama from behind darkened curtains now had their lights on. Radios blared and babies screamed for mother.
‘Who switched on the all-clear?’ Juno snorted derisively.
‘Yes, when it comes down to it, Juno,’ said their host with disdain, ‘we are always alone when we are alone.’

‘That’s a hard sentence to fault, mate!’ surmised Juno as she and Rane followed their host back into the house. Another pane of glass, coated thickly with the dead boy’s brains, fell to the linoleum floor. The host closed the grid and the doors and the house was left with its fly open and its private parts exposed to the street.


Beyond the curtains, beyond the painted glass and the hastily placed plank of plywood across the window, the night had deepened. Footsteps in the lane, people shouting, the clatter of things left behind. The shop door opened with a creak. Dark was the street without lights except for strips that flecked white plastic bags scattered like vanquished banshees before the streaky winds. It had become a time when no one was around. At the end of the street, beneath the changing lights of red, amber and green dogs had gathered.
‘You can’t walk by yourselves in these streets.’ the host warned. His coat was on and he had a stick. ‘Anyway, you two are so stoned the gunjabel could mistake your eyes for parking lights. You could be booked for illegal use of the footpath.’
There were six of them. Bullying, biting, froth-at-the-mouth dogs, glued to the meat in their jaws. They were a green image of Hades which, seconds ago, had glowed red and amber. One bitch twisted her hindquarters away from the approaching humans and snarled a desperate warning.
The host moved quickly. He ripped a lid off a metal garbage can and frisbeed it into the dogs. Two smaller mongrels yelped and fled. The bitch and her companions held their ground, alternately dipping their snouts into the carrion on the footpath, and tearing flesh from the open stomach then rearing their heads in exalted cry.
‘That’s a bloke!’ Rane cried in severe alarm.
‘Don’t worry! He’ll be gone by morning. Those dogs will finish most of it now and cart the rest off for souvenirs. People here breed dogs to clean up the streets!’
‘Which people?’ Rane asked with increasing alarm. An arm was being carried in the jaws of an Alsatian. The bitch was dragging the corpse away from the other dogs. They were following with teeth snapping at the trailing strips of flesh.
‘People who fear.’
‘You’re kidding!’
A car sped past and was gone, soaked by the gloom. Behind the buildings, blocks away to the west, a clock chimed.

‘I have seen fresh graves opened for the starving to jump down and dig their bony fingers into the flesh of the dead. I have watched people leave and never come back. And they never get anywhere either. They just cease. I understand waste. I understand that violence comes from waste. People can’t just watch as other waste. What is here is something you cannot understand. I cannot understand it. The dogs cannot leave meat to waste. Nature has no time for waste. I think it’s better the dogs than the flies and the rats and the disease. Someone goes out and puts a bit of water and later it’s alright. The horizons have changed and people don’t know where to look anymore. That’s all, brother. That bloke came to the city when he should have stayed at home. He didn’t belong. Simple as that! He did not know that you must have protection from the dogs. He didn’t know. He shouldn’t have come here.’
‘No one should die like that.’ said Rane with horror clamped to his heart.
‘No? Oh, shit! I need you to tell me that? Hey?’ the host’s humour had detached itself for a while and he was clumsy without it. ‘People from communities suffer from cultural conflict when they hit the city. Shit! They become paranoid because they don’t belong.’
They had reached the edge of the block where the park takes over. The tubular building on the hill twinkled in the falling mist. Their apartment was a square shadow on the forty-seventh floor, a lonely little pigeonhole awaiting the return of its birds.
Their host had departed. During the walk the night had soured his cheer and when he turned to go back his face had closed for the night.


The people in the street were behaving horribly! A woman was limping and smoke trailed her, like exhaust. In one arm was a wrapped baby, in the other a tiny hand of a toddler being dragged. His wails of protest were nothing but an open mouth and anguished eyes in a frightened little face.
‘Shit! What’s going on?’
They travelled south behind an extended beam of light. Signs and signals and backs of houses were brightened as they passed another town. This time they didn’t stop. Soon the lights bore on into the countryside and caught the occasional clump of trees growing close to the line. Elsewhere it was black and an ethereal patina reflected mosaics of sedentary people on the move; stationary and inside the travelling spheres.

Rane’s eyes were out of focus, spinning with the winds he felt in his mind. The woman was speaking a lullaby of her son’s life, of her time in the brick house when her husband worked on the mines, of the streets where the rivers of fallen rain washed away her garden, of the lantern above the doorway when her husband came home and the children came in from their games. She was inviting Rane into her memory and he was following helplessly. The intrigue, impressions and smells and noises and music of the streets of Harare, the grittiness of the earth between his toes as he roamed the districts she had known very long ago.
Then Rane was there as her son got off the train and wandered in company as the passengers walked home. Slowly the crowd dwindled then her son was alone, through the darkness and smoke, nervously touching the brown envelope in his pocket, wishing to be safe in his room.
Rane saw them come from behind. Figures in a silent movie. Her son knew they were there. He closed his eyes and continued, mechanically, toward his certain death. The tsotsis were quick and Rane sensed her son was dead from the first wound because the eyes showed defeat before the body fell to the ground.
Her son was cut to ribbons by men who enjoyed butchery. The envelope was taken before they left, before they urinated on their victim, before they cut out the heart.


Rane was dissolving in the magical brew of the mist when the woman stood. When she walked away Rane stood to follow. He couldn’t. The dream had disturbed him. The chaos was no longer. He had found a gateway into the place he had lost.
Rane suddenly fumbled with his face, pulling the skin until his eyes were starved of sanity.
The images were clearer now but were restricted to bits of information, such as the death of the man whose head exploded and wet his friends in the crowd. Then sounds became audible and they were sounds of people fleeing, of people being stripped of their lives. Some had given up their flight and were kneeling before their gods while others were shot as they tried to break through the cordon of death. Then there was nothing but a pungent whiteness and a burning in his face then again the bodies torn in two.

A woman’s hand hung by a thread of obstinate tissue. The ring finger was missing and a splintered bone cast a faint protest through the burnt skin. Then, like bloated melon pips, her eyes popped out of her face and she was gone, and tarnished men in tarnished uniforms were lighting cigarettes; a silent smoko for the deceased!
The old woman’s eyes narrowed to a point of pain; she was extending her withered fingers toward Rane. The words had no sound that he knew. But he knew their meaning: ‘Are you married?’ she was asking and then she cackled harshly. Then, as if she were watching something awful, she answered, ‘No!’ with a dreadful noise from her throat, ‘nor can mothers join the war!’
The stretched dry skin of her face crumbled as she frowned, ‘Those who die must leave no grief!’
The pffft pffft of the silencer and the thudsuck noise of flesh being torn; the brown man’s neck wound was moist and he was trying to stifle the groan coming from his neck in bubbles ‘... splutter squelch...!’ Rane heard him say in that avenue of dream language, and a torrent of liquid spurted when he moved. Blood was flowing quickly, rivulets of crimson mapping contours down his shirt and forming a lake of curious gravy on the car floor.
A flash bulb whitened Rane’s face. He struck out blindly at the silver haze. He felt a warm moist pain in his hand. He had smudged the wall with knuckle blood and he was now shaking with fright.
‘Shit! Where is this?’ he blurted. His head hurt. His mouth stank of dead mice and he was biting at the air in a bout of dementia. Coloured pain was travelling through his head, into capillaries and secret dens and his brain came alive in his eyes and limestone cavities which flowed like blood vessels; and he knew for a long time the tiny people had lived in the earth. They were slender people who had run from the giants.


Rane sat vacantly through the night. He was watching a reflection of himself. His eyes were the luminescent eyes of a burnt-out man who’d been crying. Suddenly his face was difficult to see. Across a stumpy field of white ornamental tombs, he saw his brother’s name. The giant who was his father had buried McLuhan alongside Dali beneath a frosted forest of flowers. He whispered some words to his father as cockatoos argued in the eucalypts. He saw his father look back at him through his dream, as though perplexed by a sense of deja vu. Then his father vanished and ...

Frank and Hans were amid chaos as they filtered through his vision and they were kneeling with his father as the crowd gathered and ...
Rane’s nerves settled and he was calm. There was no furtiveness to his face now. His eyes were allowed to relax and to shut out the light. He no longer strained to see through the black of his mind. He was numb when another summer arrived and an enervating breeze carried its nectar and nature through his soul. Blossoms had become fruit and the cloying humidity reminded him ... he was reluctantly admitting the pain into his dream ... reluctant to feel the awful ache of amputation. Dali and McLuhan had been close but he had nudged them into their graves.
Down by the river, among the trees where the pollen fell like winter snow, he wandered, following her perfume, listening to her familiar song until he knew it off by heart ... a word of her smile would attach itself to him before dropping off somewhere he could not trace. There was no wind, just the heavy music of summer.
‘Stop the noise!’ he shouted again.
There was a shocked silence around the table. Then, like an image fading, they began their gamblers’ babble and Rane was quickly forgotten. He had gathered the courage to halt the sound but in retrospect it must have seemed petty. Even Juno wrapped her arms in encouragement around his waist.
‘Are ya gunna stand like that all fuckin’ night or what?’ McLuhan demanded with an oafish grin.
Rane composed himself as the music softened and went from his mind. The perfume tantalised him and he urgently welcomed her to his side.
‘Come on, mate!’ Lamont dug him gently in the ribs, ‘they don’t seem to like us here. We’re leaving! You are coming, aren’t you, Rane?’
Rane said nothing. He stood and stared at the roulette for a few minutes more before joining them outside.
‘Did ya win anything?’
It was Dali with a laugh on her face.
‘I’m not sure.’
Rane stared at his sister strangely.
‘Take it from me, mate!’ said McLuhan brightly, ‘anythin’ can happen on the right night. Ya comin?’’
It was Rane who followed the others down the hill to the black and grey van gathering bat’s piss in the park.