Ben the gimp racked up another pot of VB, leaned over the bar, real conspiratorial, then blurted, ''He was rooting her for years, y'know!''
I thought, not again. Some blokes see you with an eighteen-year-old in hot-pants, they get off on this shit. I grabbed the pot, watched a white head of grog float over the edge, caught it on my tongue.
''Dinkum!'' said Ben. He eyeballed me real close, even let a blowfly settle on the bar, blinked at it, thought about a swipe, thought again, watching me was obviously more interesting to him.
I slurped the pot, gimme VB over your poncy foreign brews any day. Ben's jaw jutted, jagged line of crooked teeth poked up like fence-posts . . . and, what was that, drool? He was drooling as he waited for me to go postal. Riding me for a move; the signs were more subtle in the clink.
''So, you, eh . . . you know? Gonna root the boot?'' he said.
I'd been bush just long enough to know what he meant. If I was cracking heads through, Ben was topping my list right now.
I lowered the pot.
''Ben, mate . . . you wouldn't be stirring shit would you?''
He swatted at the blowfly. Missed. Moved back from me real fast and flicked a bar-towel over his shoulder, ''Fuck off! Trying to be a mate that's all.''
He did the petted lip thing, my little sister Kimmy used to do this when she was about eight, nine . . . no later than ten for sure. I still remembered her ways.
''A mate, eh?''
''Bloody oath, try and do a fella a good turn and whatcha get?'' He didn't know what he was saying; he was still pumped on adrenaline from the job.
''I dunno, Ben, you tell me . . . what's a good turn?''
He got that faraway look in his eyes. Slapped palms on the bar, leaned in again, ''I'm telling you straight down the middle . . . that sheila bangs like a dunny door! She's my sister, I should know . . . there's more to being in this crew than lapping about in my old man's Valiant.''
He wrapped the bar-towel round the pumps, the blowfly settled down on the bar again. I swatted it with the heel of my hand. Showed Ben the blood and guts, little legs still twitching.
He turned down the corners of his mouth, dropped brows.
''That's fucking gross.''
''You want gross, Ben?''
There was no-one in the bar to see the
muzzle flash, hear the shot, or Ben's cry as the bullet lodged
between his eyes.
The Valiant started first time. Beaut set of wheels. Always loved these old cars.
''It's a heap,'' Angie had said when her old man offered it to me.
''Heap . . . girl, this is quality. Genuine piece of Aussie history this is!''
She flicked her hair back, those dark-blond curls making waves like the ocean behind us, ''I'm hungry, let's eat.''
Took her to Maccy Dees on Tower Hill, out by the Koorie co-op. I liked to listen to the crickets at this time of night, smell the eucalyptus breezing in.
''Whaddya want?'' said Angie.
''I'm good, thanks.''
''Not even a Coke?''
''Maybe a Coke, small one.''
She smiled as she spoke into the clown's nose, ordered herself a Big Mac, sprung for the 'Go Large' option when she was asked. As she leaned over she exposed her lower back above her trackie dacks . . . how did she stay in shape and eat all that comfort food?
We drove to the back lot. Corellas were scratching on the nature strip. Angie devoured the burger and fries, then set about washing it all down with the Coke.
''Daddy has some work for you?'' She wiped her chin as the Coke dribbled down the side of the cup.
''Yeah, says it's something you'll like-'' she opened the cup, took out an ice cube.
I liked two things, watching the Cats flog the Pies and the other . . . Angie climbed over the stick-shift, popping the ice-cube in her mouth.
''Mmh-hmh,'' she said, fiddling with the chord on her trackie dacks, and passing the ice-cube from her mouth to mine.
Was it all just a game to her?
I was making good time on the highway. Valiant took its time lapping in the 'burbs, but out on the proper roads, no dramas. Had the needle touching 100-Ks. Always made me jumpy travelling at speed on the way to a job. Never on the way back. Amazing how some sirens, few Mars lights, helps you get your shit together.
I felt hot, musta been a forty-degree day, in country Victoria, you remember those. You get one or two in a summer, it's a rarity.
The sides of the highway, the verges and trees, were burnt yellow. Not even a maggie digging for a feed. Out the back of the car a trail of dust kicked up.
I could feel sweat forming on my spine. Drops ran down my forehead, got in my eyes. I took the sleeve of my shirt, wiped.
I was coming into Camperdown as the phone rang on the passenger seat.
''Yeah, it's Jonny here . . .''
The voice on the other end was one I recognised straight off.
''Why the fuck are you not where you're supposed to be?'' said Patto.
What was I gonna tell him?
I'd thought of blowing him out?
That it was a last-minute change of heart?
Went with: ''I got . . . side-tracked.''
Patto roared. I could hear the Irish coming into his voice, most parts, I'd say it was left in the old country, but now and again it came back . . . usually when he was about to go Ned Kelly on someone's ass.
''Now, you listen here ye little gobshite, I will permanently end your ability to play the hard fuck by removing your tongue and any other protuberance I find to my feckin' fancy if you are not at exactly where you are supposed to be in the next fifteen minutes . . . do I make myself feckin' clear?''
Those Irish, real way with words.
I clicked the phone to end
Patto saw me pulling up in the Valiant and burst a blood vessel.
''You dumb Aussie fucker, what the hell are you bringing that piece of shit for?''
I wound down the window, it played on his nerves, kinda accentuated the car's vintage, ''It's your car.''
''I know it's my feckin' car . . . holy mother of God, that's why . . . look, fuck it!'' He called over to his feckless son, yelled at him: ''Ben, get those feckin' plates changed . . . and stick a feckin' rocket up yer arse would ye!''
We were late already. Later now with the plates change. I gunned the engine.
Patto and Ben sat silently in the backseat. Patto ran a hand over a Mossberg 12-gauge. I thought it looked a very sexual movement. Wondered what Freud would say? I saw Ben and Angie watch him too, they didn't seem to have the same feeling as I did. They didn't see it as sexual . . . it was fear I saw in their eyes.
The Valiant was a noisy car to take about town. The revs attracted glances.
''This will never feckin' do,'' said Patto.
I pushed him, ''Want to back out?''
He put the shooter to my head, ''Don't feckin' rile me, laddie.''
Ben placed an open hand on his father's shoulder, ''Come on, calm it, ay! We got a job to do, right here and now.'' It had the desired affect, Patto settled, I knew I never had that level of influence on my father. If I had, maybe Kimmy would still be with us.
I screeched the tyres to a halt.
Masks on - we dived out.
Angie was the first. Fearless. I guess she felt she had the least to lose.
The driver of the security truck had too little time to react before Ben put a round through the gap in his visor. He turned to his father grinning like an imbecile as the man twitched in his death throes.
''Drop the fucking box!'' yelled out Angie. The second guard stalled, his eyes fixed on the dead driver where he lay, head contents spilled on the asphalt.
''I said drop the fucking box!''
This time he complied. Angie took the box, and keys from his belt. Led the way back to the Valiant.
Inside of five, we were done.
Drove back to Patto's bar.
After the gunshot Patto came running through from the back carrying the Mossberg out in front of him. I had my Glock aimed on his shoulder, dropped him easier than tagging a roo. Angie appeared at his back, fistfuls of dollars from each hand fell all over him as she looked down.
I wanted to see her smile.
I wanted to see her sigh, in relief.
I wanted to see her run to me, open arms, shower thanks on me.
''Angie,'' I said. I put the Glock in my belt, went to her. Patto writhed on the floor, tried to get to the shooter. I picked it up, ''Angie, why the tears?''
She couldn't find words. Breath was trouble. She raised hands to her face.
''He's in pain.''
''So fucking what!'' I said.
Patto slapped about on the floor, grimaced in agony.
She started to pat her cheeks, make bellows of her face, ''He's in pain.''
''So fucking what,'' I repeated.
I knelt, put the Mossberg in his face.
He yelled out: ''Arggg, Jonny . . . yeer fucked!''
I wanted Angie to see him in agony, the way he'd seen her in agony - I hauled her down.
''Look at his face, remember that . . .'' I grabbed Patto's hair, he screamed as I smacked at his head, ''see the way he's squirming, trying to get away?''
She looked, her eyes wide. All colour left Angie's face. She was white as an angel, just like Kimmy, in her coffin.
''Angie, see him.'' I wanted her to see her father in pain, but more than that I wanted her to see him in terror. The kind of terror he'd inflicted on her, since she was a child.
''Angie, see him . . .'' she froze, I think she understood, I took the shooter and aimed it at Patto, but couldn't pull the trigger. I threw the gun down, it was too easy a way out for him.
''You dirty fucking bastard, your own daughter, how could you? . . . Your own daughter. How? You fucking animal.''
I knew the words I wanted to say, they came easily. They were the same words I'd wanted to say to my own father when Kimmy died; before he took the easy way out to avoid the back-lash.
''You dirty bastard, you dirty fucking bastard . . . your own daughter.''
I was crying. I could see the tears falling on Patto's chest. The look on his face was defiant though, he couldn't care what he'd done.
He smiled, laughed at me, ''You dumb bastard . . . the hoor loved every minute of it!''
I couldn't move as the Mossberg went off at my back.
I felt my ears ring.
One side of me went numb.
I turned to see Angie holding the gun, motionless.
Her face was cold, firm.
Dark blood pooled on the floor under Patto's groin.