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For the next couple of days, your can buy my anthology ‘PASSERBY’ for 99cents US at Smashwords.

If you do take up this offer can you please write a review at Smashwords or iBooks [Apple] or Amazon [Kindle].

Reviews drive sales and people take notice.

It doesn’t have to be a lot of words, just an overall impression of the collection.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Remember, it is only at this price for a couple of days then it goes back to its full price.

This is my way of saying thank you to the people who have supported me along the way.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/499283

An AK47 and a Banana.

 

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A bloody fingerprint on my credit card made the store clerk hesitate for a moment, but I guess he wanted to finish his shift with a minimum of fuss because he put through the transaction, handed back my card and wished me a good day, all without a single change in facial expression.

My facial expression, on the other hand, could be described as one of grimace. Not the bloke in the McDonald’s commercials, but the one where you are in a lot of pain and it has to show somewhere, even though you don’t want it to.

There was a chance that a bloody fingerprint was a part of everyday life for this bloke. Maybe, he even kept a chart of how many he encountered in a shift.

There it goes again; my mind.

Probably a side effect of losing so much blood.

It’s difficult to think clearly. Fortunately, a lot of thinking is not required. All I have to do is slow down the bleeding enough so that I am still alive at this time tomorrow. The meeting isn’t far from here and no one takes any notice of a slightly disreputable character in this part of the city. 

Melbourne is good that way; ‘big money’ and ‘down and outs’ mix freely, as long as they don’t get in each other’s way.

The bandages and gauze were enough to cover the wound, but at some stage I was going to have to find the courage to stitch it; was not looking forward to that.

It was Sunday and the tourists were out in force.

Lots of kids, and mums and dads.

Cameras and carry bags, giggling teenage girls and puffed up teenage boys, none of them interested in me.

Twenty-four hours is not a long time in most people’s lives, but it was to me, especially since I acquired that hole in my side.

Once it was over, if I was still standing, I was going sort out the bloke who perforated me, but till then I needed a quite place to sit.

I turned down one of the myriads of laneways that criss-cross Melbourne and I come across a sign that said the Conan Doyle Society was meeting for an afternoon of mediumship. The sign gave a start time, but I had no idea what time it was because my wristwatch was lying in pieces not far from where the fight started.

There seemed to be a bit of activity so I entered.

The building was very old and I passed through an open doorway that was crafted about hundred and fifty years ago.

The walls were brick and there was a faint smell of dust in the air.

“Don’t worry about the dusty smell. It will dissipate in a little while. The building only gets used on Sundays. Ghosts play here during the week.” The lady who told me this, was about sixty years old with a smile that suggested that she had left a trail of broken hearts in her wake in her younger days, and now, for all I knew.

The windows of the building were vaulted and filled with clear leadlight. The floors were Baltic Pine and the plethora of humanity that had trodden on them had sculptured them into hills and valleys around the tight knots in the wood.

Very old padded chairs were being laid out in rows by helpers who looked as old as the building itself.

A tiny lady, who was not much bigger than the chair she was carrying, said to me, “Sit here young fellow. You’ll get a good view. You look like you could use a good ‘sit down’. You sit here and I’ll get you a cup of tea.”

“You haven’t got something stronger than tea, have you lady?”

“No, but I know how you feel. I could go a good snort myself.”

I laughed and my side hurt.

The cup of tea had milk and about four sugars in it. I didn’t mind.

The chairs continued to come out through a small door, the same door that the cup of tea had come through and I wondered how many more rooms there were to this place.

Within a little while, the hall filled up with people and soon, none of the forty-odd chairs were empty.

Before the cup of tea and the kilo of sugar, I had been feeling quite sleepy, but now I was wide awake.

The lady running the show stepped to the microphone, which I had not noticed and welcomed us all.

She gave a particular welcome to all the ‘newcomers’ and looked directly at me. She introduced the two people who were seated behind her and gave their names, but I was not taking much notice.

She mentioned that this group had been meeting for about one hundred and twenty years, under various names, and that its current name dated from a visit by the renown author at the turn of the previous century.

A few people nodded and the tiny lady who had supplied my cup of tea, said something out loud and the woman at the microphone agreed with her.

This was getting interesting.

The lady sitting next to me didn’t seem to mind that I looked like I’d been in a fight; which I had.

The speaker introduced one of the people behind her, a Trevor someone, and he spoke to the assembled crowd.

He walked across to one side of the hall and asked a woman if she would like a reading. She said yes, and the fun began.

Trevor described a man in fine detail and asked the woman if she recognised this person. She promptly burst into tears and a box of tissues appeared out of nowhere. Trevor gave her a moment to compose herself and then he went on with a bit more description and ended with a message. “The gentleman wants you to know that it is okay with him if you want to get married again, and could you please make sure that the rose bushes get pruned.”

This went on for more than an hour and the two people on the platform took it in turns to read for various members of the audience.

I was enjoying myself, but the ‘over the counter’ painkillers were beginning to wear off and I had a monster headache.

I was feeling sorry for myself when I realised that this Trevor character was speaking to me. “May I come to you sir? Yes, you, the gentleman with the coat and the upturned collar.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Can you speak up sir, so the audience can hear you, also I’m a bit hard of hearing.”

YES, I GUESS SO. Knock yourself out.”

“Thank you, sir. May I have your name?”

“It’s Sam.”

“Thank you, Sam. I have a woman with me, she’s presenting in her late sixties wearing men’s work clothes, and she has grey hair. Can you place such a person?”

“Not at the moment, but I had a girlfriend who looked like that a few years back.” I enjoyed the laughter from the audience but Trevor only smiled.

“She’s carrying an AK47 in one hand and a banana in the other. Can you place that?”

A cold shiver went down my back.

“Yes, I think I can.” I was in shock.

“She’s wearing Army boots and one of them is laced with string. She says that she always carried a banana because she never knew how long it would be between meals. She wants you to know that the wound in your side will result in your death if you don’t have it seen to today.”

Trevor stopped talking and every eye in the hall was turned in my direction.

Trevor continued. “This lady is telling me that killing people is not the way. Even though she was defending her country against invasion, nothing good came of killing the soldiers that came under her sights. She says that she has met up with them, ‘over there’ and they have made their peace. The soldier who killed her has done the same. She wants you to know that love is the only way. If you try to hold out, without treatment, to make that meeting tomorrow, you will die from your injuries. Oh, and she said that you should eat more bananas and ring your dad once in a while. Can I leave that with you Sam?”

“Yes, you can, and thank you.”

I’m not sure why I thanked him; it just seemed like the right thing to do.

The meeting broke up and food appeared out of nowhere and conversation broke out in several places.

The chairs disappeared as fast as they had arrived and we all stood around eating cake and drinking tea.

I was probably half dead by this stage but I have to say that those were the best scones and jam and cream I have ever tasted.

I found Trevor and told him about my ancestor who had valiantly and vainly fought off the Soviet invasion of her country in 1956. I wasn’t born yet but family legend had her name up in lights. My ancestors were mostly ordinary people living ordinary lives, except for the convicts who started our line here in Australia; and then there was Maria, the freedom fighter.

Sixty-three years of age.

She could field strip and reassemble an AK47 in the dark.

The AK47 was, and still is, the weapon of choice of the freedom fighter, but for all its virtues, it is not very accurate at range, but somehow Maria became the best sniper in her group.

Sadly for Maria, the Resistance was not able to hold out for very long. It was all over in a couple of days, and at the end of it all there were only broken dreams and a family legend.

Things got a bit fuzzy after that, but I do remember waking up in the emergency ward at the Alfred Hospital.

I had become quite a celebrity.

Apparently, a very small older lady had carried me in on her back, saying that I needed attention for a knife would.

She disappeared not long after, but not before she rearranged the chairs in the waiting room.

“You’ll get more people in if you spread them out like that.”

The Triage Nurse was okay with the new arrangement and she didn’t think that any of it was particularly strange.

I guess nurses get to see some pretty strange shit in the course of a day.

I was laid up for a while and I had to spin an interesting tale to get the cops off my back, but eventually they said I could go home.

The following Sunday I went looking for that laneway but the doors were closed and there was no one about.

I’m not discouraged though; I’ll go back next week and see what happens.

I get the feeling that I’ll never look at a banana or an AK47 in quite the same way, ever again.   

 

  

Tea or Coffee?

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I switched from tea to coffee and it still didn’t help.

I started using the fine silver teapot, but he didn’t notice.

I had my hair done in the latest style, and he didn’t notice.

A pretty dress and nice shoes went unnoticed.

Conversation was nonexistent.

I tried shocking him into noticing me. “Would you like me to fellate you before you go to work dear?” He hesitated for quite a while, which wasn’t the reaction I expected, but finally he said, “That’s okay dear, I’ll get a sandwich at work.”

I’ve tried everything and I’m about to give up.

It’s time I took action.

The chap who fixes our radio is coming around early in the afternoon, maybe he can help.

I’m sure, if I ask him nicely, he will be able to suggest a course of action.

Such a fine young man. 

Sam Bennett Case Files: Antonio.

araneus1:

Who would have thought that fruit could get you into trouble……..

Originally posted on The Long Weekendd:

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Sam’s life took a strange turn whenever he ate watermelon.

Other people were affected by the phases of the moon or by stepping into an unexpected puddle, but for Sam it always seemed to be watermelon.

No one had pointed this out, Sam had worked it out, all by himself.

Sam’s watermelon dealer had a stall at the Queen Victoria Market.

Many nefarious characters could be found at the Queen Vic’, and information was there for the asking. Watermelon and information went hand in hand with Sam, as did an espresso and a cold beer.

Unfortunately watermelon is a seasonal fruit so its delights were only available during the warmer months. Melbourne summers were famous for melting the skin off your neck and a cool slice helped to ease the discomfort.

Sam had noticed Antonio at the Market and wondered why he was wandering around on school days. Having skipped…

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The Adventures of Rufus: A Mouse not quite in the House.

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If anyone finds out, I’m in deep shit.

My job is to protect my mistress, but everyone knows that terriers are really good at catching, and killing mice.

My problem is that one of my best friends is a mouse.

It’s a long story so maybe I should start at the beginning.

When I was in the litter, and not much older than a bottle of milk, my mum taught me that we all have a job in life and that is why our human feeds us; because we are of service. She said that some of us would be pets and it would be our job to bark a lot whenever strangers got too close to the house. She also said that we came from a long line of mousers. I didn’t really understand what that meant, but I tried to make it look like I knew what she was talking about.

I asked one of the older pups what ‘mouser’ meant and he explained that because we are very patient and very fast, we are good at catching and killing mice.

I’d never seen a ‘mice’ so I was curious to find out what they looked like. I hoped that they were not as big as the horse that lived on our farm because I wasn’t sure I could catch and kill one of those. As it turned out, mice are small and furry and they dart about quite quickly so they are hard to catch.

One sunny autumn afternoon I was in the barn looking for a mouse to chase; just for practice.

I climbed up the tall ladder because I thought that maybe mice liked to be up high. I was a good climber for a young dog, but I found that being up high made me feel funny. Everything started to spin around and I found it difficult to stand up. I staggered around a bit and got my back leg caught up in a length of rope. I got a bit scared and toppled off the landing and found myself hanging in mid air suspended by the rope attached to my back leg. It hurt and I felt sick. Hanging upside down is only fun for a short while, then it gets scary.

To make it worse, I hadn’t seen any mice. My whole day was a complete failure and heaven only knew how long it would be before someone found me. I could starve, or die of thirst, or my leg could fall off. I was in real trouble.

“Do you need any help?” The voice was tiny and I could not hear where it was coming from.

“Well, do you?”

“Yes, I’m stuck. Can you get me down?” I said to whoever it was who was offering assistance.

“I could chew thru the rope, but you would be hurt when you hit the ground, so I had better move some straw under you.”

“Makes sense to me.” At this stage, any help was welcome. I could hear something rustling around in the straw and it was tiny. Whatever it was, it was going to take a long time for it to move enough straw to break my fall.

I must have passed out, or fallen asleep, because when I awoke there was a small pile of straw on the floor directly under me. It wasn’t very thick, and it occurred to me that my landing was still going to hurt.

Someone was nibbling on the rope above me and before too long I heard a small voice say, “Brace yourself, I’m nearly through the rope.”

“Okay, I’m ready,” I said.

“You won’t eat me once you get free will you?”

“Of course not, why would I?”

“I’m a mouse, and terriers catch mice.”

“Don’t worry little mouse. You are saving me so I’ll make sure that the other dogs leave you alone.” At this point, I wasn’t sure how I was going to achieve this promise, but I would worry about that when I was free again.

The mouse finished his job and I hit the floor hard. One of my back legs hurt a lot, but I could walk.

I was in a lot of pain, but I did say thank you to the invisible mouse before I limped off back to my pack.

My mum said I was very foolish and she licked me all over, twice!

My leg hurt for a couple of days but it soon came good and there were no long lasting ill-effects.

I went back to the barn a few times, but I didn’t find the mouse who helped me. I wasn’t sure how I would recognise him, even if I did run into him.

It was getting close to the time that I would have to go out into the world and work with my own human. Two of my brothers had already gone to their new homes. My mum was sad each time it happened, but she always said that that it is the way of the world, children grow up and leave home and make a life for themselves. It all seemed a bit scary to me, but I tried not to show it. Terriers are tough and I didn’t want anyone thinking I was weak. Mum told me to make a fuss of the strange humans who came to look at the litter, but I didn’t need telling, I like humans. Naturally, I’ve heard some bad stories, but so far I’ve only come across kind humans.

It seemed like I would be leaving any day when I made a final visit to the barn. A couple of older dogs were barking at something behind a hay bale. I could hear the mouse squeaking and I knew it was trapped. I recognised his voice and I boldly jumped into the middle of the action and barked at the older dogs.

For a second, they stopped and then they growled at me. I think they thought I was trying to steal the mouse for myself. I had to do some pretty fancy talking to get them to believe my story. They called me a bunch of bad names, but they let the mouse go free. I had kept my promise, but I was not sure what would happen the next time because I would not be around to save him.

The mouse and I talked it over and decided that he had better come with me when I get collected. This was going to be a lot harder than it sounded.

I had worked out that the humans usually brought a box with them when they came to collect one of my brothers or sisters, and the mouse would have to be smart enough and quick enough to get into that box without being seen. I could create a small diversion, but it would not give him very much time. If they saw him, they would surely kill him. People don’t like mice. He was indeed, taking his life into his hands, but I guess he knew that this hair-brained scheme was better than being cornered in the barn the second I left.

The mouse stayed close to me for the next couple of days. He hid out under a broken plant pot not far from the front door of the big house. He only came out at night and only long enough to eat and drink.

On the third day, some strange humans came to where our litter was and the big one picked me up and looked right at me. He said something to the other human and put me down on the ground and attached a lead to my collar. I’d only been wearing the collar for a few days and I didn’t like it much, but every dog seemed to have one so I put up with it.

As they led me towards their car there was a box on the ground close by. I saw the mouse start to run in its direction and I began to bark as loud as I could, which wasn’t very loud, but it did the trick. Everyone looked at me, which gave the mouse time to climb into the box and hide under the blanket.

I wasn’t too happy that the humans laughed at me for barking. They were supposed to be frightened, but I guessed that my bark would get louder as I got older, so I didn’t worry about it too much.

Getting the mouse out of the box was easier than getting him into it and he has been living with us ever since. It’s only me and my mistress these days, she got rid of the male human, apparently he was, “a no good, good for nothing, waste of space.” I guessed that this meant that he wasn’t pulling his weight, and doing his job, whatever that was.

I like the way things are now. I don’t get lonely. I have lots of adventures and I have my mistress and the mouse to talk to, but I have to keep them apart.

She really doesn’t like mice.

For such a small pleasant creature, they sure do stir up some bad feeling. I’ve talked to the mouse about it and he doesn’t understand it either. That’s life I guess.

As far as I know, I’m the only terrier who has a mouse as a friend, but then again, maybe there are others, and maybe, just like me, they don’t want anyone to know.

I have to go now.

Mouse is expecting me.

We are going to walk down to the creek and sit on a log and talk about life.

The Missing Man In A Room With A Window.

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“………….. most nights he could recall

oceans in the city

the myth of floods the

missing man in the room with a window

his eyes closed only in sleep…………”

From ‘Lineage 1’ by lost ironies

Are you truly missing if no one misses you?

Don’t bother to answer, I know the answer; I got myself into this.

The room is about the size of a shipping container, and not one of those super-sized ones either, just a regular one. If this room were a shipping container it would be painted a faded red with letters stencilled on it that only a dock worker would understand.

I don’t mind that this is a small room; I don’t take up much space. Mostly, I sit in this corner and stare at the sky though my only window. If it was positioned a little lower on the wall I could probably see the people in the street, but then again, that would mean that they could see me; don’t want that.

A thicker cushion would be nice, but the one I’m sitting on works well enough, as long as I fluff it up from time to time.

Speaking of time; it passes very slowly in this room.

When you are ‘missing’ and it wasn’t up to you, time is mixed with terror of the unknown. When you are missing and it was your choice, time is mixed with fear and regret.

I don’t want to get all ‘Zen’ on your arse; just saying.

If you ask most people [as long as you catch them at a good moment], they will tell you that all you need is a roof over your head, a bite to eat and someone to love. At the moment, I have two of those things, but I used to have all three.

My food comes from Mrs Wang’s Chinese kitchen on the corner of State and Wilson streets.

I knew Mrs Wang, back in the day, and she knows how to keep her mouth shut. Mind you, a closed mouth costs money and mine is rapidly running out. Mrs Wang leaves my food outside the door, that way she can say that she hasn’t seen me if anyone asks.

Mrs Wang could equivocate with the best of them.

The Spanish Inquisition would not have had a chance with Mrs Wang.

I prefer my own company, but one of the downsides of being on your own is that you begin to lose track of the passage of time. Not in a ‘twenty-four hour’ sense but in a ‘days of the week’, ‘weeks in the month’ kind of way. It doesn’t really matter either way; I have to stay ‘lost’ for as long as possible and when the money runs out we will find out.

For all I know everyone I ever knew is dead. For all I know I may already be dead. How do you know when you are dead? They certainly didn’t teach me that at Catholic school.

I wonder if it is like getting an overdue notice for your electricity bill. “Dear sir, we regret to inform you that you are no longer alive. We are sorry if this causes you any inconvenience. Could you please have your soul polished as soon as possible and don’t forget to report for a debrief on your most recent life. Please note that if you were foolish enough to choose Earth for your most recent incarnation you are entitled to an additional weeks leave before having to report in. We understand that Rigal 5 is particularly good at this time of the universe. There are always spots open in the choir and tennis lessons are free for new arrivals.”

Maybe not, but being dead can’t be as bad as not knowing. I could ask Mrs Wang, but that would cost me. For the moment, being the missing man in a room with a window is my safest option, and besides, tomorrow it’s egg rolls as well as beef and black bean sauce.

Sam Bennett’s Case Files: Fireman Ken.

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I learned very early on that it is a waste of time talking to the president, the top dog, the bloke who runs everything.

Why? Because these blokes are just cheerleaders.

It’s their job to tell you that everything is just fine; everything is going great. That’s why the CEO of some big company goes on television to squash all the rumours about his multi-billion dollar company. It’s to give his broker time to liquidate his holdings without driving the price down. Within a week or two there is a small item on page nine about a CEO who skipped the country on his private jet with two large suitcases stuffed with everyone else’s money.

So that’s why I don’t bother.

It’s my job to find out stuff. So, if I want to know what happened in a hospital I ask a porter.

They have nothing invested in the politics of the place and a ‘twenty’ seems like a lot of money to someone on minimum wage. They are ‘invisible,’ so people talk when they are around them, as though they aren’t there.

So, when the shit hit the fan at 206 Rae Street in Fitzroy, I asked a fireman. The lowest ranked fireman I could find.

His name was Ken and he was a big bloke and a little bit too old to be a rookie. He had done all sorts of things previously but being a fireman seemed like a steady job to Ken, so he tried out and succeeded. Which was an achievement in itself, because they don’t make it easy. The physical stuff was easy enough, but the academic side proved to be a challenge. Ken left school in year nine.

That’s probably not the best way to put it; Ken was asked to leave. Apparently there was a girl involved, but Ken said there was a whole bunch of them, but one in particular caused his sudden exit from the halls of academia. The principal’s daughter was a year older than Ken, but Ken was fully grown, and at six foot four he was almost as wide as he was tall.

The Principal gave him a choice, leave or he would call the police. Ken decided to leave. Apart from the continuous supply of girls, he wasn’t really enjoying himself anyway.

A couple of dozen jobs and a number of years later and Ken finds himself as part of a crew that is called to a house fire in Fitzroy.

The senior man knocked on the front door, but it did not open. At this stage, there were no obvious signs of fire so the urgency level is low.

A voice came from inside the house.

“Go away.”

“I’m sorry madam, but there has been a report of a fire and we must come in and make sure that there isn’t any danger.”

“Go away.” The female voice was becoming more insistent, but so was the senior fireman.

“Look lady, we’ve got a job to do. Just open up, let us have a look around and we will be on our way.”

“Go away.”

“Open the door lady or we are going to break it down.” The senior turned to Ken and gave him the nod. Ken got into position and began to swing the axe when the door opened just enough for the old woman to stick her head out.

“Go away, we ain’t got no fire.”

The senior pushed past her and the men moved rapidly through the dark hallway to the back of the house.

As they moved out into the back yard it became obvious where the fire was. Two large couches were well alight and as the property backed onto a creek, the neighbours on the other bank had probably called in the fire.

It was quickly extinguished and probationary Ken got the grunt job of filling out the report, which included listing that every room in the house had been assessed as free from fire. This seemed strange to me, but Ken said that, ‘unexplained’ fires often break out in multiple locations within a house; this is shorthand for arson.

Ken did as he was told and the last room to check on was the room they went past as they first entered the building. 

The old lady had hold of the door knob.

“You don’t need to check in there.”

“Yes, I do,” says Ken, and brushes her aside.

When he opened the door he saw a table with about eight blokes sitting around it. They were playing cards and by Ken’s guess, the pot looked like it contained about ten thousand dollars. These were obviously dodgy and seriously dangerous people. Ken was worried that they might remember his face, but it seemed that no one in the room took their eyes off the money while the door was open.

“Everything seems to be fine in here,” says Ken and quickly shuts the door. Fortunately, the truck was packed and waiting for Ken to finish.

“Drive. Drive now,” said Ken in a voice that suggested that he would someday make an excellent senior officer.

I asked Ken if the bloke I was looking for was in that room and he said he was. He also asked me not to tell anyone who told me. As I mentioned, Ken was a big bloke but he seemed genuinely scared. This was a wise reaction. The bloke I was looking for was a bad person. He’d done a reasonable job of faking his own death, but now that I knew he was still alive, I’d pass the information along to the police. They wouldn’t drag their feet either. They wanted this bloke badly, and they were disappointed when it appeared that he had been killed. No body, but plenty of evidence to persuade the top brass to shift their resources to another case. I knew a particular Detective Inspector who was going to be very pleased to hear my news.

My clients would not pay me until this bloke was arrested, but I could wait.

Always talk to the little fish; they know what is going on, and they can always use a little extra spending money.

Whispers Under The Wing.

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Five is the perfect number; any more than that and bad things happen.

I was a white fella living in a house with a bunch of blackfellas; a whole family in fact. Uncles, brothers, sisters and cousins, with a few aunties and a distant cousin thrown in for good measure. Fortunately, the house is huge. It was built for some mega rich bloke a decade or so after the gold rush. Melbourne was awash with gold money and grand houses were all the rage. Pointless being rich if you couldn’t show off, and a huge house on a big chunk of land was the best way to show that you had more money than the next bloke.

Over time, most of the land had been subdivided and sold off as various owners needed cash. The house needs a bit of work but it is in amazing condition considering it is about one hundred and forty years old. It stands four stories high with large majestic windows. Every bedroom has its own fireplace and a carved wooden fire-surround with scenes depicting Australian flora and fauna. There are many other carved pieces throughout the house and it is these features that are said to have influenced Billy’s grandmother to choose this house.

Billy was the first to make his mark; the first to make his fortune, and in the tradition of the blackfella, if one member of a Koori family makes it big, all members of the family share in that good fortune.

Lightening struck many times with this family and soon Billy’s brother’s followed in his musical success while his sister’s paintings found a market. Many of the cousins are musicians, and painters, and potters, and you name it; if it is creative, at least one member of this huge family is into it, which is just as well as it costs a small fortune to keep this house running. Koories don’t go nuts when they come into money, not like whitefellas do, but even so the house eats up a big chunk of change.

Kooris are an accepting lot but even so, bringing me into the house caused a bit of tension; the only whitefella to be seen.

The neighbours are all white, of course, and they are patiently waiting for this huge family to sell up just so they can get their property values to rise again. I don’t think that is going to happen any time soon.

The way we got together is way too long a story but the important part is that we did, and it only seems to work if all five of us are ‘under the wing’ at the same time. I’m always on the end, which is the worst place to be if something goes wrong.

Back in the day, back when the family members discovered this ability, the younger members experimented with the idea of adding more people to the wing. Trouble is, just like the rest of life, if you pick the wrong people, shit happens.

Someone thought that the ability would get stronger the more people you added, but as I said before, five is the magic number, and the right five at that.

So, the young ones kept adding more and more people until one day they found this bloke lying in a ditch with symptoms just like someone who had been struck by lightning.

The Elders stepped in and forbade any further experimentation, but you know young people. Every now and then some teenager is found all dazed and singed, with his hair standing straight up and smouldering.

Billy always takes the centre spot with his brothers on each side, the annoying cousin gets the end spot on Billy’s right and, as the newcomer, I get the spot on his left wingtip.

The truth is that they need me and they know it, although you would never hear it from them, not out loud. My ability brings something to the group that they have never had before, and they like it.

The only part of the process that gives me the shits is the ‘whispering under the wing.’

When we wrap our arms around each others shoulders our individual abilities are multiplied by five to the power of two. Basically that means that as a group we are twenty-five times more powerful than any one of us on our own. Now, that is really something, and that magnifying factor only arrived when I joined. Add to that our combined ability to remote view at a huge distance, and you can see why they put up with the whitefella.

Part of our responsibility to the wider community is doing readings for individuals, couples and families. We do this once a week, and by appointment.

The problem, as I see it, is that as soon as we link, the whispers start. I call it ‘bitching under the wing’ and it makes me uncomfortable. Our combined ability means that we can see all the weaknesses of the people we are reading for. The whispers are all telepathic, but it still gives me the shits.

Being in this house, doing these readings, is as close as I have come to feeling like I’m part of something.

No one watches television in this house, there is always too much going on. Every night someone is playing an instrument. There is always someone preparing food in the huge old Victorian kitchen, and the cooks are artists in themselves. I’ve gained a bit of weight since I moved in here. My room is on the top floor and was probably one of the servants quarters. The irony is not lost on me. I have a magnificent view of the city in the distance, and I get to walk up and down the majestic staircase, every day. Some nights I lie on my bed and listen to the sounds coming from this ancient house. I doubt that it has ever been this alive in its long history.

My past is full of confusion and pain, but since Billy brought me into his extended family I have a home and a purpose, as well as a family.

Under the wing, my life is amazing.

White Gloves.

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I saw her reflection in the window of the Tobacconist.

She was crossing the street and heading for the restaurant at The Windsor Hotel.

You might be wondering how I knew where she was going.

Wonder no more.

Where else would a beautiful young lady be going, at that hour of the day, dressed so impeccably?

Her lipstick matched the colour of her dress.

Her handbag was suitably casual and her figure was close to perfect. She had the kind of body that made you wish you could win a scholarship to undertake further study.

She was smoothing down a stray hair as she stepped off the kerb and as if by magic, the busy lunchtime traffic came to a halt.

If I’d tried it you would have read about the carnage in the evening paper, but this is 1957 after all, and a beautiful woman will always stop traffic in this modern age.

I’ve got a thing about white gloves.

My mum had a draw full of gloves and they always smelled amazing. She looked great when she wore them.

When things got to be too much she would dress up and keep me home from school.

We’d walk down to the tram stop and jump on the first number 12 that came along. The journey to the city took about half an hour and we would travel that distance without conversation.

I would sit next to her and feel her warmth and smell her perfume. Sometimes she would hold my hand.

White gloves.

When she could not be here anymore they found her, perfectly dressed, careful makeup and white gloves.

I was outside the Windsor on a routine ‘follow and report’.

Not my usual pastime, but a friend was shorthanded and I didn’t have much on. Melbourne is quiet now that the Olympics is over. Most of the juicy crime has moved back to Sydney.

The lady in red was still delaying traffic when I saw my mark enter the Hotel. The bookstore next to the Tobacconists would be a good place to wait; no one notices a person in a bookstore and the staff know to leave the customers alone.

Fortunately the ‘classics’ section was close to the front window so I picked out a Tolstoy and settled in for a long wait.

The curtains on the dining room at the Windsor were draped but not completely closed, so I could see my mark sitting one table in and to the left of the main window.

I was expecting to be waiting for at least an hour but my curiosity, professional and otherwise, wanted to know who else would be seated at his table.

A well placed ten pound note would get me all the information I needed from the staff, but that would come later, for now I just wanted to see for myself.

I didn’t have long to wait before a large, not very tall, bald man in a bad suit sat opposite my mark. Their demeanour suggested that they knew each other but I doubt that they spent their holidays together.

Four minutes later, the bald bloke got up and left; there was no handshake, but he didn’t tip a glass of beer over him either.

Next to the man’s description I wrote, ‘strange, short meeting’.

To my delight, the lady in red, fresh from her traffic stopping duties, appeared in the window and stood approximately where the bald, bad suit had sat.

My mark grew about two inches in his chair and to put it mildly, he looked a little bit surprised.

There was too much traffic, too much distance and too much glass for me to be able to hear their conversation.

But, as the man said, ‘actions speak louder than words’.

The lady in red opened her casual handbag and reached into it with her perfectly gloved hand and pulled out what looked a lot like a chrome plated .25 calibre Browning automatic.

I didn’t hear the bangs; a .25 doesn’t make a lot of noise and the slugs it projects are not likely to do a lot of damage unless they land in the right spot, and at that range ‘white gloves’ was not going to miss.

My mark made a face that made it look like a large dog had attached itself to his family jewels, then he slid gracefully off his chair.

Miss ‘white gloves’ must have hit the spot.

I expected to see a flurry of red and white but to my surprise she slowly put the gun back into her casual purse and moved toward the door. I didn’t expect to see her emerge because there was a good chance someone would grab her now that her gun was back in her bag, but I was wrong again.

She stepped through the polished brass front doors, said something to the doorman, who smiled at her, then she stopped traffic again and walk toward my hiding place.

I expected to see a posse of concerned citizens come bursting through those shiny doors, but again I was off the mark.

“This is as good a place as any in the short term, but before too much more time goes by you might want to put a bit of distance between that dead bloke and yourself.”

“Yes, I guess that would be wise,” she said, looking slightly dazed.

“Would you like me to hail you a taxi?”

“Not just yet, I need to catch my breath.”

“Yeah, me too.” I wasn’t talking about catching my breath because of the shooting, I’d seen a lot of that, in and out of uniform. Waiting out a sniper was easy compared to dealing with a beautiful woman. A gunman only had one way of killing you, a beautiful woman could choose from dozens, and do it with a smile.

I hadn’t yet decided if ‘white gloves’ was one of these or not.

“If you don’t mind me asking, why did you do it?” My Tolstoy was light weight compared to what was unfolding in front of me so I put it down.

“It’s a long, boring story involving letters, photographs, husbands and broken vows. But, I want you to know that I came here to pay him.”

“Creeps like that never leave you be. He’d have bled you dry and then told your husband just so his next victim knew he meant business.”

“We had him in our home. He drank our whisky and ate my food. He seemed like a nice man. I thought I could reason with him, but as soon as I saw him, I knew. Even then I was reaching for the envelope, not the gun. He smiled at me and called me ‘sweety’. I put the envelope back and shot him. There was nothing else for it. He was never going to leave us alone. If he was just a lousy blackmailer, a creep out for a quick quid, I probably could have lived with it, but he smiled at me. He was enjoying my pain. No one treats me like that.”

“Remind me never to get you mad lady.”

“Do you have a car? Could you get me out of here?”

“I do, but it will take me a few minutes to retrieve it. Stay away from the window, the police will be here any minute. Russell Street is very close by. Wait five minutes and make your way to the back of the shop. Tell the girl you need to use the ladies room. I’ll be in the alley. I drive a grey Ford ’39 coupe. She’s old but she will get you out of here in one piece.”

I pulled my hat down over my eyes and resisted the urge to run to the car, but even at walking pace I had the old Ford at the back of what I thought was the book shop in time to see the lady in the red dress step into the laneway. Within moments she was in the car, beside me.

I’d been running on instinct up till then but now, in the relative silence, I was wondering why I was doing this.

There was a slight drizzle falling so I turned on the wipers.

If this went ‘pear shaped’ I was likely to be staring into a very bright light in the basement of Russell Street Police Headquarters before too long. I’d been rousted by the police a few times before, even been roughed up, but compared to my sergeant and the Japs, police were a bunch of light weights. Even so, I didn’t need the trouble.

After a few minutes it occurred to me that I was driving, but I didn’t know where.

“Where would you like to go?”

“Firstly, I need a drink, then I’d like to go home.”

“I can fix the first bit. There’s a bar I know where they don’t ask questions.”

Despite its name, Cafe What? was actually a bar.

It had been named that way for so long ago that no one could say with any accuracy how long it had been there, or who had come up with the name.

Everyone needs somewhere to go and the particular band of ‘everyone’ who went to Cafe What? were generally not welcome anywhere else. Being an outcast brings with it a fierce brand of loyalty towards other outcasts. No matter what happened at Cafe What?, when asked, everyone was deaf, mute and blind.

“If you need to go to the ladies room when we get there, just cross your legs and hold it.”

“Why?”

“Let’s just say that this isn’t the Windsor, and the last three people who went to the toilet here never came back. You usually need at least five tattoos to get into this place, but considering how good you look I think they will give you a pass. This place might come in handy if you need an alibi. Time is a fluid concept here, and for a large bunch of ‘tenners’ you could have arrived here any time you say.”

We drank something that had all the punch of a newborn kitten and then drank a couple more. She paid an exorbitant amount for the drinks and the rest of what was in that envelope for the certainty that she had been there all afternoon.

I drove her to the address she gave me, parked around the corner and took her inside.

“You’ve done all this for me and I don’t even know your name.”

“Names just get in the way. You might want to think about what you are going to say if the police come banging on your door.”

“I can think about that later, but for now I would like you to kiss me.”

I wasn’t taken completely by surprise. I am over twenty-one and this is 1957. The world spins a lot faster since the war ended.

I took off my hat and pushed her gently up against the wall. My lips were in working order and so were hers. I waited a polite amount of time before I pulled her dress up to her hips and put my hand between her thighs. She didn’t try and stop me and it is enough for you to know that I did what any good soldier would do in the circumstance. We moved around the house violently bumping each other for several hours. My legs felt like jelly by the time I walked out of her front door. I knew it was wise to park around the corner but now I was regretting it. My hat was the only part of me that didn’t hurt, but it took a week to get the smile off my face.

I don’t know why, and I don’t care, but the police never worked it out and the lady in red paid up for an alibi that she never needed.

The friend I was working for on that day asked me if I had seen what had happened and I gave him a smile. He got paid and so did I, and we went about our business.

I think about the lady in red from time to time and among the myriad of things I wonder about, one of them is why, throughout our torrid encounter, she never removed her white gloves.

  

Dinner, Dance and a Show.

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It sounds like the perfect formula for a Saturday night in a big city, anywhere in the world.

It took him a few weeks but eventually he worked up the courage to ask me.

I’d been dropping hints all over the place but, as my brother tells me, blokes go a bit dim around a woman they fancy. They might be tigers in the boardroom but a pretty face seems to turn off most of their synapses, which is cute but a little frustrating.

A couple of Fridays had gone by and I was beginning to think that he was not going to ask.

We all headed for the elevators after a glass of ‘bubbly’, generously supplied by our employer.

It happened every Friday night.

The boss would supply a half decent bottle of Yarra Valley Pinot Noir and we would break out the plastic cups and toast the end of a productive week, or otherwise.

Our manager was the only one on any floor of the building who did this and we all wondered why. He was a competent manager, which was more than you could say for most of them, but he hardly ever spoke a word.

He left us alone to get on with our job but it would have been nice if we could have checked in with him from time to time, just to get a bit of reassurance that we were doing our job well; but I guess you cannot have everything.

As I said, we were standing by the elevators feeling happy, which was a mix of a small amount of alcohol and the promise of two whole days and three nights without having to think about work.

“Ruby’s has a pretty good dance floor.”

For a moment I wasn’t sure that this comment was directed at me, but it was. Ross was standing on my right shoulder looking every inch of his six foot one. His suit needed a press but that was to be expected as the jacket had probably spent the day thrown over the back of a chair.

All the females had coat hangers; the males had the back of a chair.

He smelled good and I wondered what he was going to say next, but first he needed to hear from me.

“I like Ruby’s, but I haven’t been there for a while. Is the bartender still cute?”

“I wouldn’t know, but we could find out together, if you like?”

“That sounds a lot like an invitation. Let me check my diary.”

I made a pretence of looking through the diary on my phone, knowing full well that I had nothing planned for the weekend. Ross looked a little worried so I didn’t string it out.

“I’m free tomorrow night, but Sunday I’m flying down to Rio so I will need my beauty sleep.”

“Tomorrow night would be great. Can I pick you up at 7?”

“Yes you can. Would you like me to tell you where I live.”

Ross blushed at his oversight and I gave him the address.

“So we are on then? Dinner, Dance and Show?”

“Let’s see how the dinner and the dancing goes before we commit to sitting in the dark together.” I was kidding but Ross blushed again, and he had only just regained his normal colour. I remember thinking that I was going to like this bloke.

I spent a lot of time picking out the right outfit.

I didn’t want to appear too eager, but I didn’t want to remind him of his favourite aunt either.

The blue dress made me look fat and the red one said ‘take me down the nearest alley and have your way with me’, and the yellow one was too attractive to bees.

In the end, I took a chance and chose a dress that said, ‘It Saturday night, we are on the town, let’s see where this thing goes.’

I don’t normally engage in ‘horizontal folk-dancing’ on a first date, but I wore matching black lace undies, just in case.

As it turned out, the dinner was perfect, the conversation was better than I could have expected, the dancing was unexpectedly good, and the show didn’t put me to sleep.

He kissed me goodnight and didn’t suggest that he come up for coffee.

I would have said yes if he had suggested it but it was okay that he didn’t push himself forward. He proposed a late lunch the next day and I was delighted to say yes.

I waited at Emilios for more than an hour, but he didn’t turn up.

The police are waiting out in the foyer and I have no idea what to tell them other than he didn’t call me and he hasn’t been into work for three days. When they ask me about him I’ll tell them what I told you, everything, with the single exception of the small package he asked me to hold for him.

No, I haven’t opened it, and no, I’m not going to.

I see a lot of small packages in my work, and I don’t have to open this one to know what is in it.

I’m trying to work out if I’m part of this, or if his interest in me was more than a way to hide the diamonds.

No one in the office connected him and me, and the police didn’t ask any questions that gave the impression that they knew about us.

Love, lust, attraction, call it what you will, it’s strange and it makes people do funny things.

If I was being used as part of his escape, I’m going to be mad, and disappointed, but I’ll get over it.

He trusted me with his ill-gotten gains and I’m hoping that when he reappears, it will be for me as much as for the boodle.

I guess I’m a bit of a romantic, or a bit of a fool; you can decide.

I’m 37 and I no longer have stars in my eyes.

I still have my figure and by my estimation, I have 1.9 million dollars in cut diamonds in my freezer.

Life is no longer boring.

I wonder what would have happened if I had said no to his ‘night out’?

Dinner, Dance and a Show changed my life.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.