“Stop that!” snapped Luigi, his black-olive eyes flashing angrily. “Stop it!” He waited for a minute then added, more quietly, “There’s no harm in being a slut for a while. To get it out of your system. And if … if you need love … if you need sex … with a man … well, sometimes you can’t find Mr Right so you have to accept Mr Right Now.”
Cody shook his head. “If I hadn’t been out hunting he wouldn’t have found me.”
“He’s the bad one here, Cody. Not you. He’s the evil one. You did no wrong.”
“Yes I did. I lied to Phillippa. I lied to you. I went from man to man, just for the fuck.”
All three of them knew that Cody would never have talked like this if he hadn’t been so shocked by what had happened to him over the last few days.
“Coads … please … whatever you’ve done—and I know you’ve done wrong and that was why I was so angry with you—you are not to blame for a psychopathic pervert picking you up and drugging you and raping you and torturing you. There’s noting wrong with meeting a bloke at a pub and going back with him. Nothing.”
“I feel so hollow, Lou. After you … I was empty. I went out that night to find someone to … someone to love. And I got him instead.”
“We’ll talk about it in the car on the way home. OK?” Luigi didn’t want to discuss this any further with Michael present.
“You should go to the police. You won’t be safe until you do. And thwarted, he’ll be out there looking for new victims.” Michael was insistent.
“Yeah. And I’ll be in all the newspapers. And that’ll be the end. Of everything. My marriage. My job. My life.”
Luigi’s face was filled with love but his tone was firm. “Michael’s right. If you don’t you’ll never again feel safe. He’s got your mobile, right, your driver’s licence which has your address on it, and your name? He knows all about you. And Coads …. you must help stop him. You’ll be the first real lead the police have.”
Cody’s eyes darkened in despair. He nodded.
Luigi turned to Michael. “Could you phone your dad? Now? I know it’s very early, but …”
Lucasta Ellesmere didn’t think much of the architecture and buildings of Melbourne she saw on the way from the airport. But she didn’t mind. That wasn’t important. Jason seemed happier, which was. The black despair had gone. She had no illusions about grief, and anyway came from a generation which gave it its proper respect and space. She knew Jason would always love Brent. She’d seen them together and she’d seen how they looked at each other when no one else was looking. She’d seen their body language together, the unmistakable ties which connect a loving couple. And she’d watched Jason’s bleak self-disgust after Brent killed himself. His mother had been quite useless and his father … well he was her son, and she loved him, but there was no getting away from it, he wouldn’t argue with his wife. Her icy silences and poisonous sulks made life for everyone a misery—unless she got her way. Always.
Lucasta had tried hard to provide the motherly love her grandchildren needed and weren’t getting from their mother. It wasn’t always easy. Their mother combined a solipsistic perspective of all that happened around her but was also jealous of the relationship her children had with their grandmother. Jason and Amanda were closer to their grandmother than Mark was. Lucasta should have loved Mark more, because he was the spitting image in every way of her own son. Instead she found him too conservative and conventional. She wondered why women became more unconventional and ready to break the unwritten rules as they got older, while men became on the whole more conservative and crusty.
She dozed. She was tired. She wasn’t as young as she’d been, it was true.
“Have you had breakfast? No point in racing down to the police station since the …” Michael hesitated for a second “… killer … is long gone. A cup of tea and some quick brekkie will set us up for everything we’ve got to do this morning.”
“Michael, you’ve done so much for us already—I dunno. We don’t want to impose.” What Luigi really wanted was to take Cody right away from there and help him start rebuilding his life. But he knew that that wasn’t going to happen, that the effects of what had happened might stay with him for ever.
“Your mate here was nearly killed. What kind of a person would I be if I could just walk away from that?” He stopped for a minute. “You’ve had a brush with evil,” he said to Cody, “and you need … well … look, the rest of us must try and offset that. Try and make up for it.” He spoke simply and hesitantly, as if he was embarrassed at having to make the explanation. To him, his actions clearly seemed completely logical and right.
Luigi felt an immediate rush of liking for the other man. So he smiled, little aware that even with straight men, his beauty was so extraordinary that when his face was filled with happiness or affection it made him irresistible. Michael’s smile in return was startled.
Luigi looked at Cody and then back at Michael and accepted for them both. Cody was in no fit state to make rational decisions.
Michael stepped back from the door and gestured them inside.
The cottage inside was small but charming, so carefully and tastefully decorated that Luigi began to wonder whether Michael wasn’t after all gay.
“Come through here.” Michael ushered them through to the kitchen. He filled and put on the kettle and said, “Scrambled eggs on toast?”
Luigi spoke for Cody again when he accepted. “Can I help?” he asked.
“Plates are in that cupboard over there,” replied Michael gesturing to a worn dresser in the corner.
Cody sat down at the able and didn’t speak. His eyes were hollow and his face expressionless. Luigi glanced at him, now very worried. He would have to talk soon, talk properly. Rape, torture, nearly murdered. Even the sanest and strongest would be profoundly affected by such things. And Luigi was certain that Cody wasn’t very strong. He also wondered whether Cody’s wife would be able to help him. When she found out what Cody had been doing when he’d been taken by the murderer, she would be so angry and so unhappy she would want to lash out. She would be dealing with her own issues as well as his. And if Cody were thrown out, or he left her, how would he cope? He didn’t know how much Cody loved her, but even if he didn’t much, he must love his children. For a moment Luigi was lost in the memories of being a toddler and a small boy, before the pressure to be straight started, when his parents still loved him.
“Eat something, Coads,” he urged. “It could be a marathon session with the police. You’ll need to keep your strength.”
But Cody barely shook his head, staring at the table-top.
Luigi sat down next to Cody and took his hand.
“Coads, if you let yourself get broken by what that bastard did to you, he’ll have won. You have your whole life ahead of you.”
“It sounds OK … but … I feel … dirty. I … I can’t explain it, Lou.” He pulled his hand away from Luigi’s, and put his head into his hands.
Luigi felt a surge of intense rage build in him. Not towards Cody, but towards the man who had done this to him. Generations of Sicilian ancestors who had fought bitter vendettas rose up in him and he knew the chill certainty that if he ever got the opportunity, he would personally send the killer to hell. He didn’t let his deep anger show to Cody. Instead, he took Cody’s hand back and said, “Coraggio, mio amore. We will fight back. And we will win. Eat now.” And as if he was feeding a baby, he offered the scrambled eggs little by little to Cody, holding the spoon up to the other man’s mouth and making little encouraging noises while he did it. His own scrambled eggs grew cold on the plate.
“I’m going to call my mate in the Police now,” said Michael. “Is that OK?”
Luigi nodded. Cody didn’t speak.
“Hey, Colin—Sorry to call so early in the morning—Yeah I can hear Julia yelling in the background—What’s wrong with her?—That’s no good. Something I’ve got to look forward to. Mate, I’ve got somebody here who needs to talk to you urgently.—Yeah.—Yeah, it’s important, very important—I mean it Colin, ya drongo.—In fifteen?—Yeah. I’ll see you there.”
He snapped his phone closed and said, “OK, we’ll meet him at the police station in fifteen minutes. He’s just dealing with his daughter Julia who’s been sick all night. So he’s helping his wife with the kids and stuff.”
Luigi was still sitting next to Cody. Cody slumped even further and Luigi squeezed his hand.
“Hey, Coads, it’ll be OK. I’ll be with you.” He looked at Michael.
“Yeah. I’ll stay with you too. And Colin … he’s a good bloke. He’s not like the old policemen, who’re a homophobic bunch of wankers. He won’t judge you, Cody. Remember, you’re the victim here, and he’ll see it that way too. He’s a mate of mine. He’s in our footy club and cricket club and he’s a top bloke, really. The problem will come, if it comes, when the detectives and the higher-ups arrive. And just in case, I’m going to involve my dad.”
“I can’t afford a lawyer,” groaned Cody in despair.
“But I can!” said Luigi. “I’ll pay,” he said to Michael.
“My dad or anyway his firm might do it pro bono.” When he saw Luigi’s incomprehension, he added, “for free!”
He paused then said, “I’ll just go’nd get him.”
“Where is he?” inquired Luigi puzzled.
“Up at the main house.” Seeing that Luigi was still puzzled, he continued, “This cottage is the old gate house. My folks live up in the”—he hesitated for a second or two, and Luigi intuited that he was looking for the right word before he settled on—“house a bit higher up the mountain.” He looked at both the others. “Will you be OK? I won’t be long.”
“Yeah. And … thank you.”
“No worries, mate. It’s my pleasure.”
“My life is finished, isn’t it?” Cody didn’t look at Luigi as he said this. Luigi didn’t know how to answer. How would Cody explain this to his wife? He squeezed Cody’s hand but remained silent.
“After I’d escaped … after Michael found me … I was glad that I’d got my life back. It was as if I’d been given a whole new life, you know. I thought I was going to die. And I didn’t. But … my life has ended, really, hasn’t it? My marriage … Phillippa won’t forgive me. So it’ll be divorce. And I’ll never get to see my kids. They don’t, you know.”
“Don’t what?” murmured Luigi, still stroking his hand.
“Give custody to gay fathers.”
Luigi thought that all too likely, so he said nothing.
“I’ll have to pay support. And I’ll lose my job.”
“They can’t sack you for being gay! It’s illegal!”
“Don’t be stupid, Lou. Of course they won’t sack me for being gay … they’ll find another reason. They don’t even have to give a reason. And when I go for my new job … I won’t be able to give them as a reference, because if I do, they’ll phone up and they’ll be told. About the homo who got carved up by the Mount Macedon Murderer. And that’ll be that. And if I leave that part of my resumé blank they’ll ask what I was doing then. In jail? On the dole? I’m stuffed, Lou. Finished. Royally fucked.”
A thought suddenly struck Luigi. “Christ! How long were you captive, do you think?”
“Fuck knows. It seemed forever. A few days? What’s today?”
“He took me last week. Wednesday?”
“Yes. I saw you.”
Cody looked at him in wonder. “I remember. You smiled at me. Oh, Lou.” And he began to weep again.
“Coads … Cody love … we have to tell your wife. You’ve been gone a week. She must be out of her mind with worry.” He handed his phone to Cody and stepped out of hearing.
“Mrs Ellesmere, we’re nearly there. Jace, I’ll stop the car just outside the house and you can get out and help your nan to the door while I find parking.”
Lucasta Ellesmere woke up with a start. The car was turning into a street lined with 19th century terrace houses, fronted with plane trees, their leaves just starting to turn for autumn. The names on the terraces showed the English or at least British origin of their builders and owners. “Surry Court” presumably after the collector earl who spelled his name like that such a bore always being beheaded and attainted though they eventually got their title back didn’t they not that it helped those who’d been beheaded poor things what if the blade wasn’t sharp enough or the axeman inept? “Devon Place” such a charming county and so much milder climate that the north though she was quite partial to a good winter storm provided the fires were kept up she didn’t think she could live in Malaysia with that continuous heat though Lucy seemed happy enough but then you can get used to practically anything.
And then, giving her a start, “Ellesmere Terrace” with three houses in the terrace, each named after a woman, “Emily”, “Betty” and “Mildred” she supposed the builder’s or the owner’s daughters how charming he must have adored them but that name “Ellesmere” almost as if it were meant though perhaps he was from the Lake District so beautiful she must take Parker there when she got back to England. But the significance of the name bounced around her head and made her feel oddly happy. It was right that Jason might find himself here, in this street, in this outflung post of Empire.
They were there. Majorca Flats was written in embossed plaster moulding above the central door in a line of five terraced houses. Above the moulding was a small gable, much less ornate than was common for that period, the late 1880s, she guessed, though of course that was the time of art nouveau wasn’t it all elegant smooth curves and art à la Japonaise and she expected that the speculator who built the terrace had been to Europe and seen the world and probably shocked his neighbours with the new simple lines but really it was rather lovely especially on a warm golden early-autumn day.
The door was open and standing there leaning on a stick was an elderly lady with iron-grey hair up in a bun and an adorable little fox terrier rushing backwards and forwards from her feet to the gate yipping with excitement.
Jason opened the gate and grabbed the dog. “He’s called Bolt, gran, because that’s what he does if the gate’s open! You go through, and Keith and I’ll bring the cases. Eleanor, this is my gran Lucasta Ellesmere, grandam this is Eleanor Cumberledge.”
“Delighted, my dear, I’m sure,” exclaimed Lucasta, immediately taking a liking to the other woman. “So nice to meet you at last Jason has said so much about you I simply had to come and see Australia you know. Wonderful.” She waved her hand vaguely behind her at the street.
“You must be worn to a frazzle, Mrs Ellesmere, just exhausted. It’s such a long flight and it just goes on and on, and travel is so very tiring. Come in, come in, and welcome! Jason, if you could grab Bolt before he trips your grandmother up!”
“Oh I have a dog too, such a character a Pekingese or at least the mother but the father was a travelling man as they say though should we call it now a Beijingese really sometimes all this not offending people goes too far don’t you think?” She bent down and patted Bolt and rubbed him behind his ears. Bolt rolled over to be stroked on his tummy.
“We can have tea on the veranda,” said Eleanor. “I expect you need a cup or two. Jason, your gran’s room is the one next to yours.”
Keith arrived and Jason introduced him to Eleanor Cumberledge. The two young men carried the cases through to the room.
“So this is ya room?” asked Keith, standing at the door of Jason’s room. “Oi loik it.”
“Yeah. I like your flat, though. You’re lucky. It’s really nice.”
“Yeah. You could live with me there if you want.” Keith didn’t know where this sudden proposal came from, and as soon as he’d said it, he wished he hadn’t.
Jason stepped close to him and put one hand on Keith’s junk and the other behind Keith’s head. Looking directly into Keith’s eyes, he said, “Man, I half live there already. But … working together and spending all our off time together … would it work out? I don’t want to lose you, Key, love. Not after Brent. And I … well … I think I’m half in love with you and Lou and I don’t want to spoil it.” He kissed Keith, softly at first and then deeply, his hand squeezing Keith’s doings. Then he leant his head against Keith’s shoulder. His breath tickled Keith’s neck. They stood like this for a long time, not moving, their whole bodies pressed against each other. They could both feel the other’s erection.
Even though Keith’s invitation had been turned down, his heart beat with happiness. His hard-on was easy to ignore when his heart was so full. All the same, after several minutes he said with a lewd grin, “Maybe we could go back there later and, you know, get to know each other better.”
Jason slapped Keith’s bum. “Yeah, I could feel you were getting excited, you perve.”
They went and joined the two old ladies.
Jason and Keith joined Lucasta and Eleanor on the back veranda for tea. They were already talking nineteen-to-the-dozen as they sipped their tea.
When Jason and Eleanor Cumberledge had tea, she invariably used the bone china cups, and a cheap but well-loved china teapot. For his grandmother, Eleanor was still using the usual Wedgwood, but she had unearthed an exquisitely beautiful blue and white Spode teapot. Reassuringly, she had also brought out the worn Arnott’s biscuit tin, and he felt a sudden prickle of tears as he realised how much Eleanor had come to mean to him. The familiar rituals of their almost daily tea times had made him feel at home, accepted, cared for, in a way he’d never felt with his parents. It felt odd and rather wonderful to have these two old ladies together.
“Keith and I have put your bags in your room, grandam.”
“Thank you dear.”
“Keith, would you like some tea?” asked Eleanor. “And biscuits? There’re some in the tin.”
She poured tea for Keith and passed him the milk jug and the biscuit tin.
“Jason, your usual?”
“Thank you, Eleanor, yes.”
“These biscuits are delicious, Mrs Cumberledge!” Keith was telling the truth.
“Thank you! I made them myself, from an old recipe.”
“Quite delicious, my dear. Perhaps you can give me the recipe before I leave shop-bought biscuits aren’t a patch on the home-made kind.”
“W-e-l-l,” said Keith, “when I tried it once they came out of the oven blackened and hard as cement!”
Lucasta Ellesmere laughed. “My first biscuits were too,” she said. “Inedible!”
“You need lessons,” said Eleanor. “You must come round again sometime soon and I can show you how.”
“That’d be wonderful! I’d love that.” Keith meant it. He missed not having his parents in his life. Kindness from someone who could be his mother or grandmother made him feel that not having parents was endurable. In a way, Tom filled the rôle of father, but he had no one to take the place of his mother or his nan. He hadn’t seen or spoken to his family since his father had thrown him out of home. He always said that they could all get fucked. But he missed those connections all the same.
The Watcher stared through the binoculars at this group. The escape of his latest victim had left him unsatisfied and angry. This was the first time one of his chosen had ever escaped. And now The Lord was angry with him because he had failed. That morning when he had prayed, he had felt His eyes on him, cold with anger. Failure, he’d heard whispered behind him as he knelt in front of His candles and His image. Useless vessel. Worthless.
So why was he looking at the twink and the old lady and her new friends? The twink wasn’t even gay. The Lord didn’t want him to waste time on straights, even if they had sex before marriage and were filthy fornicators. No. The Lord wanted him to rid the world of the evil of homosexuality. Staring at straight young men would not help that cause. He must not take the first easy steps down the path to sin and perdition.
But his tension remained unassuaged. God let him have sex with his victims as a reward for ridding the world of homosexual evil. He knew that. God had told him. And when he killed he would always cum, more copiously and more profoundly than he ever otherwise did. This was God’s reward for his arduous task. This time, though, he’d been baulked of his reward.
He watched Jason and Keith, and imagined them under him as he thrust into them. Careful! he warned himself. You are forced to consort with filth but you must take care you do it with a long stick, or you will be defiled yourself. He remembered Father McAlister’s beatings, his lectures and rebukes while he’d been made to stand for hours in his underwear on the icy flagstones of the manse. He had Father McAlister to thank that he’d turned away from sin. He wondered for a second or two whether the voice in his head was Jesus’s or Father McAlister’s. The Irish burr in it …. but he rejected that suggestion. Satan was ever ready to turn him from The Lord’s path, to seduce him down into the furnace.
He would start again tonight, selecting a new victim. God’s work was never done.
“Hello” The tone was tentative. An early-morning phone call was seldom good news.
“Phillippa, it’s me.” Cody’s voice trembled.
“Oh God! What happened? Where’ve you been? I’ve been out of my mind with worry. I went to the police!”
“I was,” Cody stopped and swallowed, “taken by the Mount Macedon murderer. He held me captive. I escaped this morning.”
“How? But what happened, Co? Where did he hold you? Why? How did you escape?”
“Phil, slow down. I was …” and then he started to cry. He was unable to continue.
Luigi took the phone from him. “Hey, I’m Luigi. Remember, we met a while ago.”
“Yes, I remember. We were taking Tyler for a walk.”
“Yes. I’m Cody’s friend. I’m bringing him home as soon as we’ve spoken to the police. He’s in a terrible state.”
“Where are you?” asked Phillippa.
“In Mt Macedon. We’re just going to the police now. And a doctor, too.”
“What happened! Did he hurt Cody?”
“Yes. Cody will explain as soon as he gets home.” As he said this, Michael came in through the cottage’s back door, with an older man, clearly his father. “We have to go now. Phillippa, don’t call Cody’s mobile. The killer’s got it. Call this number.”
Phillippa was too upset to think clearly. “What is the number?” she asked, not thinking that it would show up in her mobile’s call log.
Patiently, Luigi gave it to her. Only then did she start to weep.
After he closed his phone, he sat for a minute grieving for the impending collapse in Cody’s marriage, and for all the unhappiness and sorrow which was being unleashed.
“Cody, this is my dad, Charles. Dad, Cody.” Michael’s dad was a handsome man in his late fifties, with a mane of blond hair and an air of authority and power.
“How d’ye do?” he said, reaching out his right hand.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. …” answered Cody, shaking hands.
“Mason. But please call me Charles. As I said to Michael on the way down, I don’t think there will be any problem with this first interview with the police. Later on there may well be. The police have a serious problem with homophobia and racism in their ranks. It’s not as bad as it was. But it’s still there. So I’ll call the office at 8.30 and get somebody allocated to your case. He or she will sit in on all your interviews. I’d do it myself, but my speciality these days is commercial law, and anyway, I’m in court most of this week.”
“Thank you.” Cody knew what he had to say but he was too shocked and depressed to put any enthusiasm into his conversation.
“Dad, this is Luigi. Luigi, my dad, Charles Mason.”
“G’day, Mr Mason.”
Charles Mason shook Luigi’s hand. His gaze was sharp. Luigi felt he would be a formidable questioner in court. But there was also goodwill and kindness in his face, and Luigi was able to thank him for his help with a sincerity and gratitude that Cody hadn’t been able to.
“If you follow me in your car, I’ll show you the way,” said Michael.
“All right,” said Luigi.
They drove in convoy down the mountain to the rolling hills at the base. They turned up a side street lined with pin oaks and came in a few moments to a 1930s wooden house with the blue police notice outside.
As the car pulled over to the edge of the road outside the police station, Cody said, “I can’t do this, Lou. I can’t expose myself to the police, to the media. I can’t.”
“Coads, you are already on the police books. Your wife has already reported you missing. And you are at risk from this bloke until he is caught.”
Cody stared away out of the window, obviously finding the tree in its autumn dress in front of the police station compellingly fascinating. He swallowed and the muscles in his jaw moved but he said nothing.
“You said you’d got your life back. And you were grateful. You have to face up to this Coads. To put it behind you. You have a whole life ahead of you. It seems that nothing will ever be right again. But it will, love. This is the low point. From now on it’ll gradually get better.”
“Promise?” Cody turned to look at Luigi. His eyes were dark with despair.
Luigi locked eyes with Cody but couldn’t bring himself to speak or even nod.
After a moment Cody opened the passenger door and got out. Without a word, his head bent, he went up to Michael who was waiting at the gate in the hedge in front of the police station.
Heart dark with foreboding and sorrow, Luigi climbed out of the car and joined them.
“Hey, Col!” Michael smiled at the man who opened the door. He was in uniform but without his cap.
“Mikie babe!” Colin shook his hand vigorously then turned to Luigi and Cody.
“Ah, Colin, this is Luigi. This is Cody.”
“G’day! Come inside.”
They went in to the building. The police station was a single room in the front of the building, with a desk and police public service notices on the walls. There was a table with four shabby chairs round it. Through the open door leading to the back of the house came a toddler’s wail.
“Sorry about that,” said Colin. “It’s my daughter and she’s sick as. And feeling very sorry for herself.”
Luigi nodded. Cody just stared at the table.
“Right, let’s begin. Is it OK if I record this? I’ll take notes but the recording helps jog my memory. And anyway, the detective branch will want a record. I’m going to use my personal video camera because, well, we’re such a small police station, we don’t have an official one.”
When Cody didn’t answer, Luigi put his hand on Cody’s arm, and said quietly, “Come on, love, we’ll get through this.” He was determined not to let the fact that he was in a police station stop him showing his love. And anyway, Cody needed him to be there for him.
Cody nodded. “OK,” he muttered.
The police constable set up the video camera on a tripod. “It’s my hobby,” he explained.
“Colin takes all the team photos and videos,” added Michael.
It all seemed rather intimate and personal to Luigi. He had imagined some anonymous windowless room, like they showed on TV, with hostile sneering policemen. This homely police station with its single low-ranking policeman and its worn furniture and desk hardly gave the impression of cutting-edge detection.
Colin smiled at Cody. “Let’s begin.” He turned on the video camera, tested the view and the sound and set it to record.
“Senior constable Colin de Graves at Macedon Police station, Thursday ____________. Please, Cody, could you give me your full name and address.”
Luigi looked Colin in surprise. This was a grand name. The de Graves family was very prominent in the state. Why was a young de Graves a mere constable in a small country town when he could be someone and something important and glamorous in the city? A lawyer? A politician in training?
In a monotone, Cody answered, not looking at either the camera or Colin.
“Can you tell me what happened?” His voice was calm and kind and without judgement.