“I was at a bar on Brunswick street. It’s not a gay bar.” He said this without expression, his voice dead, his eyes down. “The Labour in Vain. I was having a beer when this man sat down next to me. He started to chat me up. He seemed very nice. He was good looking. I went on chatting. I was … lonely.” Here he turned his head and looked at Luigi. His eyes were filled with profound pain.
Luigi’s own face was drawn. “Go on, love. Keep going. We can do this.”
Colin looked at him but didn’t intervene. Once again Luigi felt the oddness of the interview. But he reminded himself that Cody wasn’t a suspect. He was the victim. And this was just a preliminary interview. He was certain the detectives when they interviewed Cody would be much more hostile.
“He offered to buy me a beer. I accepted … but then … I felt dizzy. He said, ‘Better get you home, you’ve had enough,’ or something like that. He seemed so nice, so caring. And I wasn’t thinking, it was like I was drugged. He took me out to a combi van. And when I woke up I was in a room without windows. Maybe at the back of a garage, something like that. It was completely dark. There was a window but it was boarded up on the inside.” He stopped. “Could I have some water, please?”
“My hands were tied together, and my feet. Then he came in. He didn’t put on the light. He just—oh, God! —he just …” Cody stopped and swallowed. “He tied my legs back to the bed-head and he … fuck … he fucked me.” He stopped unable to continue. The silence in the room was broken only by soft voices from the house behind and by the temple-bell calls of magpies outside.
Cody swallowed the water. He looked at Colin, all at once angry. “I suppose you think that we like that sort of thing! That we enjoy being raped!”
Colin shook his head. “No. No one likes to be raped.” His face was wary.
Cody looked down at the table top. There was a tense silence. At last he said, “He didn’t use lube. He just … Then after that, every time he did it, it hurt. And he would shout and mutter things at me. ‘You’re a foul pervert!’ ‘This is your punishment from God’, stuff like that. Only he was getting off on it. He was hard, rigid with excitement. Oh, fucking Jesus, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have sex again.” He stopped again. “When I close my eyes,” he said at last, “I see his face. His eyes. Staring at me. Filled with hate. And he made me look at him. He cut me every time he fucked me.” Cody pulled off his T-shirt and turned so that they could see the cuts on his body. “And when I closed my eyes and refused to look at him … he … cut a chunk … out of me.” Cody jerkily pulled down the boardies Michael had lent him and showed them his buttocks, almost as if he were proud of it, as if he wanted to rub their face in the reality. The square inch hole in his flesh was scabbed but had started to bleed again.
There was a minute of complete silence.
“The first thing we do after this is to call an ambulance,” said Colin, his mouth a grim line of distaste and anger, though it wasn’t clear who he was angry with. “And you’re going to need a police guard. You saw his face. You know too much about him.”
“You can’t guard me forever.” Cody’s voice was very quiet.
“But we can catch the bastard. And we will. Believe me, Cody, we will nail him.”
“Police don’t care about us. About gay or bi blokes.” Cody shrugged fatalistically. “You couldn’t give a flying rat’s clacker for us.”
Colin looked at him. “I care,” he said. He reached up and turned off the video camera. He waited until they were all looking at him. “That’s why I recorded this. Normally a complaint made to the police isn’t recorded. But I wanted to make sure a record is made.”
Luigi was suspicious. How had he known that this was about the Mount Macedon murderer?
Colin put the camera on again. “The police are here to fight crime. And you’re not the criminal here, Cody. You haven’t broken any laws. And he has. He’s almost certainly killed four men already—that we know about. And that’s a crime. Rape is a crime. Abduction and kidnapping is a crime. Cutting you is a crime.” He looked at Cody. “Cody … if you help us, we’ll get him. We’ll stop him doing it again. And again. And again. It took courage to come forward, Cody. The police won’t let you down.”
He waited for a response from Cody, but there was silence.
He sighed. “We haven’t got an artist here or the software to draw a picture of this man. Can you give us a description of him?”
“He was my height, he was slim, with sort of rubbery folds on his face. You know how some people’s wrinkles are very tiny and thin, and others look like bloodhounds. Well, he had folds on his chin but they were thick. His eyes …” Cody paused and took another swallow of water, “ … they were grey maybe or blue—it was hard to tell because it was dark and his pupils were dilated—and his eyebrows were very bushy. His hair was a mixture of grey and black …”
“… Yeah,” interrupted Luigi, “salt-and-pepper.”
“You saw him?” asked Colin, sharply.
“Yes,” said Luigi flatly. “I saw him taking Cody. I thought Cody was with … someone he’d picked up.” I turned to Cody. “I saw you coming out of the bar. With him. And help you get into his Combi van. I should have gone up then and none of this would have happened.”
Cody looked at Luigi and sighed. “I’m sorry, Lou. I’m so sorry.”
“So’m I, Coads. Hey, let’s talk about this later.” Luigi looked deep into Cody’s eyes. “And we’ll get him. And he will pay.”
Looking at Luigi, no one doubted that if he got his hands on the murderer, the man who’d hurt his lover, he would pay. His Sicilian ancestry was visible in his face: strong, resolute, grim; and his eyes were black with anger and the desire for vengeance.
“It is an offence to take justice into your own hands. The police will catch him and he will be handed over for trial and he will pay the penalties for his crimes.” Colin’s tone was cool and firm.
Luigi just looked at him. Colin said, “I know you’re angry. And I know that you believe the police won’t do their job. But we will. And we’re the experts. And this is a case of murder. Multiple murder.”
Luigi nodded reluctantly.
Turning back to Cody, Colin asked, “Could you describe the van?”
“It was an old Combi shaggin’-waggon. A bit rusted. Inside it was fitted out like a campervan, with a bench and cupboards and curtains. He put me in a kind of chest which was underneath the seat.”
“Do you by any chance remember the number?”
Cody shook his head. Then he stopped. “Wait a minute,” he said, “on the side was the name ‘St Joseph’s’ or ‘St Michael’s’, saint something, anyway, like it was a school van or an orphanage or maybe some Catholic parish van, something like that. It was worn, I dunno, twenty years old? Maybe older. There was rust in places.”
Colin said, “End of interview,” and gave the time and switched off the camera. “Cody, thank you for coming forward. I know you would’ve preferred to keep this quiet. Lots of rape victims don’t want to talk about what’s been done to them. And that’s understandable. But your courage will allow us to catch him, to stop this happening again.” He looked at Cody waiting for a response. When none came, he said, “I’ll fill out the report form and you can sign it. And I’ll send you a copy of the video. Detectives will be in touch. If you would like to talk to me again, here’s my number.” He passed across a piece of paper with his name and a mobile number written on it. “Where can we contact you?”
Cody mumbled something.
Cody shouted, “FUCK! FUCK!” Then more quietly added, “I’m not going to be married much longer, right? And I don’t know where I’ll be staying. But just in case, here’s the number,” and he gave his home phone. He’d never given that to Luigi, and Luigi felt a quick surge of anger when he remembered that.
Colin turned to look at Luigi.
“If he needs a place to stay, he can stay with me.” Luigi’s voice was firm. The past was the past. For now Cody needed support. Later, they would decide what would happen. He gave his mobile number to the policeman.
“Now let me call an ambulance.”
“No!” Cody was definite.
“You’ve been injured.” Colin’s voice was quiet and kind. And firm. “And we need a medical report for evidence.” When Cody stubbornly shook his head again, Colin sighed. “Please, Cody. I know you don’t want anybody looking at it. I know that. And I understand it. But we need the evidence. And you need to be seen to, in case there’s internal damage. Maybe antibiotics, too.”
When Cody still didn’t answer, Colin said, “I can’t force you. You’re not a criminal or a suspect. But you’ve done so much so far. And this will help a lot in court.”
Cody nodded. “But no ambulance. Maybe a local doctor you know.”
“I don’t know anyone—well, anyone who wouldn’t judge.” Colin shook his head. “But I’ll see if I can get someone from the helpline. Let me go’nd make the call now.”
“Why are you being so kind to me?” Cody was angry and suspicious.
Colin looked at him for a moment. “This isn’t the 50s or the 60s any more, Cody. And you’re the victim. You haven’t done any wrong.”
“Yes I have. I’ve cheated on my wife. I’ve lied and deceived. I’ve whored around.” Cody’s bitterness cut.
“Stop it!” Luigi was angry. “There are worse things. Much worse. And … Coads … you’ve paid the price for it.”
Cody ignored Luigi. He stared down at his trembling hands. And then he started to weep, great wrenching sobs which made him shake.
Luigi took his hand, and caressed it, but didn’t speak, his face sombre. Colin and Michael were also silent as they waited for Cody to weep himself out.
When Cody’s sobbing had died down to a muted snuffling and hiccuping, Colin did a quick on-line search and then made a couple of phone calls from the telephone extension in the corner.
They could all hear what he was saying.
“Yes, it’s important. And urgent. He’ll be there in an hour. Can you send the report to me? This is my police email address. Yes. Yes, exactly. Just let me get the address and phone number. Thank you. I appreciate it.”
He put the phone down. “Right. I’ve found a gay doctor who’ll help you. He sounds like a good bloke.” He gave Luigi the address. “I said you’d be there in an hour. Will you be able to do that?”
“Yes.” Luigi was firm. He met Colin’s eyes. Colin was the first to look away.
Colin shook their hands as they left. At the door to the police station, he took Luigi’s arm. Leaning close to him, he said,
“Watch him closely. I think he … I think he might kill himself.”
Luigi turned towards him, startled. After a moment, he nodded, accepting the warning.
“Could I have your mobile number. I’d like to keep you posted. If you’re interested, I mean.”
Colin nodded, and gave it to him. Luigi entered it into his phone.
“He’s lucky to have you,” Colin said. “Maybe you’ll be all he has now. Look after him.”
“I will. Believe me.”
Luigi shook hands with Michael and Colin.
To Michael, he said, “I … we … don’t know how to thank you. You saved Cody’s life. Literally. We will be forever in your gratitude.” Cody didn’t speak, and the tears started trickling down his face and then, abruptly, he flung himself on Michael and grabbed him in a tight hug. He held him for a long time, while Michael patted his back and hugged him. At last, still without speaking, he got into the passenger side of the car.
“Thank you, both of you,” repeated Luigi. “We’ll be in touch.”
As he drove away, neither Colin nor Michael waved. Their faces as they watched Luigi and Cody drive away were sombre.
Just before the little country road joined the interchange with the freeway, Luigi’s phone rang.
Luigi pulled over to the side of the road.
It was Jason. “Are you OK, Lou? Is he?”
“I’m good, Jace. We’re just going to see a doctor in the city. I’ll be in touch.” Luigi didn’t want to talk about Cody while Cody was present. He would need to talk, eventually, he knew. But not now. He’d need to discuss his feelings, with Jason and Keith. Because he had no idea what to do. He still loved Cody, but now he was all too aware of his flaws, of what sort of person he was. Seeing Cody beaten down and lost and damaged after what had happened had made him feel more tender towards Cody, but also slightly contemptuous. And the fact that he could feel contempt for someone raped and almost murdered shamed him. I am a horrible person, he thought.
“You know if you need me, Lou, just let me know, alright?”
“Yes, I know. Thank you. I’ll ring you, OK?”
He broke the connection.
“Who was that?” asked Cody.
“A friend, Jason.”
“He’s a nice bloke,” he said. “You’ll like him.”
“Are you fucking him?” Cody averted his face in humiliation as he asked this.
Luigi debated what to say. The pause lengthened.
“I see,” said Cody very quietly. After a moment, he said, “Didn’t take you long did it?”
“Fuck, Coads. You know how much I loved you.”
“Jeez, Cody. Still love. You fucking broke my heart, mate.”
“You were the one who walked out on me. I loved you, Lou. And you …”
“Yeah. I … I hated it that you lied to me.”
“Do you love Jason?”
“In a way. Yeah. But more like a friend. Not like you.”
“I fucked up, didn’t I?”
“Maybe. I … Coads …. I’m sorry.”
Cody waited. The countryside flashed by the speeding car. It was a perfect autumn day.
“It was … with you … it was just ….” Luigi struggled to explain.
“Look, I’ve been hurt before by straight guys or bi guys. They say they love me and they act like they do and then suddenly you don’t hear from them and you don’t see them and there they are with their girlfriends. Wives.”
There was a silence, with just the thrum of the car’s wheels on the tarmac.
“So … when I saw you with … your wife … it reminded me of … well, other times when I was shafted by straight guys.”
“I’m not straight, Lou. Not really.”
“You looked it! With your wife!” Luigi relied sharply.
“Yeah. Well. I’m really sorry. I never meant to hurt you.”
“But you did.” Luigi was curt.
Cody didn’t reply.
Luigi glanced at him, and he could see that Cody was weeping silently, staring out of the window, swallowing the sound of his tears.
There was a BP freeway garage just ahead, and Luigi turned into it.
He pulled over at the far edge of the concrete apron, as far as possible from judgemental sightseers and undid his seatbelt. He put his arms round Cody. He didn’t speak, just hugged him. Cody put his head on Luigi’s shoulder and sobbed.
After five or six minutes, Cody lifted his head off Luigi’s shoulder and gave him a watery smile. “Sorry,” he muttered.
Luigi cupped Cody’s head with his hand. “I meant it,” he said, “I do love you. But … Coads love, you have a wife and a child. And maybe it’ll work out.” Cody shook his head without speaking. “You never know, love,” insisted Luigi. “And what then? Is she going to be happy if you go on seeing me? Are you going to lie to her?” He let go of Cody and stared through the window at a jet taking off from the airport a few kilometres away. “When … I found out about it … I thought of all this. I thought of how I keep on falling for straight men and I keep on having my heart broken. And you know what?”
Cody made a small interrogatory murmur.
“I did it all over again. I went to the park, you know, Carlton Gardens near my flat and I picked up Jason. He was so macho and hot. I called him ‘straightboy’ and he called me ‘gayboy’. But he was kind to me, and gentle.”
“Is he straight?”
“No, I don’t think so. I think he can do it with a woman. But he’s basically gay.”
“Unlike me.” Cody was glum. “I love women. I love Phillippa. But … I …. it sounds so fucked up … I need a man in my life.”
“You should talk to Keith. He’s pretty much bi I think.”
“Yeah. He’s Jason’s friend. But he’s a good bloke.”
Cody was quite silent for a minute or two then he looked straight at Luigi. “You fucking him, too?”
Luigi nodded. He smiled suddenly. “It’s called friends with benefits. It’s not, you know, total out-of-this-world love. But it’s good. We watch TV shows together and then spend the night together.”
“All three of you?” Cody squeaked.
Luigi smiled. “Yeah.”
“But …. But what do you do? And … why?”
“I had a … well, he was a trick. Who paid me. His name was Richard _______, the cellist. In the end I grew to love him. We lived together. He was kind to me. Then for a while I had no one, just tricks I used to pick up.” Luigi looked away, swallowed. “They used to beat me up, sometimes.”
“Fuck, Lou. You poor bugger.” Cody’s compassion was genuine, and Luigi all at once remembered why he’d grown to like him so much.
“It’s worse, Coads. With one …. this is so … fuck …. Coads, I …. I fucking went back to him. Got beaten up again. And one day a friend from the gay help line took me to one side and said it was no good for me. I’d kept on making up lies about how I’d got injured.”
“Why did you go back, Lou?”
“I worked it out. After I met Keith and Jason. We talked about a lot. In between the sex.” He looked at Cody as he said this, and took Cody’s hand in his. For a moment or two he was silent. “See, I sort of hated myself. Deep down. I thought being gay was wrong. Even my grandma, she loves me and accepts me, but she doesn’t really get it. So I looked for ways to punish myself. Not consciously, you understand,” he said, as Cody looked as if he was going to speak. “Subconsciously. From deep in my past. You know what it’s like, the straight guys at school, the way gay stuff is wrong and taboo and despised. And what happened is that I realised what was going on. Keith and Jason as so … I dunno … so manly. So straight-acting. But they are happy to … well fuck me and let me fuck them. They don’t even notice I’m queeny. They ….”
“You’re not queeny!” Cody was fierce. “You’re fucking not. You’re amazing. You’re so strong and resolute and … just fantastic. How can you think you’re queeny?”
“See? You’re doing it too,” answered Luigi quietly, watching the bright blotches of distant jet headlights as they came in to land at the airport. “You think because I’m queeny that I can’t be strong and all that stuff. You think that a femme bloke is somehow inferior.”
“No I don’t, Lou, love. I don’t.” Cody looked hurt and alarmed and indignant, all at once, and Luigi felt an urge to laugh.
“It doesn’t matter, Coads. I was drawn to you from the first because you were so butch and macho and manly. It doesn’t matter. But you see, Cody, they don’t see me like that. They just don’t care about my femme stuff. Keith’s a slob. Undies and crsip packets and stuff all over the house. If you just met him on the street or in a café, like, you’d never guess. He comes across as a classic nerdish bloke. He doesn’t care how he looks and what he does and stuff. He’s just a bloke, as far as he’s concerned. And as far as he’s concerned I am too. And when he fucks me, he doesn’t think, I’m fucking a woman.”
“I never did, either, with you. Never.” Cody spoke so quietly Luigi could barely hear what he said above the whine of a jet taking off overhead.
“I know, Coads. But you see, they mean a lot to me, Jason and Keith. They helped me heal after … after what happened between us.”
Cody didn’t reply.
Luigi took Cody’s hand in his and squeezed it.
“C’mon. We’ve got an appointment with the doctor.”
They didn’t speak for the rest of the trip into the city.
The doctor they were going to see was in Brunswick. Luigi had to use the map on his mobile phone to find out how to get there. As he parked the car outside the shabby Victorian house where the surgery was, he received a text message.
Let’s get together sometime.
What made his blood run cold was that it was from Cody.
The killer still had Cody’s mobile and was using it. Did he think that all Cody’s contacts were gay? Was he hoping to find a new victim?
He didn’t say anything to Cody. Cody had enough to worry about.
But Cody saw something in his expression.
“What?” he asked, concerned.
“Nothing. I just felt a bit queasy.” And in truth, Luigi did feel queasy. His hands were clammy and his armpits soaked; his stomach churned; his heart pounded. He was enraged that a stranger should threaten someone he cared for. And he was terrified. As soon as Cody was out of hearing he would phone the policeman in Macedon and tell him this new development.
The receptionist was very far from mainstream. Her hair was dyed in stripes of purple and pink, she had a ring in her nose and two the size of curtain rings in each ear. She was wearing Doc Martens and skin tight black jeans. As soon as Cody said who he was, she gave him a warm smile and said, “Come through. Dmitri will see you at once.” She took them down a corridor with a worn Turkish carpet, up half a flight of stairs, and into a room with windows which looked out onto the almost leafless plane tree in the street outside. The walls were covered with an eclectic mix of posters. Some were notices to the gay community and AIDS and venereal disease; about counselling services; notices of special nights and gay pride events. Others were cheap reproductions of famous paintings. There were also some rather bad original oil paintings, and an earnest pencil drawing of two nude young men.
Dmitri turned out to be in his early thirties, already with grey streaks in his dark curly hair, his eyes soft and brown and kind.
“Hi,” he said. “I’m Dmitri.”
When Cody didn’t answer, Luigi said, “I’m Luigi and this is Cody.”
The doctor looked at him, assessing, then nodded.
“Come and sit over here,” he said, gesturing to some shabby sofas underneath the tall elegant window.
“The policeman, um, …”
“ … Colin …”
“… yeah. He gave a bit of background. Could you tell me a bit more?”
At first Luigi thought Cody was once again not going to speak, but then, barely above a whisper, and stopping often to swallow, or wipe away his tears, he told the whole story once again.
Dmitri listened for the most part in silence, occasionally prompting Cody with a question.
“You’ve been through the wars, mate,” he said when it was clear that Cody had finished.
“Can I take a look?” he asked Cody.
“Do you want me leave, Coads?” Luigi didn’t think he would, but he wanted that to be clear, to him and to Dmitri.
In response, Cody grabbed Luigi’s hand and gripped it tightly. “No,” he whispered.