Cody untied the floral boardshorts Michael had lent him and pulled apart the velcro fly. He turned away from Dmitri and bent over. Dmitri pulled on some latex gloves and with gentle hands began his examination.
“I’ll give you a shot of antibiotics,” he said. “It’s too late for stitching.”
As Cody began to pull up his shorts, Dmitri said, “Just a mo’. I want to photo the wound. It’ll be needed as evidence.”
Cody waited, humiliation and shame in his posture.
Dmitri took a small digital camera from his drawer and started taking photos.
“Colin—the policeman in Macedon—took some photos. Won’t those be enough?” Luigi was angry but he knew it wasn’t right to be angry with this man, who was kind and compassionate and only doing his job.
“I rather got the impression from Colin, that—how shall I put this?—that he would be glad of some evidence being outside the police system. And anyway, if I have to give evidence, I’ll need the photos.” To Cody, he said, “you can get dressed now. I think I’ll also give you an HIV shot. There’s a new drug out which if you give soon after intercourse can completely prevent infection. And I’ll also need to give you a blood test.”
“Jesus fuck,” said Cody, his eyes filled with horror. “It’ll never stop, will it? I’ll get AIDS and even if they catch him, I’ll … It’ll never stop!”
“AIDS is treatable now,” said Dmitri. “It’s not a death sentence. I’ll give you this injection which will most probably stop it. And in a coupla weeks you can have a blood test, and if necessary we’ll start treatment.”
“I don’t WANT to be sick!” Cody was so unhappy, so angry that Luigi stood up and pulled him into a tight hug. Cody pushed him away. “If it hadn’t been for you, none of this would have happened! Leave me alone! Go away!”
“Right.” Luigi spoke through tightly compressed teeth. “Well fuck you then!”
He stormed out into the waiting-room. He wanted to go out to the car and drive away and leave Cody to his own devices. Let him sort out his fucked up life! Slamming the door, he went outside to his car. He got in and slammed that door too. Then he has to smile at himself. Taking out his pain on inanimate objects. “Sorry, car,” he muttered, patting the dashboard.
In a moment he was weeping, for himself, for Cody, for the horrors and cruelties of life. Suddenly he was a little boy again and his gran was picking him up after he’d fallen and scraped his knee and was kissing him and murmuring comfort in Italian and plying him with home-made sweet almond biscuits.
Sometimes you fell over. And sometimes you needed help to lift you up again.
He wiped his eyes and went back inside.
It was some time before Cody came out of the doctor’s consulting room. He looked terrible: drawn, pale and desperately sad. His expression didn’t change when he caught sight of Luigi. Dmitri took him to the receptionist’s desk and said something quietly to her. She nodded and wrote something in the desk diary. Luigi went up to join them.
“Can I help you with some cash?” he asked.
Cody shook his head.
“No, it’s been bulk-billed,” answered the receptionist at the same time.
“Let’s go, Coads.” He took Cody’s hand, half afraid Cody would shake him off, but Cody left his hand in Luigi’s, as passive as a child’s.
When they were seated in the car, Luigi said, “Where to?”
“Home. I s’pose. If it still is.”
“Where’s that?” queried Luigi, patiently.
“Keep going along Brunswick Road, I s’pose. It’s just off High Street.”
“Near where I saw you?”
Cody’s home was just round the corner from Luigi’s granny’s house. Luigi wondered at the chance that had brought them together in a pub when they had lived so close to each other.
He parked outside and tore a page from the car’s manual which was the only paper he had. “I’m going just round the corner to my nanna’s. This is the address. If … if you need help … if your wife … you know … come to me there. If I’m not there, just ask my nanna if you can stay till I come.”
“Won’t she mind?”
“No.” Luigi looked directly at Cody and smiled. “She’s ace. She has my mobile number. But I’ll also give you that.”
“What about the police protection? And all that stuff?”
“Did your mobile have your address in it?”
Cody shook his head.
“He can try and get your address from your number at Telstra but they’re not allowed to give it out. But if you see anything suspicious, Coads, ring me.”
With leaden footsteps, Cody trudged up to the front door. Phillippa was waiting. Cody tried to kiss her and she pushed him away.
“What happened?” she asked.
Cody just shook his head, too tired and dispirited to explain.
Phillippa took his arm and shook him. “Tell me!”
“I was at a bar, and this guy picked me up and …”
“… picked you up? What exactly do you mean?”
Cody sighed. Unable to meet his wife’s eyes he looked away. At last he said, “I … I’m bi.”
There was a long silence. Cody dared to look at Phillippa. She was crying. He started to weep too.
The silence stretched. At last, she said, “You’d better go.”
Sick with guilt, heartsore, filled with a black depression, Cody didn’t argue. Without another word, he turned around and went outside. He closed the door quietly, and stood for a moment gathering his courage.
Well, that’s that, he thought to himself. It’s over.
He started to walk. Lou doesn’t want me. He doesn’t love me any more. I don’t blame him. Phil doesn’t want me. Everything is finished. Marriage, job, life. I might as well be dead.
Without regarding where he walked, he stumped off, dragging his feet, his eyes glued to the pavement in front of him. He had no money. He had no phone to call anyone. He had no life.
He walked. He followed the tram lines towards the city. He walked and walked, in a daze of misery and horror, conscious only of the turmoil in his heart. The kilometres passed by unnoticed.
At last, he turned into a side street lined with Edwardian terraces. On the centre pediment of a set of five, he read the words “Majorca Flats” moulded into the plaster.
He sat down on the kerb, weary beyond speech in his body, his heart and his soul, too worn even to weep.
“Colin?” Luigi had programmed the number Colin had given him into his phone.
“Yeah? Colin de Graves speaking.”
“It’s Luigi. You know, from this morning …”
“… yeah …”
“ … I got a phone call from Cody’s phone.” Luigi waited to see whether Colin understood the significance of that.
He understood at once, and drew a sharp breath. “Indeed? How interesting. I was going to request a trace and now I’ll get onto it right away. Thank you for the information. I didn’t think he would do something so stupid, to be honest. He seemed cleverer than that.”
“More desperate, not stupid. He gets his jollies from killing gays. He would assume that the numbers in Cody’s phone were, well some of them anyway, of gay blokes.”
There was a silence. Then Luigi said, and it wasn’t really a question, “He’s going to kill again, isn’t he? Until he’s stopped?”
“Yes. And without Cody’s testimony, there’s no hope of catching him until he does.”
“What about protection for him?”
“I’ve spoken to the CID. They’ll get in touch with him.”
“He hasn’t got a mobile any more. They’d better not phone his mobile.”
“Yeah. But it won’t really make any difference. He must know we’d be after him.”
“Maybe not. He might think Cody was so closeted and afraid that he wouldn’t report it. We had to work hard to persuade him to talk to you.”
“I’ll warn them of this phone call right away. Luigi, how is he?”
“Not good, Colin. You know … it’s easier if you’re gay or straight. You know what to do. It’s one or the other. I always knew I was gay. But Cody’s bi. And married. And he loves his wife and children. And he’s going to lose everything.”
“Poor bugger.” Colin was genuinely sympathetic. “OK, I’d better get on to the CID. Look after him, Luigi. He needs love. Lots of rape victims kill themselves.”
Luigi choked up. “I know. I will. And thank you again for …”
“It’s my job. ‘Uphold the right’. That’s our motto. And it’s how I do my job.”
“Man …. if you knew what we go through.”
“Things are changing. Even in the police.”
“Yeah, right!” But Luigi was smiling a little as he said this. “Seeya later, Colin.”
Luigi hung up. Now to find out whether Cody was OK.
“You know, I think I might just have a little lie down,” said Lucasta Ellesmere. “So tired you know and not as young as I used to be I hope you don’t mind just a little worn.”
“Of course, my dear. And sleep as long as you want to. Would you like something to eat?”
“Oh I thank you no not now Eleanor I was overfed on the plane all that food and you wonder how fresh it is up there six miles above the ground and all enclosed so unhealthy really don’t you think?”
Eleanor wondered on which of these thoughts she should fix.
“Oh, quite,” she answered.
She accompanied Lucasta through to her room, even though she had already shown her where it was, and went back to rejoin Keith and Jason on the veranda.
They were talking about Luigi and Cody. When she came out on to the veranda, they stopped and turned towards her.
“Don’t mind me,” she said. Keith flicked his eyes towards Jason, waiting for his lead.
“We were just talking about a friend of ours, Luigi, and his friend. Who was taken by the Mount Macedon murderer. But he escaped this morning so Lou has gone through to Mount Macedon to fetch him. And we were just wondering what was happening.”
“Will he go to the police?”
“We dunno,” answered Keith. “Thing is … well … it’s complicated.”
“How?” asked Eleanor Cumberledge, helping herself to another biscuit.
Keith glanced at Jason and was irked to see him grinning.
“He’s married,” he said curtly.
“That would complicate things,” replied Eleanor placidly.
“Well, that was why Lou dumped him,” said Jason.
“Because he was married?” Eleanor was puzzled.
“Yeah. The mongrel was married and he promised undyin’ love to Luigi and poor Lou’s heart was broke when he found out.”
“Then Lou met me and we took him under our wing and it started going right again and then this happened.” He stopped for a minute, thinking. “I hope Lou’s all right, Key. It can’t be easy. I don’t know whether he’s the forgiving kind, our Lou.”
“Not unless you hit him,” replied Keith drily.
Eleanor was shaken by this dry comment.
“Don’t, Key. Everybody has their …. problems.”
“Yeah.” Keith sighed. “I knaow. Poor bugger.”
Eleanor wasn’t quite sure what all the relationships were. It was all so different from when she’d been young. Keith and Jason were clearly friends but there was also that indefinable electricity and physical ease which proclaimed them lovers too. And she would bet good money on it that Lou—Luigi—was part of their relationship. Doesn’t it get very complicated? she thought.
Jason was smiling at her, so clearly divining her thoughts that she coloured.
“Lou is one of us,” he said. “We’ll look after him. He’s … things aren’t easy for him … but … well … we’re not going to abandon him.” He scratched his leg absently. “I loved—I still love—Brent, but Lou and Key are my friends.” The slightly different intonation on the last word made it clear that they were friends and more than friends.
“Yeah,” said Keith. “He naids lookin’ afta, does our Lou.”
“But … but will his wife take him back? Not Lou I mean, the other one?”
“Caody,” supplied Keith. “Naow. Prolly not. Not many women will, ya knaow. And I daon’t knaow as he told her before. My thinkin’ is that Caody waon’t have a plice to staoy.”
“No.” Jason stared at Keith his face alight with unspoken questions.
“Thing is, Jace,” said Keith, watching him as intently, “well ya knaow, daon’t ya?”
“Yes.” Jason smiled. “We’ll give it a try, hey? Make it work, too, Key love.”
Eleanor wasn’t entirely certain what had just happened but she felt a sudden warmth in her heart and decided she liked Keith very much and Jason even more than she had before.
“I think,” she said, “that calls for more tea,” and she went inside to make a new pot.
“Ya sure?” asked Keith when she’d left.
“Yes. Quite.” Jason’s vowels were never sharper.
Eleanor brought out a packet of shortbread biscuits from the kitchen.
Jason was on his fourth when his phone rang. He looked at the screen. “It’s Lou,” he said. “What’s happening?” he asked after he’d flipped the phone open.
“Cody’s gone missing!”
“Yeah. I dropped him off at his house. I dunno. I had a bad feeling. The killer called me from Cody’s phone …”
“So I called Colin—the policeman at Macedon police station—and told him and then I started thinking and thought what if Cody’s wife throws him out and then I realised he wouldn’t be able to phone me, without a phone. I mean, I know there are call boxes but not that many in this area. So I went and waiting just outside his house, I mean, not right outside but one house down where he could see the car but I waited and waited and no one came out and so I rang his house …”
“… you had his home number?”
“Yeah, he gave it to me this morning. Anyway, his wife answered and said ‘he doesn’t live here any more’ then started in on me and asked me who I was then told me never to phone again. She was very upset.”
“Well, that’s understandable.”
“Yeah. I know. I could kill him.”
“Don’t talk like that, Lou. It’ll all work out.”
“Anyway, I’m going to drive round the streets here and look for him. I’m worried, Jace. I’m afraid ….”
“Where are you? Key and I are going to come and help look.”
“You haven’t met him, have you? So you don’t know what he looks like.”
“We can still look for blond guys wandering around. And you know what he’s wearing, don’t you? Where’ll we meet you?”
Jason closed his phone and looked at Jason and Eleanor. “Cody’s disappeared. We’re going to go and look for him,” he added, looking at Keith.
“Can I help?” asked Eleanor. Jason’s first impulse was to refuse her help. But then he thought ‘why not?’ Eleanor was a calm, kind, unthreatening sort of person. Cody might feel safe with her. And, if it had been his gran he would have accepted her help, so why not Eleanor? And he remembered how she had found her son Bart dead, hanging in the hall, when she’d come home.
“Yes, thank you. We need all the eyes we can find.”
“I’ll just go and spend a penny,” said Eleanor. “All this tea! But I’ll just leave a note for Lucasta in case she wakes up while we’re out.”
Keith stood up and helped her take the tea things into the kitchen.
Eleanor bustled off, her stick clicking against the wooden floor-boards.
As they were leaving, at the front door, she stopped to pat Bolt. “You have to stay behind, Bolt. We’ll try and be back soon.”
Bolt drooped in disappointment.
Cody sat on the kerb, his head in his hands. His life was over. Maybe it would have been better if he had died. He’d lost his wife and his children. Probably his job. And Luigi … Lou had been so cold! He knew that he loved Luigi as much as he loved his wife. He hadn’t realised that until Luigi had left him, until Luigi had been so angry with him. When he’d seen Luigi, that first time in the bar, he’d been entranced by his beauty. Luigi had seemed like a model, an androgynous beauty which perfectly chimed with his inner desires. The first time they’d fucked, and he watched Luigi’s sweat-sheened face as he himself came inside him, he’d known that this was it. That he was in love. This wasn’t just a random pick-up, some trick who could be forgotten the next day. This was it. And when Luigi had left him, it had felt as if part of his heart had been torn out.
And now Phillippa also hated him. And he loved her. He stared at an ant struggling with a burden twice its own size, toiling along in the gutter; at a leaf from the plane tree, about a thousand times the size of the ant. He lifted the leaf out of the way of the tiny creature.
And then he heard the unmistakable sound of a Volkswagen Kombi engine, only a little way away. He ducked down behind the parked car he was sitting next to and waited for the Kombi to pass. Maybe it was the killer, maybe not. But he didn’t want to look and see. He found in himself the desire to live again. Or at least to choose his own method of dying.
The Watcher stared fixedly through the windscreen as he drove to the Home. Before, the tinny roar of the Kombi’s engine had been a comfort to him. He’d felt secure in its shabby cab, the seats fixed with duct tape, the smell of decaying plastic and old carpet. He’d been doing God’s work, and God looked out for him. God was pleased with his work. Often he heard God’s voice in his head, clear as clear, praising him for his labours.
But since the twink had got away, all he’d heard was the whispered word ‘failure’. He no longer felt safe in the Kombi. It too felt like failure. The twink had escaped. Maybe he’d even gone to the police? No, homos were too weak to fight back. And the police were on his side. But what if he had gone and blabbed? There were unChristian elements in the police who might help him. What if he’d seen the number plate of the van? Or the writing on the side? What if the police were already looking for him?
His hands were slippery on the steering-wheel, and he ground the gears.
Tonight, he promised himself, I’ll find someone else. And God will take me to His bosom again. And I’ll be safe.
Absorbed by his worries and his thoughts, he didn’t notice the depressed figure hunched over behind the rusty Holden Commodore parked next to the kerb.
“Excuse me, we need to get into the car.”
Cody looked up at the speaker. He was a good-looking blond, with the build of a sportsman, narrow waist, broad shoulders, his eyes sky-blue. He’d spoken with an English accent. He had a kind face. Help me, Cody wanted to say. Please help me. But … he was on his own, now. No one would help him.
“No worries, mate,” Cody said. He tried to stand up, but it was a struggle. The man reached out his hand, and helped him. His hand was big and warm and strong. It felt good to hold it, to have the connection. Once again, Cody was tempted to speak. But he resisted it. How many times could an unexpected saviour appear? Once was miraculous. Twice …. impossible.
He watched in despair as the blond bloke, another man, and an old lady got into the car and drove away.
He’d left the door to garage open. His special room was well concealed, but only if the bookcase door was closed. There was the real door into the garage, and over it second door made to look like a bookcase and shelves. It wasn’t just pretend books but a real bookcase, hinged on one side and weighted so it fell back against the wall when it was closed. And he’d left it open, unlocked! How stupid! Maybe no one would come into the house but maybe they were already watching him. He had to get back.
He’d learnt how to do carpentry at the Home. Father McAlister had taught him. The Watcher was proud of his skills. He had kitted out the Kombi so he could reward some of the boys from the Home by taking them camping.
He flipped on the indicator and waited until the road was clear so he could make a u-turn. A tram trundled past, and then there was a string of cars. Come on! he thought. By all the Saints, hurry up! I must get back to close that door.
His stomach churned and he felt acid surge up his oesophagus. He would have some Rennies when he got home. After he had closed that door.
He heard God speaking, with Father McAlister’s Irish lilt. “Failure,” He said. “Failure!”
As they drove up the street towards the main road, Jason felt an obscure feeling nag at him.
“Key,” he said. “Just stop for a second.”
“I … have a bad feeling about that guy there on the pavement.”
“We don’t have a lot of time,” said Keith, not slowing at all.
“Key …. It’ll only take a minute. You can turn here before the end of the road. Go on, Key love, I really feel very weird about it.”
Keith kept going.
“Oh, all right then!” Ungraciously, Keith swerved over to the side of the road, narrowly missing a woman on a bike, who gave him the finger and shouted at him before wobbling off.
As he put on his indicator to turn right out into the traffic, a Kombi passed the other way, its engine straining as it accelerated down the road towards the far corner.
“I’ve seen that bloke before,” remarked Eleanor. “He shouldn’t drive so fast down this street. It’s not a racetrack!”
Cody had started to walk, without purpose, slowly plodding along the road. He heard the VW engine again and instinctively turned to face the houses, pretending to examine the flowers in a rose bush which clambered over a picket fence. The Kombi’s engine geared down, for the corner, but Cody didn’t know that. He panicked and ran back the way he’d come.
He ran full tilt into the blond man’s arms.
“Lemme go!” he cried. “Please let me go! He’s …. I’m … Oh God!”
“You all right?” The blond man tightened his arms round Cody. “It’s OK. You’re safe with me.”
Cody started to weep.
The blond man was speaking. At first, it made no sense at all to Cody. “Look, I know this is probably a really, really stupid question, but … your name isn’t by any chance Cody, is it? Only, it’s just that …. no. It’s a stupid question! Sorry.”
Cody looked at Jason with wonder. “Yes, I am Cody. But … ,” suspicion replaced wonder, “ … how did you know? Who are you?”
“Oh! I’m Jason. I’m a friend of Lou’s. You are Luigi’s Cody, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but … how … what’s going on?” Into his mind came the memory that Luigi had mentioned Jason that morning, when they’d stopped at the service station on the freeway. He felt a spike of anger, but it was quickly replaced by indifference. He shrugged.
“Lou just phoned, ten minutes ago. He was worried sick about you. He said he’d gone round to your house and … your wife …” Here Jason faltered. He turned to the car, “Hey, we’ve found Cody! This is Cody!”
Keith opened the car door and stood in the doorway space. “What? Ya sure, mite?”
Eleanor opened her door and Jason crossed the road to help her out. He took hold of Cody’s hand to take him with him. Cody felt again the comfort of another human being’s warmth, of the contact of skin against skin, and it broke through the cold reserve he’d been building around his heart. He started to cry.
Jason pulled him close. “It’s over now, mate,” he murmured, forgetting to be English just for that moment. “You’re safe. He’ll never get you. We’ll look after you. You’ll be OK. Cody, meet my friends Keith and Eleanor Cumberledge.”
“Welcome to Majorca Flats, Cody,” said Eleanor, wondering how her life had managed to become so full of incident and people so quickly. Before Jason had turned up, she’d often been lonely. Now, not only was he around, but his friends were too. With a brief stab of sorrow she remembered that if she’d done things differently, she’d have had Bart and all his friends. His husband, maybe. Grandchildren. She shook her head to clear it of these unwelcome recollections.
“Don’t!” said Jason into Cody’s ear, as his tears flowed even faster. “You’re with friends, now.” He pulled him closer, his arms firm and comforting.
“Come inside, everyone. This calls for more tea. What an exciting day we’re having.” Eleanor didn’t know quite how to deal with this stranger’s weeping.
“I’ll just phone Lou,” said Keith.
Cody shook his head.
“What? He loves ya! He’s worried silly about ya!”
“It’s just … I … I don’t deserve him. I …. oh, God! It’s been horrible!” Cody ground out been hiccups and sobs.
“Come on,” said Jason very gently, treating him as if he were a small boy, not a grown man, as if he himself were still a prefect at school. “Let’s go inside.”
They crossed back across the road.
As the door closed behind them, a kombi roared up the road towards the high street.