Secret Men’s Business

1

Brendan Callan looked out the window of the Honeymoon Suite of the Cairns Hilton and surveyed the gathering storm clouds clinging to the mountains as they dipped into the brown sea. The Monsoon was coming, he thought to himself, and looked down at his fiancé, her mouth working his cock like it was her last meal. He felt a sudden urge to come, and quickly thought of something else to distract himself. He settled on an image of his father, drunk and passed out on the tobacco stained sofa of his fibro childhood home in Rossville. Did the trick. Too well, in fact; his dick began deflating in despair. Brendan massaged Katie’s scalp and watched as his member disappeared into her perfect face like a kid watching a magic trick. He felt her tits brushing against his thighs and was back in the game.

A feeling of pride welled up in him. Seven years ago, Brendan was twenty-one and going nowhere fast, bumming around Cairns hustling Thai sticks and banging backpackers. Then by some miracle he entered Law at Melbourne University. He took two and a half years longer than everyone else, but he got there in the end. Just. He was a Lawyer now. He wore a suit, off the rack, and lunched at Flower Drum when he could afford it, which was rarely. And to top it off, he’d snared the Law faculty’s prize plum: Katie Brockman. They were set to marry in a month and Katie had never been to the Tropics and wanted to see where Brendan grew up. Brendan hated the idea, of course. He thought Cairns was a hole. But what the hell, the reef was nice, and the tropical air made Katie’s knickers wetter than a lunch date with Bukowski.

She stuck a finger in his arse and he popped his load. Then they went out for chilli crab and coffee.

2

Following a leisurely afternoon nap, there came a knock at the door. Brendan got up, slipped on a pair of boxers and opened it. It was his cousin Zeb. They hadn’t seen each other in seven years. Zeb was the same age as Brendan, with dreads, gappy teeth and peeling brown skin. He was dressed in a ripped T-shirt and fashionably distressed jeans. He threw his arms around his cousin and squeezed him tight.

“The Burdekin Boys!” cried Zeb, slapping Brendan’s back.

“The Burdekin Boys,” Brendan echoed with surprise, and a little less enthusiasm. The rallying cry of a shared youth.

Zeb held Brendan at arm’s length and surveyed him as if for the first time.

“How’d you know we were here?” asked Brendan.

“Mum told me.”

“Still living at home, huh?” Brendan said, with a hint of smugness.

“For the moment.”

Zeb flopped himself down on the leather upholstery and puts his feet up on the coffee table. A piece of old gum was stuck to the bottom of his thongs. Brendan frowned.

“Nice digs, Cuz. Expensive?”

Brendan waved his hand like it was nothing. He was hemorrhaging cash. He hoped Zeb wouldn’t notice the minibar.

“Well, we’re only here a few days, so…”

Zeb clocked the ice bucket and the upturned bottle of Veuve Clicquot. He leered at Brendan, then jumped back to his feet.

“So where is she, then? Where’s the poor girl who’s going to marry my cousin?”

Brendan quickly grabbed Zeb and brought him in close. “Hey Zeb, listen,” he said in a low voice. “Katie’s from a classy family, so just…”

“Relax, mate. I won’t embarrass you, you big time lawyer.” He slapped Brendan hard on the arm.

Katie emerged from the bedroom wearing a swimsuit and a see-through sarong. Her hair was attractively mussed. Zeb looked at her like she just rose naked from a clamshell.

“Katie, sweetheart, this is Zeb,” said Brendan. Then to Zeb, “Close your mouth, mate.”

Katie held out her hand. “So this is Zeb? Brendan’s told me a lot about you.”

Zeb took her hand and kissed it gently. “Enchanté.” His French was like a croissant slathered with vegemite. “You’re even more beautiful than Brendan described you.”

Katie smiled and looked at Brendan, arching an eyebrow. “Well, I have to say, you’re not at all how Brendan described you.”

“Really? What did he-”

Brendan slapped his palms together. “Calls for a drink!”

 

The trio descended to the poolside bar and were soon into their third round.

“So, after I passed the bar, Katie’s dad offered me a junior clerk position in litigation. Next year we hope to get an apartment close to the city. Maybe South Yarra.”

Zeb shook his head and grinned. “I still can’t believe it. Brendan Callan.

Marrying a beautiful, sexy woman, nobbing it with executives. A Lawyer! It’s unbelievable!”

“What’s unbelievable about it?” Brendan asked.

Zeb shrugged. “Nothing.”

“No what? Tell me. I’m not good enough, or…”

“You’re obviously good enough, I mean, look at you.”

Brendan plucked his three hundred dollar shirt. “I like to wear nice clothes.”

“Well these jeans cost a hundred bucks,” said Zeb.

“Really?” Brendan took a swig of his beer and arched a brow.

Katie turned to Zeb. “So Zeb, what is it you do?”

“Transport and recreation manager.”

“He picks up backpackers from the airport.”

“Well I’m jealous,” said Katie. “It must be great, living here all the time. The sun, the reef, all those pretty young girls.”

“Yeah,” said Zeb, “it’s tough.”

Zeb and Katie giggled, as if at a private joke. Brendan felt a stab of jealousy, which made him embarrassed.

“So tell me,” Katie went on. “What was it like growing up with Brendan? Any dark secrets I should know about?”

Zeb thought for a moment. “Remember the time we sucked each other off in the pool?”

Brendan spat a mouthful of beer. “Jesus, Zeb! What the fuck!”

Zeb turned to Katie. “It was no big deal. We were twelve.”

“Will you just- we didn’t suck each other off, okay! Jesus!”

“Wow.” Katie popped a straw in her mouth and looked off, her eyebrows arching in a way Brendan hadn’t seen before.

“No. There’s no ‘wow’. It didn’t happen, alright? It didn’t happen. Zeb, just… Jesus!”

“Calm down,” said Zeb.

“Don’t tell me to calm down. You just told my fiancé I sucked your dick.”

“You don’t remember?”

“Stop talking!”

“It’s okay,” said Katie in a seen-it-all-before voice. “My first sexual encounter was with a girl. My best friend, you know Alex, she models lingerie. Anyway, we were fifteen and I was staying over. Her parents were out and we got hammered on Midori and played strip poker. We were down to our undies and then she pulls out this porno tape from behind the VCR. Oh man, I was so a virgin.” Katie paused to wet her mouth with a sip from her vodka cranberry. Brendan and Zeb didn’t move.

“So anyway,” Katie went on, “her parents arrived home early, so we jumped into her bed and pretended to be asleep. We were pretty smashed. We were naked under the covers and just started fooling around, French kissing, fondling and stuff.”

Brendan silently cursed himself for wearing loose pants. He’d developed a boner stiff enough to pop the cap off a beer bottle. He casually shifted his chair closer to the table. Zeb smiled excitedly, like a kid listening to his favourite nursery rhyme.

“It’s not like I’m attracted to the lesbian thing now, or anything,” continued Katie. “Though Alex was telling me about this trip to Thailand with her husband. It was his birthday and-”

“Can we talk about something else?” said Brendan.

“What happened?” asked Zeb.

Katie picked up Zeb’s tobacco pouch. “Mind if I have one of those?”

“Help yourself.”

Katie rolled a cigarette. Brendan threw her a reformed smoker’s look of disapproval. Katie shrugged and licked the seam of the paper.

“I’m on holidays,” she said, lighting up. “So tell me, Zeb. What else did you and Brendan get up to when you were little boys? I can’t believe Mr. Perfect here doesn’t have any skeletons.” She blew smoke. “Besides gay ones.”

Zeb caught Brendan’s warning look.

“Erm…” Zeb reached into his memory of growing up with Brendan. Plenty of images of puking, petty theft and masturbation. Getting messed up by a couple of Atherton cops? That wouldn’t do.

“I really can’t think of anything,” Zeb said. He was telling the truth.

“I don’t believe any of it for a minute,” Katie said. “I want to know everything about him.”

“There’s nothing to know,” Brendan said. “What you see is what you get.”

“He was very well behaved,” said Zeb, shaking his head from side to side.

Brendan smiled. “See?”

Katie dropped the cigarette into an empty beer bottle. “Sure. I understand,” she said. “It’s secret men’s business. Can’t disclose to a woman.”

“Right,” Brendan said. “Only there’s nothing to disclose, so…”

“Hey!” said Zeb, suddenly excited, “What are you doing tonight?”

Brendan looked at Zeb with suspicion.

“There’s a barbeque. I been helping this guy build a deck. He just got this awesome new stereo.”

“Did you hear that, baby?” said Brendan. “A stereo.”

Zeb ignored him. “You gotta see this place,” he gushed. “He’s got a saltwater croc in a pool out the back.”

“Wow,” said Katie.

“That’s illegal,” said Brendan priggishly. “So where is this place?”

“Rossville.”

Brendan felt his shit go soft. “Rossville?”

“That’s where you grew up, isn’t it?” Katie’s smile broadened like a puppy’s.

Brendan scrambled. “But that’s like two hours away.”

“Sounds like an adventure,” Katie said.

“Great!”

“Hold up, baby. We don’t even know this guy.”

“Jade.”

“Jade?”

“Jade Green.”

Brendan looked flatly at Zeb. “His name is Jade Green?”

“Yeah,” Zeb said. “Jade Green. Don’t worry, you’ll like him.”

“Will Ruby Red and Diamond White be there?”

“Stop being so stuffy,” said Katie. “It sounds like fun.”

“He recently got out of prison,” Zeb explained. “He’s having a little celebration.”

“How nice.”

Katie stood up. “Thanks, Zeb. We’ll definitely come.”

She stepped out of her sarong, went over to the pool and lowered herself gracefully into the water.

“Man,” said Zeb, “you are so lucky.”

“What the fuck are you doing? Rossville? Jade fucking Green? Are you kidding me? I told you before, I don’t need this shit. Katie’s dad is a powerful man, he’s fucking loaded, and she’s his only daughter. I’m not gonna fuck this up.”

“Relax.”

“And what was that shit about sucking each other off? Let’s get this straight. You sucked me off. I sucked nothing, alright.”

A waitress appeared. “Same again?”

Brendan shut his eyes and rubbed his temples. “God. I’m getting a headache.”

Zeb turned to the waitress. “And two large vodkas, neat.”

The waitress headed back to the bar.

“Drink some water,” Zeb advised. “You’re on holiday, man. Relax. Here…”

Zeb pulled a spliff from his bag and fired it up. “Reckon she’ll drive?”

3

Zeb had offered the use of the hostel minivan but Brendan insisted they took the BMW. It was an expensive hire, but he couldn’t risk not running into past acquaintances, and nothing said fuck you like a showroom new X1.

They drove for two hours. The moon had not yet risen and the night was black. Eventually they turned onto a dirt road leading down a steep incline into thick jungle. After several bumpy minutes they emerged at a dimly lit clearing. A low rider and two cars were parked out the front of an old timber Queenslander perched high on roughly hewn stumps. A half-finished deck jutted out the side. The clearing was hugged by a towering wall of bamboo. The house looked empty. It was dark and quiet, save for the creaking of the bamboo and the squawking of bats.

“Where is everyone?” asked Brendan.

“I dunno. Inside, I guess.”

They got out. A loud splash nearby set Brendan’s hair on end.

“That’s Coco,” Zeb explained.

They headed up the stairs into fear and uncertainty. Katie liked the feeling. Brendan felt like he was about to break out in hives. They stepped into the front room. It was curtained with black plastic and filled with boxes of records and old lab equipment. Through the wall there came the muted throb of a stereo. Zeb found the heavy wooden door in the darkness and opened it.

They emerged nervously into a deep lounge room, furnished with black leather rising from a blood red Turkish rug. A wide, glass topped coffee table sat centre stage beneath a low-slung billiard light. Off to the side was a wide kitchen bench, over which hung a framed portrait of a man feeding a live chicken to an eight-foot crocodile. Beneath the picture, plating Devils on Horseback, was the man himself. Jade Green wore a Balinese sarong and an open Hawaiian shirt. He looked up, momentarily baffled by the appearance of three strangers, before recognizing Zeb.

“Zebulon! Bienvenu chez-moi!”

In the corner was another man in his thirties who was not big on small talk, or talk in general. Lenny da Pra leaned into the shadow and picked his nails. He wore a T-shirt and tight jeans with cowboy boots.

Bounding up from the sofa like a jack-in-the-box was Alan Creedy, a nervous chicken frame of a man wearing a light blue safari suit and a bad rug. He rushed forward, clearly grateful for the additional guests, and ingratiated himself with much froth and spittle.

“Steady there, Alan,” Jade said, “you’re getting a pink on.”

After introductions, Jade mixed rum and cokes, reversing the traditional ratio, and handed them to his new guests.

“Bottoms up.”

“Cheers.”

Brendan took a sip and winced.

“Thank you, Jade,” smiled Katie.

“Pleasure, love. Sit down, make yourselves at home.”

Brendan and Katie took the sofa. Zeb slid a hand in his pocket and rolled on his heels and grinned foolishly. Lenny took a hit from a bottle of beer and lit a smoke. The light from the flame cut across his face like a razor. Alan resumed his seat and smiled nervously. He was sweating like a pig at a Chinese banquet. Brendan avoided eye contact. One friendly glance and Alan would latch onto him like a leech.

Jade entered with a plate of hors d’eouvres: cubed cheddar and cocktail onions on toothpicks, devils on horseback and cabanossi. Horse doovers, Oz style. Alan reached for a snack. Jade slapped his hand away.

“Where’s your manners, Alan? Ladies before gentlemen.”

“I’m fine, thanks,” said Katie.

Zeb popped a cracker in his mouth. “Top stereo, Jade,” he mumbled through the crumbs.

Jade walked over to the stereo. “The latest. Listen to this.” He cranked up the volume to ear-splitting levels, then started gesticulating and talking effusively. No one heard word he was saying. Zeb and Brendan nodded dutifully, like they were following every word. Jade came to the end of his spiel, put his hands on his hips and waited for a response to a question nobody heard. He turned the stereo down.

“I mean,” he went on, “is that unreasonable?” Jade fixed his lens on Brendan.

Brendan glanced around for support. He was on his own. “Um, no. Not at all.”

Jade looked confused. “So you think it’s reasonable the guy tries to rip me off?”

“What? No. I’m sorry. I didn’t hear what you said.”

“Then why’d you answer me?”

“Er…”

Jade let him sweat for a moment, then laughed, slapping Brendan’s back. “You’re alright, mate. Just winding you up. Ha ha.”

Creedy piped up. “You got a good deal in the end though, didn’t you Jade?”

There was a heavy silence. Creedy looked pissed with himself and settled back down into his seat, his face pulsing crimson.

Jade looked at Katie and smiled. “And what do you do, love? Besides look beautiful.”

“I haven’t decided yet, Jade,” she said. “I just completed a masters in Business and Law.”

Jade was impressed. “Smart too. You can come work for me. I’m in need of sound business advice. My last advisor gave me shit advice. I dropped a fucking bundle.”

Alan pulled his collar nervously to let the sweat drain down his chest and smiled even harder. His face looked like it was going to crack under the strain. “How’s your drink going, Jade?” he offered.

Jade held his glass out and Creedy took it and rushed to the bar. He poured himself a stiff one and downed it first.

Zeb was studying a rack containing several rifles. “You sure got some firepower, Jade. You arming for the revolution, or what?”

Jade laughed and walked over to the rack and removed an antique rifle. “Check this beauty,” he said. “1898, Krag Jorgensen 30/40. Genuine killer, this one. Saw active service in the Boer War. Check these out.” He pointed out several scratch marks on the stock. “Kill tally, 36.”

Katie leaned in close to Brendan. “So this is the crowd you used to hang with. Nice.”

Brendan shook his head and smiled. “Sure, whatever.”

Brendan caught Lenny looking at him and smiled and nodded. Lenny’s stony eyes disappeared behind a plume of blue smoke.

Jade hoisted the rifle to his shoulder. He started taking aim at things around the room.

“Dead accurate as the day it was made. Got it off an old pearler in Karatha. Reckons he knocked off a few Abos with this.”

Creedy turned from the bar with Jade’s drink and froze, facing down the barrel of the gun.

“Mate, don’t,” he pleaded. “You don’t know if it’s loaded.”

“Oh, it’s loaded.”

Alan danced around about the room, trying to move away. Jade kept him in his sights and laughed.

“Don’t you piss on my rug, Alan.”

Brendan interjected quickly, “It’s a nice rug, Jade. Where’d you get it from?”

Jade slid the gun back into its rack. Creedy glared at Jade, red-faced.

“That,” said Jade, “is a genuine hand-made Turkish rug. I picked it up in Bali.”

A snort of laughter shot out Brendan’s nose before he could stop himself. Jade turned and looked at him.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Brendan said. “I mean, you said ‘genuine Turkish’ and you bought it in Indonesia, that’s all.”

Jade searched for the humour; couldn’t find it. He shook his head and looked at Brendan quizzically. An awkward silence.

Then Zeb piped up, “I get it. You’re saying the rug’s fake.”

“No!” snapped Brendan. “I’m not saying that.”

Jade said, “It’s Turkish.”

“I know!” said Brendan. “I wasn’t… I just…”

Jade looked at Katie, who just shrugged.

Brendan paused to take a breath and compose himself before continuing: “You were saying you picked it up in Bali?”

“A friend of mine there imports them.” Jade paused, then added with emphasis, “from Turkey…”

Brendan nodded and motioned for Jade to continue.

“Top shelf. Only the best. You want I can hook you up with a nice rug. I’ll get his card.”

Jade walked off down the hall. Brendan shook his head at Zeb who gave him the thumbs up. Katie went and fixed herself another drink.

4

Two hours went by. Brendan had wanted to leave the moment they arrived, but Katie was enjoying herself and showed no signs of slowing down. She certainly didn’t lack for attention; Jade treated her like his long lost daughter. Creedy seemed more relaxed the drunker he got and even Lenny had moved from the corner and joined in. Creedy speared a cocktail frank and drowned it in a bowl of ketchup. He moved the wriggling morsel into his laughing maw as Lenny embarked on a joke.

“So anyway,” Lenny goes, “this Chinese couple are on their wedding night and she gets under the sheets all shy and nervous and that while her husband undresses. He climbs in next to her and tries to be reassuring. ‘My darring, I know dis your firt time and you flighten. I plomise, we do wha-ever you wan. Anyting at Aw. What you wan?’ And she goes, ‘I wanna try a sikty-nine.’ And he goes ‘Whah? You wanna beef wi broccoli?’”

Creedy exploded with laughter, spitting little bits of sausage. Katie smiled politely.

“Yeaaahh ha ha ha!! Good one!!” hee-hawed Alan. “Bit racist. That’s okay.”

Jade was at the kitchen counter, slicing steak with a butcher’s knife.

“Keep it clean, mate. There’s a lady present.”

“Nice lady too,” Creedy put in. He nodded at Katie and took an eager gulp of his drink, spilling some down the front of his shirt.

The record finished and the needle lifted. Creedy got up and approached the stereo. “What does everyone feel like?” he said.

Jade looked up and pointed the knife at him.

“Touch my stereo, Alan,” he said, “and I’ll cut your fucking throat.”

Alan made like he was simply inspecting the wall.

“What is it you do, Alan?” Katie asked.

Creedy went to answer, but Jade got in first.

“Alan, here, is a business associate,” he said. “Only Alan has a bit of a mouth on him, which can be counter productive, if you know what I mean.”

“If you say so, Jade,” said Creedy, trying to make light of it.

Katie turned to Jade. “I understand, Jade, you just got released from prison?”

Creedy looked nervously at Lenny, then Jade.

“A minor inconvenience,” said Jade, waving his hand dismissively. “Failed to declare some merchandise I was importing into the country.

“What do you import?” Katie asked.

“Asian delicacies,” Jade replied.

“What? Drugs? Women?”

Brendan choked on his cabanossi. The room fell quiet.

Creedy suddenly blurted out, “I didn’t! I swear!”

Katie smiled innocently, her inebriated eyes fixed on Jade. Jade returned her stare. Suddenly he cracked, roaring with laughter. This girl’s alright; smart and sassy, not to mention easy on the eye. The room joined in, in varying degrees.

‘What?’ she mouthed, noticing Brendan’s frozen look. She got up, steadied herself, then poured herself another large rum.

“Secret men’s business. Hah!” she muttered to herself.

 

Time had slowed to an inconsequential crawl. The room was thick with smoke and the humidity was stifling. Drunken smiles smeared across faces like a cheap whore’s lipstick. Zeb was going through Jade’s vinyl collection. A new platter spun on the turntable, crackling, warm and sweet: Velvet Underground’s Pale Blue Eyes.

Brendan, his Hugo Boss shirt soaked with sweat, stared down at the crumbs from a few lines of coke on the coffee table. Katie’s dancing reflection moved across the glass like the ghost of girlfriend’s past. Brendan looked up and watched his future wife. She swayed in sultry slow motion, her bare back glistening with sweat, the swirl of a peacock tail tattoo peeking over the top of her low cut jeans.

Brendan looked past Katie and saw Lenny staring at him through the smoke, eyes shining like ball bearings. Over in the kitchen, Jade sweated over an indoor grill, turning satay sticks. Drops of sweat fell from his nose and sizzled and spat as they hit the fire. He put down his tongs and headed off to the bathroom. Zeb was mulling up some brutal looking skunk. Creedy watched on with mounting anticipation.

Brendan sidled up next to Zeb and spoke quietly in his ear. “How much have you had to drink?”

“What?” Zeb replied. “How would I know?”

“You’re supposed to be driving!”

Zeb gave a snort. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Well, what are we going to do? I can’t drive. I’m fucking hammered.” Brendan suddenly focused on Zeb’s operation. “What are you doing?”

Zeb held up a fat joint and grinned stupidly. He lit it and passed it to Lenny.

“Ooh, yes please!” said Creedy, sliding in beside Lenny.

Katie was searching in her handbag for something. After taking a big toke Creedy gave her a nudge, then passed the joint to her with a leering smile.

“Easy baby,” went Brendan, placing his hand on her wrist. “Do you think that’s wise?”

Katie pushed Brendan away, taking a deep drag on the joint.

Brendan wanted to pass, but he felt he had no choice after Katie toked on it like a porn star. He took a hit and knew instantly he had inhaled some bad juju. He felt the cold tentacles of fear creeping through his bloodstream. His brain started firing out distress signals. He gripped the arm of the sofa and looked to Zeb for support. Zeb was enveloped in a cloud of purple smoke, smiling beatifically and nodding. No help there. Suddenly Zeb’s eyes floated out from his sockets and started dancing a voodoo jig around his skull. Brendan rubbed his eyes. When he took his hands away, the world was tilted forty-five degrees to the left and the patterns on the rug had begun turning into snakes.

Katie pushed Brendan off the sofa, curled up and promptly fell asleep. Creedy pointed at her and giggled like an evil wizard whose plans were all falling into place. Jade returned to the kitchen, his hair slicked back after taking a dunk in the bathroom basin. He laid both hands flat on the bench and stared hard at the marble veneer, as if in the grip of some awful decision.

Waves of nausea coursed through Brendan. He was anywhere but where he wanted to be. “Need some air…” he muttered thickly, and staggered on sea legs out onto the unfinished deck.

Outside, Brendan steadied himself on the railing and tried to collect himself. The bamboo yawned and creaked. Some large animal flew past his head, its wing beat smacking humid air across his face like the swift passing of a wraith. Brendan moved to the side where the railing was unfinished and stepped into empty space. He began to fall, but managed to grab the timber post and swing back to safety. A small off cut of timber tumbled into the void. It landed in the water below, triggering a violent splash and a blood-curdling deep-throated growl. Brendan looked down and could see moonlight glinting on the watery surface of the concrete pool. A heavy, black shadow moved through the water. A fresh wave of fear spread through him, and he violently heaved over the edge. He heard the vomit smacking onto the head of the crocodile below.

From inside the house came a bellow of laughter. Alan Creedy. Brendan got his breath back and spat the remaining bits of sputum and muck from his teeth, then went back inside.

Katie was still fast asleep on the sofa and Zeb was sorting out joint number two, the prick. Brendan felt a little better, having had a good chunder. A new song kicked into gear.

“Ooh, I love this!” said Alan. He went to the stereo and turned up the volume. Jade stepped in from the kitchen, crossing in front of Brendan.

“Alan,” he said, “what did I tell you?”

Creedy looked up at Jade, still laughing, unaware of his transgression.

Jade continued, “Didn’t I tell you not to touch my fucking stereo?” He slid open a drawer in the coffee table and removed a small Norton .22 semi-automatic pistol. Zeb laughed at the tiny weapon in Jade’s big hand, thinking it was a cap gun.

“Come on, Jade,” Creedy went, smiling at the others for support. “Where’s the harm?”

Jade pointed the toy gun at Creedy.

“Jade?”

PAP!

Alan slapped his neck, as if swatting a mosquito. “Ow!” he yelped. He took his hand away and saw the blood. It began squirting from his neck. Alan looked up at Jade, trying to stem the flow with his palm and dropped to one knee, his muscles giving way in fear.

“Jade,” he gasped. “What are you doing? Stop it, please.” Blood showed on his teeth. He was still smiling, miraculously, only it was of the more primal and desperate variety. Like that of a fearful chimp. Blood began spurting through his fingers as his heart rate leapt.

Brendan turned white. “Oh God.”

Jade emptied a further three rounds into Creedy – PAP! PAP! PAP! – hitting him twice in the chest, the third creasing his scalp and making his hairpiece flutter briefly like a young bird attempting flight. The stricken man toppled sideways into the stereo, sending the needle skidding across the vinyl. This only pissed Jade off more. Creedy lay twitching and gurgling, his eyes fixed on the man with the gun who was now walking right up to him. Jade bent over and put the gun against Alan’s forehead.

“Please, Jade!”

Brendan turned away. He heard the final gunshot and the smack of Creedy’s head hitting the timber floor. There was a sound like somebody pissing on carpet. It was blood from the small hole between Alan’s eyes, arching out and landing on the rug. The stream grew weaker, and then stopped altogether.

Jade walked off down the hall and into his room. A door closed behind him. There was silence for a few beats. Then Zeb suddenly pitched forward and spilled his guts onto the rug.

Brendan hadn’t moved. He was still in shock. He stared at Creedy, a pool of blood broadening like a halo around his head. Then Katie began to snore. Loudly. It cut through the stunned silence like a band saw ripping through tin. Jade re-appeared in the darkened hallway like a spectre. His voice was deeper than before, transformed somehow through the act of killing. He pointed to Creedy.

“Clean that shit up. And if you say anything,” he said, jabbing his finger at Zeb and Brendan, “you’ll fucking join this weasel.” Jade Green stepped backwards until only the whites of his eyes were visible in the darkness of the hallway. Then he was gone. They heard the door slam.

5

Lenny pointed to Zeb’s steaming carpet pie. “Right, for starters, you’re cleaning that shit up.”

Brendan got up quickly. “Listen, Lenny, this has got nothing to do with us. We just want to get out of here. We didn’t see anything. We were never even here, right Zeb?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re going nowhere.” Lenny pointed to Zeb. “You, sun-tan, get a bucket of hot water and some rags.” He turned to Brendan, pausing for a beat.

“It’s Brendan,” Brendan sighed.

“Whatever. Get his gear off. Shoes, everything. There’s a garbage bag under the sink.”

Brendan fetched the bag then returned and began to slowly undress Creedy. He gagged when he got to his trousers.

“Christ! He shat himself!”

“They’ll do that,” Lenny said.

Zeb walked back in the room wearing pink rubber gloves and carrying a bucket. All he was missing were the curlers.

Lenny ordered them to roll Alan up in the rug. Brendan dumped the soiled and bloodstained clothing in the garbage bag. He grabbed Creedy by the shoulders; Zeb took the feet. They tried to hoist him but he was heavier than he looked and kept tumbling back to the floor. After several attempts, they finally managed to get him onto the rug. Brendan glanced at Lenny, standing there, doing nothing.

“No, it’s alright. We got it.”

Lenny opened a fresh pack of smokes and popped one in his mouth. “After you take him outside you can get started on the floor.”

They dragged Creedy out through the front door and down the front steps, his head going thunk thunk thunk. They lost control at the bottom and Creedy rolled out and down a small embankment into a stand of lantana.

“Fuck!” said Brendan.

“You okay, buddy?” Zeb asked, placing a hand on his shoulder. Brendan shook it off and bared his teeth.

He said, “I got the stench of a dead man’s shit in my nostrils. My fiancé is upstairs, asleep in the middle of that fucking horror show. If we get out of this alive, I’ll fucking kill you, you cunt!”

“Hey ladies!” Lenny yelled from the deck. “The blood’s starting to congeal. Stop dicking around and get back up here.”

 

Brendan and Zeb scrubbed the floor with wet rags. Lenny stood off, drinking coffee and studying his nails.

Katie began to stir. “Bren?”

Brendan rushed over and leant in close, preventing her from looking around.

“Hey, baby,” he whispered. “You fell asleep.”

“I don’t feel well. I want to go home.”

“We will, baby. Soon, okay? You just lie there a bit longer. And don’t move.”

She smiled and stroked his cheek. “You’re beautiful. I’ve been teasing you all day. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“All that boy’s club stuff. You’re a sensitive, beautiful man. I love you.” She pulled him close to her on the sofa and kissed him. “I want you to fuck me,” she whispered. Her hand slunk its way down Brendan’s leg and started stroking his crotch.

“Baby, not now.”

“Why not?”

Katie began to turn to see who was in the room, but Brendan eased her face back. Luckily her eyes were barely managing to stay open. If she copped a glance at the killing floor behind her, he wasn’t sure where he would end up. Not at Daddy’s boardroom table, that’s for certain.

Brendan stroked her face and threw Lenny a look to let him know he had it covered. When he looked back, he saw a large smear of Creedy’s blood on Katie’s cheek. She steered his bloody finger into her mouth and began to suck it. He whipped it out of her mouth. Katie grimaced at the taste.

She said, “I think I’m going to be sick.” Brendan carefully helped her to her feet.

“Keep your eyes closed, baby? I’ll walk you outside, okay?”

“No outside. Toilet,” she groaned.

“Just keep your eyes closed. I got you.”

“Don’t leave me.”

“I won’t.”

Brendan steered her through the room, artfully placing himself between her and the blood on the floor. They just made the toilet before Katie brought forth her dinner, and then some. Brendan rubbed her arched back while she filled the bowl and bellowed like a buffalo trapped in mud.

Zeb poked his head in. “Hey Cuz, can you pass me that bottle of bleach from behind the toilet?”

 

Brendan carefully led Katie down the front steps and out to the car. She held on to him tightly. Lenny and Zeb were standing at opened boot of the car, covering something with a tarp. Brendan placed Katie in the front passenger seat and strapped her in. He placed his rolled up jacket against the window for a pillow and she promptly fell back to sleep. Lenny and Zeb got in the back seat and shut the doors.

Lenny said, “Drive.”

6

 

Katie woke up with a start. She popped her head up drowsily and looked about her.

“What the fuck? Where am I?”

She looked out into the darkness. The car was parked in a thicket of mangrove by a river. A dilapidated timber pier jutted out over black water. Tied to the end was an aluminium boat with an outboard motor. There were piles of crab pots and a forty-four gallon drum with an old-fashioned hand pump fixed to the top standing nearby. The scene was bathed in the blue light of a full moon.

Katie needed to pee. She got out and went behind the car, noticing the boot was open. She pulled down her pants and relieved herself. Above her, flying foxes stirred in the branches. Her head felt like it was being repeatedly kicked by a mule. She needed water, but there was no Seven Eleven in sight. She cursed under her breath and shivered with nausea. Where the fuck was Brendan? He was going to get a piece of her mind. She capped off her pee with a fart, then stood up on shaky legs and looked around. There was a noise coming from the darkness; a grinding sound in the distance.

“Brendan?” No answer. A narrow path led away through the inky jungle toward the direction of the sound. It looked uninviting, but then staying there on her own held no appeal either. Katie wrapped her arms around herself and stepped tentatively into the bush.

She emerged a minute or so later in a clearing. There was a large shed. Scattered around were used chemical drums and bits of lab equipment. From cracks between the sheets of iron came eerie bursts of arc light and the pop and fizz of a welder.

“Brendan? Are you in there?”

The welding stopped suddenly. Soft voices hushed each other. The metal door opened a crack and Brendan’s face peered out.

“Katie.”

“What the fuck are you doing?”

Brendan trotted out, closing the door behind him. His face and clothes were spattered with gore.

“Hey baby,” he said brightly, “you’re awake. Feeling better?”

“I’ve got a fucking headache,” she snapped, ignoring his appearance and staring at the shed behind him. “What’s going on in there?”

“What? Nothing.” He tried to steer her back towards the car. She slapped away his hands.

“Where the hell are we? What’s going on?” She pushed past him and approached the shed.

“Baby, no!” Brendan got in front of her but she brushed him aside like an annoying insect.

Katie pushed open the door revealing Lenny, a welder’s mask flipped up on his head, cigarette clamped between his teeth and a welding electrode in hand. Before him stood a forty-four gallon drum with the lid partway welded on. Down the sides of the drum were fresh dribbles of pink streaked cement. A few feet off, Zeb, wearing a rubber apron, was hosing out a cement mixer. Both men were covered in blood and bits of flesh. On the floor, the piled up, blood-soaked rug from Jade’s house, and resting on it, a bloodied chainsaw with hair and bone matted in its teeth. The walls of the shed were sprayed with blood; it looked like someone had swallowed a live grenade and then sang an aria. The only movement was the smoke from the end of Lenny’s cigarette.

Katie took in the scene. Tears sprang to her eyes. Brendan and Zeb looked at each other and swallowed as Lenny’s hand slowly drifted to the rear of his jeans. Katie turned to Brendan.

“What the fuck’s the matter with you?” she cried, “I’m tired and I’ve got a splitting headache. Can’t we just go home and stop this fucking bullshit? Just take me home!” She stormed outside boo-hooing.

Lenny’s hand relaxed. He took the cigarette from his mouth and blew smoke.

Brendan turned to face them. “She’s tired.”

 

The beamer pulled up outside the backpacker’s hostel. Zeb got out.

“See you at the wedding?” he said.

Brendan turned to Zeb as if to a pathetic dog in need of putting down. Zeb stood back and waved goofily as Brendan pulled away.

Katie sat in the front, her hand shielding her eyes. She nursed a cracked blister pack of Codeine and a bottle of Evian. They drove down the esplanade as the orange light of dawn cracked over the horizon.

 

The wrapped bundle of ruined clothes tumbled down the hotel garbage chute. Brendan listened until he heard it flump into the steel industrial bin below. Minutes later, he was standing under a scalding shower watching Alan Creedy’s blood wash from his body and down the drain.

Wearing a crisp, newly ironed pair of Calvin Klein boxers, Brendan stood at the window and watched the people on their way to work. He slid closed the blackout curtains and crawled under the fresh linen sheets next to his sleeping fiancé. Katie faced away from him wearing a pink furry eye mask and nothing else. Brendan stared at her for a long moment, his hand gently stroking her sleeping shoulder. He lay back and switched off the bedside lamp.

Darkness and sweet, sweet silence at last. He let out a deep sigh. He was tired enough to let sleep come and wash away the immediate memories of the night. And then Katie began to snore. The sound brought with it the image of a chainsaw ploughing through bone. Brendan fell asleep, but there would be little rest.

Share Button

This entry was posted in Stories. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*

These HTML tags and attributes allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>