The trip back to my unit was a largely uneventful one. I sat in the passenger seat of Adam’s car, watching my own reflection in the window, while outside I could see the city coming alive with light and colour as the night took hold once more. My head was spinning; filled with doubts and fears and images of people I hardly knew lying dead beside the dark waters of the harbour. Intermingled with these were thoughts of friends that were long gone, thoughts of new friends, and thoughts of what the future may hold – which were possibly the scariest thoughts of them all.
Was I doing the right thing by letting Adam get this close to me? Everyone I had ever loved or cared for wound up having something happen to them. For fucks sake, now even people I had only just met were winding up dead!
Would I end up hurting Adam too? Or would he be hurt because of me? Could I take that risk?
I couldn’t answer any of those questions. No one could. All we could do was take it one step at a time and see where we ended up.
“It might never happen,” Adam said to me as we sped along Anzac Parade, heading toward the hovel that I called home.
“Whatever it is you’re worried about. That long face of yours totally gives it away, you know.”
“How can you be so sure it won’t happen?” I asked.
“Hey, I only said that it might never happen. I didn’t say that it wouldn’t happen!”
“Well, I wish that someone could tell what exactly will happen. It’d sure take a load off my mind.”
“And what? Miss all the fun stuff along the way? Miss making all those juicy discoveries about each other?”
“There’s a bit more to it than that, mate.”
“Yeah. So it seems,” he replied, holding my gaze for a moment, before turning his attention back to the road ahead. I turned and looked back out the window, watching traffic and the lights of buildings flash by, and soon found myself lost in my thoughts once more.
A short while later we turned off Anzac Parade and onto Maroubra Road.
‘Where to from here?’ Adam asked.
‘Just stay on this road ‘til you get to the traffic lights, then turn right onto Malabar Road and we’re almost there. My unit building is about a block and a half down on the right. The ugly big red brick job.’
‘So, how close to the beaches are you?’
‘Not far, but nowhere near close enough, mate,’ I answered, as I offered a wry grin. ‘Still, living here isn’t all bad though. There’s a shopping center within a few blocks and the beaches aren’t far past that. The main drawback is that there are no direct trains into the city from here. I usually just bus it to Bondi, then catch the train into the city from there.’
It was only moments later when we came to the traffic lights at the intersection, which thankfully changed to green just as we approached them, so we were able to turn onto Malabar without even having to stop, thanks to a break in the oncoming traffic.
‘See that white house up there on the corner? I’m just on the other side of that. There’s a parking space for my unit, so you can drive in and your car will be off the street,’ I said to him. He nodded and started to slow the car, then put on his indicator when I pointed at the driveway.
In the gloom of the evening we pulled into the narrow driveway. The bleak five story apartment building towered above us and I noticed Adam glance up at it as we drove in, and while he said nothing, I could tell by his expression he was far from impressed.
‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘A copper’s salary only goes so far in this city.’
He looked across at me and for a moment said nothing, but then moved to reassure me. ‘You have nothing to be sorry for . . . and if you think I’m going to judge you because of that, then you’ve totally misjudged me. It’s not where you live that I’m interested in . . . it’s you. When are you going to get that through your head?’
‘Sorry,’ I replied.
‘For fuck’s sake, Rick. Will you stop apologising!’ he said, while sounding somewhat exasperated. ‘Now . . . where can I park?’
‘The second last car space is for my unit, so just drive to the end and turn in,’ I replied.
He pointed the nose of his BWM into my allocated, but previously unused, car space, then cut the motor. I was thankful today at least that the two teenagers from the unit across the hall weren’t hanging around out here like they often did, cruising up and down the driveway on their skateboards.
‘What’s the neighbourhood like?’ Adam asked.
‘Oh, I think it’ll be safe enough here,’ I replied, with just a hint of sarcasm creeping into my voice, which I immediately regretted, as Adam glanced at me sharply. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean that to come out sounding that way.’
‘It’s okay. I probably deserved it,’ he replied after just a moment’s hesitation. ‘How about we just head up to your apartment and see where the night takes us?’
‘Yeah, I think I like that idea.’
From the ground floor car park we climbed up the grimy stairwell at the rear of the building to the third floor landing shared by my apartment, 3c, and that which was shared by a woman and her two teenaged sons, in 3d. There were two other apartments on this floor, however access to these was by the stairwell that was located closer to the front of the building.
The stairwells were dark and dingy, although at least they were relatively clean and free of graffiti, unlike some of the other apartments I had inspected when I found myself needing to move to the city about twelve months ago. I had settled on this one simply because it was reasonably well kept and was within walking distance of both the shops and the beach.
We arrived at my front door, a plain and quite solid fixture, and I fished the keys from my pocket.
‘I hope you don’t expect too much?’ I said to Adam as I inserted the key.
‘From what? From you? Or from the apartment?’ he said quietly, while offering an almost mischievous smile.
I smiled back at him, not quite sure what I should say exactly, then turned the key, opening up my private world to someone for the first time in I didn’t quite know how long.
* * * * *
As apartments go, I’ve been in worse; but I somehow doubted whether Adam had.
I watched him carefully as we entered and I flicked on the lights in the narrow entrance way, which only partly illuminated the unit. Adam looked around him, no doubt taking note of the minimal and somewhat drab furnishings . . . the worn carpet . . . the magazines lying on the floor beside the two-seater lounge . . . the aging and faded print on the wall . . . the kitchen sink with several plates and mugs that had been rinsed and left upturned upon it to drain yesterday morning. Thankfully, at least, he wouldn’t have been able to see the unmade bed through the bedroom door; for the time being anyhow.
I couldn’t help but wonder what he might be thinking; either about the apartment, or about me. To me, everything in this place bespoke of either someone who was from the wrong side of the tracks, or someone who simply didn’t care what others thought. I didn’t think that either scenario was entirely true of my own circumstances, but I knew from experience just how easy it could be to pin a label on someone simply because of where and how they lived. I just hoped that Adam wouldn’t go jumping to conclusions now that I had invited him into my life and he was able to see the real me.
Crossing over to the kitchen window, only because it was closest to me, I pulled it back to reveal a not so spectacular view Maroubra Road, along which we hadn’t long ago driven down. In the gloom outside we could see a line of traffic making its way along the road; city workers all eager to get themselves home, no doubt.
I then crossed to the other side of the room and drew back the curtain across the sliding glass door which led out onto the small balcony. In the daylight the view stretched to the eastern horizon, an endless sea of blue, but tonight there was only blackness above the narrow band of lights coming from the buildings between here and the beach.
‘The view isn’t bad in the daylight,’ I said to Adam. ‘Being on this bit of a hill it looks out over most of the development between here and the beach. I can see glimpses of the beaches, along with plenty of the ocean, so that’s enough.’
‘Nice,’ Adam replied.
‘So, there you have it,’ I said, as I waved my arm around in a circle. ‘Welcome to my inner sanctum. Take it or leave it.’
Adam offered a wry grin, then crossed the floor to where I was standing.
‘How about I take this instead?’ he asked quietly, before pulling me to him, wrapping his firm arms around me and placing his lips over mine.
When we parted I leaned back and took a look at him. Our arms were now holding on to each other’s hips, with our stomachs and lower extremities flat against each other. He was grinning at me and I couldn’t help but grin back.
Reaching out I flicked the lock on the sliding glass door and slid it open, then taking his hand in mine I started out through the door, dragging him with me out onto the balcony, where he obligingly followed. We soon found ourselves leaning against the railing and looking down at Malabar Road, which was the one that ran along the front of the building.
‘It’s really not as bad as you made out,’ he said quietly. ‘I mean, it’s not a total dump, and it’s not like you’re living in some hovel, stuck right out in the boondocks and far away from the city.’
‘That may be the case, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Anyhow, it’ll have to do for now. At least it’s a place to rest my head at night, and for now, that’s all I think I need.’
‘We’ll have to see what we can do about that,’ Adam replied.
Suddenly I had to turn away from him, partly annoyed, yet partly afraid.
‘Please don’t . . .’ I pleaded, as I leaned over the railing, looking out toward the blackness that was the Tasman Sea. ‘Can’t we just see where the night takes us first?’
‘We can do that, but I won’t give up without a fight, you know!’
‘I don’t actually doubt that . . . but I don’t want a fight tonight. I just want someone to love me.’
‘Oh, that is most definitely something that I can arrange,’ he said softly.
He stood behind me, his arms wrapped around my waist, his head resting on my shoulder as we gazed out into the night, watching the parade of traffic below us, the blinking lights of jets above us as they prepared to land at the nearby international airport, or the flashing beacon lights of a couple of ships that were far out to sea.
When he leaned against me I felt him begin to stiffen as he pressed his crotch to my butt, so I pressed back, teasing him, offering an answer to the silent question which he posed. Adam nibbled lightly on my ear, causing my own cock to come to full attention, before I then felt his hands reach around me and rub my trapped erection through the fabric of my pants, which only made me moan in expectation.
As a slight breeze came wafting in from the ocean, bringing with it that sweet fragrance that is the sea, I turned and melted into his arms. I let Adam take the lead, not quite knowing where this would take us, but not caring either. It was enough that he was with me, and that I had let him this far into my life. From here, well, almost anything could happen, and tomorrow would be another day, bringing with it its own problems and issues. We would face those when we needed to, but right at this moment there were other things on our minds.
* * * * *
Not much sleep was had that night, at least on my part, and when the weak, pre-dawn light came creeping into the apartment I found myself lying on my side and propped up on one elbow, again watching Adam, cloaked in shadow, catch up on at least some of what he had missed out on.
As the light gradually grew stronger I watched as the sleeping form next to me took on more of a human form, and as colour flooded my world his features gradually started coming to life.
He was a beautiful man, of that there was no doubt. And right at this moment he was my beautiful man, which was exactly how I wanted things to stay, even knowing the risks and the fears that were lurking in the back of my mind. I couldn’t tell just what the future might bring, but I knew that I would be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that I didn’t sabotage this relationship. I had come this far, so why stop now?
Eventually, once the bedroom became flooded with the direct light from the rising sun, Adam began to open his eyes. I watched as they flitted from me, to the surroundings, and then back again. As they focused on me it was almost as if I could see directly into his soul . . . there was no confusion in them, or indecision, he was fully lucid and knew exactly where he was and who he was with, which was quickly borne out by his smile and greeting.
‘Good morning, Detective Constable,’ he cheekily offered. ‘Am I under house arrest?’
‘No, that only applies if you’re in your own house. I’ve just brought you in for questioning.’
‘I think your interrogation techniques need some work. You were far too gentle on me,’ he said with a smirk.
‘What can I say; I’m only new to this. Maybe I just need more practice?’
‘You can practice on me any time you want, sweetheart. Anytime you want!’
‘I’ll keep that in mind,’ I replied, before I leaned forward and kissed him once more.
He returned the kiss, with interest, before quickly rolling me onto my back, spreading my legs apart and positioning himself to move in for the kill.
‘You ready for another round?’ he inquired.
‘I guess I can squeeze you in,’ I replied, which was all the invitation he needed.
* * * * *
After showers, coffee and some toast smeared with vegemite, we were both soon ready to leave for work. Adam asked if he could borrow some clean underwear and a shirt, which I was okay with, but it did leave me feeling somehow . . . what’s the word? Wistful? Nostalgic? I wasn’t sure.
Yesterday it had been me borrowing some clothes off him. Today it was the other way round. The last time I had swapped clothes with anyone it was with Martin, and we had done it often over the years. Now, doing the same with Adam, I found myself asking just what did this latest development mean?
‘A penny for your thoughts,’ I suddenly heard Adam ask.
‘Huh . . . errr . . . what?’
‘I said, a penny for your thoughts,’ he replied. ‘You looked like you are off in la-la land again.’
‘Sorry . . . yeah, I guess I was.’
‘Anything you want to talk about?’
‘Maybe later,’ I replied. ‘I was actually just thinking about something from a long time ago.’
‘Or someone, perhaps?’
I snapped my gaze back toward his face, my headed filled with confusion.
‘Why would you say that?’ I asked. I knew it came out sounding churlish, but I couldn’t help it.
He nodded toward my hands. I looked down, and without even having realized it I had picked up a picture frame from the small table in the living room, the one place where I had collected and displayed the few remnants of my past that I cared to keep.
There in my hands, looking up at me was the smiling face of Martin Oliver. The only boy I had ever truly loved.
I know that I hadn’t ever told Adam much of what had happened in my past, apart from the fact that someone close to me had died, but that was about it. I also knew that sooner or later I would have to tell him the whole story. But it wouldn’t be today.
‘Sorry,’ I simply said.
‘Was that him?’ Adam asked. I nodded, then he walked across the room to me and held out his hand.
Was I finally ready to give Martin up? Confine him to the depths of my memories, rather than have him there with me every day and every night?
I didn’t hand him over to Adam, but he took him from me anyway, holding the framed portrait — Martin’s school photo from our last year at high school — out in front of him and taking a good look at it.
‘He sure was a nice looking guy,’ Adam said.
I just couldn’t say anything.
‘One day, when you’re ready, I’d love to know all about him,’ he said. ‘But only when you’re ready, okay?’
‘Okay,’ I somehow managed to reply, then I watched as Adam returned the portrait to its rightful place, beside the portrait of the only other people from my past whom I cherished . . . my parents.
* * * * *
We left the apartment soon afterwards and headed down the stairwell to where Adam’s car was parked. The morning had all seemed rather surreal to me, like it was a scene from some movie, but when we reached the ground floor and stepped out into the car park to find the two teenage boys from 3d drooling over his car, we were soon snapped back to reality.
‘Hey, what the hell are you pair up to?’ I demanded as we found them there, their faces pressed against the windows of the BMW convertible. Thankfully Adam had put the top up last night and they couldn’t get inside, which I’m sure they would have done, given half a chance.
‘N . . . nothing,’ one of them answered, as the both jumped back. I think it was the older one of the two, Nick, fourteen years old, shaggy blonde, beautifully tanned after the recent school holidays and their having spent almost every day at the nearby beaches, and a boy-lovers wet dream; not that I would ever even contemplate going there!
His younger brother was Brad. Thirteen years old, but almost identical in looks and size to Nick. They also both wore the standard surfer-dudes badge of a white shell necklace, which was another reason why I often had trouble telling them apart.
Today they were dressed in their school uniforms, of grey shorts and white shirts, which had the top few buttons undone, partly exposing their smooth, tanned chests.
As the boys jumped back from the car I glanced at Adam and couldn’t help but notice his expression change from one of annoyance at these brats leaning all over his pride and joy, to one of surprise. He glanced at me and caught me looking at him. We both smiled; both knowing what the other was thinking.
‘Who’s this then?’ Brad enquired, while nodding his head toward Adam. ‘Your boyfriend?’
‘What’s it to you?’
‘Just askin’, is all.’
‘He’s my mate, Adam, and that’s his car you’ve both been slobbering over.’
‘Fuckin’ nice,’ Nick said. He was looking Adam up and down at the time, so I wasn’t quite sure if he was talking about Adam or the car. Adam and I exchanged glances again.
I noticed their school bags were sitting nearby, so I thought I’d take a chance on something.
‘So, you boys fancy a ride to school?’ I asked them. I looked over to Adam for his approval and he simply shrugged, so I took that as a yes. ‘We go right past your school on our way into the city, so we can drop you there if you like.’
‘For real?’ Brad chirped.
‘Yeah mate. For real. Just imagine the look on your mates’ faces when you show up in this baby, eh?’
‘Yeah, they’re going to go ape-shit!’
Adam unlocked the car and got in, then started the process of taking down the top, which only left the boys bug-eyed. When it was finished he turned to me and gave me a nod.
‘Okay, lads, into the back seat . . . and be careful, will you! I don’t want to have to pay for any scratches to be fixed, or for fucked up upholstery,’ I said to them.
I opened the passenger door and flipped the seat forward, and they excitedly scrambled into the back seat, before I pushed my seat back into place then climbed in.
Adam started the car and backed out of the car park, into the turning space, then drove down the driveway and onto the busy road.
‘So, did you boys have a sleep over or something?’ Brad asked, obviously not happy at having been silenced earlier.
‘And what if we did?’
‘Well, we’ve been in your flat . . . there’s only one bed,’ he sniggered.
‘You’re so busted,’ Nick added, with a laugh.
* * * * *
We dropped the boys at school with plenty of time to spare, and much to their excitement some of their friends were waiting outside at the time. The car was soon swamped with rambunctious teenage boys, but we soon managed to extricate ourselves from the mob and continue on our way into the city.
‘So, those neighbours of yours are a bit full of themselves,’ Adam remarked. ‘Still, they’re both bloody cute.’
‘Yeah, and bloody dangerous too! Talk about jail bait,’ I joked.
‘Ain’t that the truth!’ he added.
It was only a short time later when we pulled up on a corner, not far from my destination.
‘Thanks for the ride,’ I said to him as I stepped from the car.
‘You’re more than welcome, babe. What are you doing tonight? Did you have any plans?’
‘Nothing in the works, but can I give you a call later on this afternoon?’
‘Sure thing. I’ll look forward to it,’ he said, then before pulling out into the traffic he added, ‘Have a great day.’
‘You too,’ I replied.
I watched for a moment, until his car eventually disappeared from view, then once he was gone I set off to walk the short distance to the station, arriving there with plenty of time to spare.
After riding the elevator up to our squad room I stepped out and then walked down the hall, arriving to find the place empty, or so I thought at first. No sooner had I closed the door then Helen walked in, coming from the Inspector’s office.
‘Good morning, hotshot,’ she said, but her tone of voice held little cheer.
‘Good morning. How’s our captive doing with your friends?’
‘Oh, he’s fine, but we have more important things to worry about today.’
‘Yeah. There’s something you need to see,’ she replied, then picked up a folder from her desk and passed it to me.
I took it from her and flipped it open, soon finding it to be a preliminary autopsy report on Alexis. The photo attached to the top right corner with a simple paper clip, of him lying on a cold stainless steel slab at the morgue, was rather confronting, especially for this hour of the morning.
As I began to read through it I could feel the blood drain from my face and my legs begin to grow weak. As I noticed the additional autopsy photos attached to the back of the report I tried to steady myself by leaning against my desk, but it was no use, I was already too far gone.
Somehow I managed to make it to the chair at my desk, but my body was trembling, my hands were shaking.
‘It can’t be!’ I stammered.
Helen came toward me and took the file from my hands. She looked down at me, her faced etched with concern. Was there also a touch of pity there? Or was it disgust? I couldn’t be sure.
She opened the report and began to read from it.
‘Cause of death: Thirteen stab wounds to the back, apparently received during participation in anal sex.’
I shook my head.
‘Additional injuries: a crude celtic cross carved into the skin at the base of the neck.’
Even without having seen the additional photograph, I knew what it would have looked like. I had seen it every day when I walked through the gates of my old school.
‘But I don’t get this bit . . . the bit where a piece of hair is shaved from the back of the head.’
‘It’s like a souvenir,’ I said to her. ‘Something for the killer to remember him by.’
‘Of course. Who else?’
She paused and perched her ample backside on the corner of my desk, then looked down at me.
‘How about you?’
‘What the fuck?’ I yelled, jumping to my already unsteady feet. ‘You think it was me?’
That was just too much. It was all I could do to lunge for the waste paper container beside my desk, before depositing my vegemite on toast inside it.