In the dark hours well before dawn, as the pale curtains framing the open doorway which led out onto the balcony wafted gently in and out of the entrance, drifting like two restless spirits in the night, I lay there wide awake, watching shadows flit across the naked, uncovered body of my companion.
I had been woken by yet another nightmare, but things were all right now. I knew where I was, reassured by the rhythmic sounds of his breathing, while from outside the lulling sound of the surf crashing onto the nearby beach carried in through the open doorway. Somewhere off in the distance, a police siren screamed into the night.
I don’t know what it is, but there is something about this city that I was beginning to love: something I could not yet define, but was most definitely there.
Feeling him stir beside me, I glanced across in time to see Adam roll over and face me, although with his head still half hidden by shadow I couldn’t tell if he was awake or not. The sheet that had earlier covered us both was now pushed down toward the foot of the bed, exposing our bodies to the warm February night air, and leaving our skin slick and damp and shining with sweat.
‘You’re awake,’ I heard him whisper into the darkness.
‘Yeah,’ I replied. ‘Too damn hot to sleep!’
‘Or do anything else either,’ he chuckled, while reaching out and placing a hand flat on my chest, his thumb gently rubbing back and forth across my left nipple.
‘Yeah . . . I reckon it might be,’ I giggled in reply.
Rolling over onto my side, I faced him, looking directly into his eyes and catching a brief reflection of light in them, although from where it came from I had no idea.
Cupping his cheek in one hand I whispered to him, ‘You know, I could get used to this.’
‘I hope you do,’ he replied, which sent a sudden chill through my body that I was totally unprepared for.
‘Please don’t . . .,’ I started to say, before closing my mouth mid-sentence.
‘Just let’s not get too carried away with things just yet, all right? I can’t, and I don’t want to, go rushing into anything, that’s all.’
Suddenly, Adam pulled away from me and rolled onto the flat of his back, lying there and staring at the ceiling for what seemed a long time, before anything more was said.
‘You know how I feel about you,’ he eventually whispered into the darkness. ‘What else do I have to do for you?’
‘Adam, please don’t be upset with me,’ I pleaded, propping myself up on one elbow so that I could at least get a view of his form in the darkness. ‘I know you want me to move in with you, and believe me, I want to, but I just need some time, that’s all. It’s a big decision to make and I have a lot of stuff going on at the moment, especially with this new job. And then there are other things I have to worry about, like having to get someone to take over the lease on my apartment. Just . . . just give me some time . . . please?’
‘Yeah. I can do that,’ he replied. ‘But just don’t take forever, okay?’
‘I won’t,’ I promised, before leaning over him and placing my lips over his. Letting one of my hands slide gradually down his smooth body I soon figured out that he wasn’t too mad at me. He needed little encouragement to soon be working his slick body against mine, thrilling me with his hot touch.
* * * * *
It was around six in the morning when the rosy fingers of dawn began to creep into the bedroom.
I had been lying awake for some time, thinking about all that was going on in my life, while watching the ever lightening sky and listen to the early morning sounds of the surf and the waking city. Beside me, I could also hear the slow and rhythmic breathing of Adam, whose body now seemed to be bathed in the golden beauty of dawn. It gave him an almost angelic appearance and for what seemed like a long, long time, I simply lay there, just watching him and enjoying the view.
A few minutes later an early morning train rattled past on the nearby tracks and once more my companion stirred.
‘You’re back,’ I said to him as his eyes slowly focused on me. ‘Enjoy your sleep?’
‘On and off,’ he wearily replied. ‘I dreamed I was having sex . . . again! But it didn’t feel like a dream, it just seemed so real.’
‘Maybe it was?’ I replied with a grin, to which he simply chuckled.
We lay there for a little while longer, listening to the sounds wafting in through the open window, before he finally disrupted our reverie and asked, ‘Feel like a swim before breakfast?’
‘I think I might pass,’ I replied. ‘I wanted to get into the station a bit earlier if I could, so I really need to head back to my place and grab a change of clothes before I go to work. Will I see you later on?’
‘I’ll have to check my schedule, but I think I can squeeze you in,’ he laughed. ‘You don’t need to head back home though, some of my clothes will fit you won’t they?’
‘Well . . . I don’t know. . .’ I began to stammer , but he quickly placed a finger over my lips and silenced me.
‘I’m just trying to help, mate! I haven’t asked you to marry me, or anything like that . . . well, not yet anyway!’
Even I had to laugh at that.
‘Well, I suppose that might make life a bit easier,’ I replied. ‘Thanks.’
‘No problem! After all, what are friends and lovers for?’
I couldn’t help myself, I leant across and kissed him.
When we finally parted, with Adam once again laying back on the bed and with my head resting on his chest, one arm draped across his abdomen and with his fingers gently stroking my hair, he asked, ‘So, what have they got you doing today? Baby-sitting again?’
‘Nah, we’re off to the motor-pool this morning,’ I answered, rolling back away from him. ‘Christ only knows what the Inspector will have us doing. Probably polishing the wheels of the Commissioner’s limo!’
Adam laughed and sat up on the bed, telling me that there were probably worse jobs I could be doing. Then holding his arms out in front of him and clasping his hands together, he stretched his arms upwards, revealing the taut physique which I found myself daydreaming about more and more with each passing day.
‘What are you grinning at?’ he demanded when he noticed me staring at him yet again.
I simply shook my head and sat up, throwing my legs over the side of the bed and getting to my feet. As I walked toward the bathroom, still grinning to myself, I leant down and picked up my boxers from the floor and managed to glance back at him. I noticed Adam’s eyes planted firmly on my arse, which itself was enough to send a tingling sensation through my loins.
When I emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later, having relieved myself and pulled my shorts back on, I found Adam almost ready to hit the surf, wearing only his favourite dark blue board shorts.
‘Sure you wouldn’t like to come and join me?’ he asked.
For a moment I actually thought about it, but just then some other things came flooding back to me and I shook my head. ‘Not just now. Some other time, maybe,’ I replied, as I turned away from him, trying to hide my face, and what it might reveal to him.
He must have read something in my expression and my actions however, because almost instantly he was beside me, reaching out for me.
‘Rick, you’re not alone any more, you know that don’t you?’ he said to me.
‘Yeah, I know . . . I know. I’m sorry, mate. It’s not you who is the problem, it’s me.’
‘There isn’t any problem. And I don’t want you to forget that, you hear me?’
I looked up into his eyes and for the first time, I think I saw something there that I hadn’t seen in anyone’s eyes for a long, long while.
‘Adam, just give me some time, will you?’
‘You can have all the time in the world, mate.’
‘Thanks,’ I replied.
‘Can we talk about this later?’
‘We’ll see,’ I answered, to which he gave a nod of satisfaction, knowing that that was as much as I could give him for now.
I followed him out onto the balcony after that, where we stood at the railing with his arms wrapped tightly around me and both watched the morning sun as it crept slowly higher and higher above the distant horizon.
‘I suppose it’s time I headed down there, if I don’t want to miss the best waves,’ he said after a while.
‘You don’t need to go to the beach to have fun and get wet you know?’ I remarked.
‘Don’t I? What did you have in mind?’
Without saying a word I took his hand and led him back inside.
We stopped by the bathroom door and I hooked my thumbs in the waistband of his shorts, then with one swift movement I pulled them down around his ankles. He placed a hand on my shoulder to balance himself as he clumsily stepped out of them, then quickly did the same for me, before allowing me to lead him into the fancy bathroom, with all its glass and shiny stainless steel, where we both stepped into his spacious shower, built for two.
* * * * *
It was well after seven thirty when we walked down the stairs and said our farewells on the footpath outside his apartment block and I watched him drive off. He had offered to give me a lift into the city of course, but I said I wanted to clear my head for a bit and walk up the hill to the Bondi railway station, which wasn’t that far off.
Bondi was where this particular line started and I thought that it would have been crowded at this early hour, but when I reached the station I found that things were still relatively quiet. It wasn’t deserted by any means, but I just thought there would have been more people around, setting out to start their working days.
After paying for my ticket I passed through the turnstiles and walked down the two flights of stairs to the underground platform, which stood directly between the two tracks. I found myself waiting with a couple of dozen other people and while I stood there I checked the timetable display board to see how long it would be before the next train arrived, before then checking my watch. As it turned out I wouldn’t have to wait for long as the next train was due in just a few minutes, and sure enough it wasn’t long before I heard the familiar hum of the train coming towards the station.
From somewhere deep within the dark tunnels that led away from both ends of the platform the hum quickly got louder and louder. Then it was followed closely by the screech of metal on metal, as soon the sleek silver train emerged from the tunnel and noisily pulled to a stop before us all.
With a whoosh the doors slid open and quite a few people stepped out and hurried for the stairs, while most of those who had been waiting along with me climbed on board and found themselves a seat. Unfortunately for me, however, this train wasn’t mine, as it travelled in the opposite direction to where I needed to go, so I still had about another ten minutes to wait. All I could do was watch as the passengers settled into their seats, the doors slid closed and the train sped off into a darkened tunnel.
With a little while still to wait I took a seat against one of the barriers that ran along the centre of the platform and started to look around me, at the people sitting on the other seats, and those still milling around on the platform. Most of them appeared to be around my age, although there were a few young kids that I instantly thought must have been up to no good, along with a few older people as well. As I glanced from one person, or group, to another I eventually came to notice a man standing alone, near the base of the stairs, which was quite some distance away from where I now sat.
As I always did, thanks to my training I guess, I quickly ran my eyes over him, taking in his clothes and appearance and building an image in my mind that I would accurately be able to recall any time it was needed.
He was a white male, approximately forty years old, with a pale complexion and thin build. He had dark hair, which was tinged at the sides with grey, giving him a slightly distinguished appearance. He was wearing jeans and a white t-shirt with what appeared to be casual lace up leather shoes.
I didn’t think I was imagining it, but I could have sworn that right up until the moment I looked at him, he had been staring at me, before glancing quickly away.
The other thing that I didn’t think I was imagining, was the fact that I had this vague feeling that I knew him from somewhere, though where that could be from, I had no idea.
Even though we were quite a way apart and the lighting on the platforms left quite a lot to be desired, I studied him for a few moments, until a group of people came between us, blocking my view. When they finally moved on I looked back at the spot where he had been standing, but he was gone.
With my curiosity now aroused, I got to my feet and casually wandered down toward that end of the platform, looking around for him, but without any luck. When I reached the base of the stairs which led back up to ground level I looked up toward the top, but saw no one there, apart from a few more early morning commuters hurrying down to the platform.
Just then I heard the familiar sound of the train coming along the tunnel as it approached the station, so I turned and headed back toward the crowd that was assembling near the edge of the platform, casting one last glance around for the mysterious stranger.
Whoever he was he was gone now, but still I couldn’t shake the feeling that I knew him from somewhere.
* * * * *
It was almost an hour later when I made it to the station, after having got off the train at Museum Station beneath Hyde Park and climbed the stairs to exit the underground, stepping out into another beautiful morning on the edge of the park.
After picking up a coffee from one of the take-away stands just inside the park, I then walked the last few blocks up the hill to Darlinghurst Police Station, enjoying the morning sun and the hustle and bustle around me, and for a change feeling good about myself and what my future may hold.
When I reached the rather imposing building that was now my workplace I stopped on the street and looked up at the plain grey walls of this fortress, wondering to myself just how and why it was that I found myself here, but at the same time grateful for the opportunity it would give me. I still felt like a stranger, but I guessed that that would soon pass.
‘It’s pretty impressive, isn’t it?’ a voice suddenly said. I turned and saw Jim Harris standing there beside me, gazing upwards.
‘Yeah, I suppose it is.’
‘Trust me though. You won’t be anywhere near as much in awe of the place after you’ve been here a while.’
‘No, I suppose not,’ I replied.
‘Just give it some time, lad, and you’ll see it for what it really is.’
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
‘Just another prison,’ he replied, then taking a sip of the coffee that he too was holding. ‘The only difference between this place and Long Bay is that we usually get to go home at the end of each day.’
I glanced at his face, trying to read something, anything, from his expression, but all I could see were years of service that had obviously taken its toll.
‘You don’t much like it here then?’ I asked him.
‘Like it? Mate, this place is my life,’ he answered, slapping me on my back as he did so. Even as he did that though, I could sense that there was more to this encounter than meets the eye. I just wasn’t sure what it was.
Maybe he was he trying to tell me something? Or maybe it was just my own paranoia? Who knows?
Either way, as I watched him climb the stairs and disappear through the sliding glass doors, I knew that the light mood with which I had arrived just a few minutes ago, was now gone.
With a sigh I joined the crowd and started toward the door, walking into the foyer of the building and then heading for the elevator which would lead me to the detective’s squad room on the fifth floor. A few people looked at me and smiled, or said hello, which did a little toward easing my feelings of still being something of an outsider, but by and large hardly anyone gave me so much as a second glance as I stood amongst the small group of people waiting patiently for the doors to open.
When I reached the squad room a few minutes later, I found it almost deserted, with only Jim sitting at his desk, the telephone receiver pressed already against his ear. He nodded to me as I entered the room, then moments later he disconnected.
‘So, you’re first day on the job couldn’t have been too bad then, eh?’ he asked with a smile, while leaning back in his chair.
‘I guess I survived,’ I replied as I walked over to him and perched myself on the corner of his desk.
‘Well, that’s a start at least!’
I didn’t respond, except by giving him a smile.
‘Oh, and how was your big date?’ he asked, almost casually, yet all at once I felt the blood drain from my face and my body stiffen. He seemed to notice that and quickly added, ‘Shit! Sorry Rick, I didn’t mean anything by it. It doesn’t matter to me, or anyone else around here, what you do in your spare time . . . even to Benevetti, believe it or not. Anyway, I hope you don’t take anything that he says too seriously. He may be my partner, but he’s full of shit most of the time anyway.’
‘Thanks,’ I eventually managed to say, while offering something of a smile, but deep inside me, everything was churning away like you wouldn’t believe.
‘Don’t mention it,’ Jim replied.
We chatted for a few more minutes about nothing much in general and then Jim’s telephone rang, so I left him and went and found my new desk, sitting myself down at it and just looking it over, seeing as I didn’t get to spend much time at it on my first day in the office. While I was checking out the empty drawers of my desk the doors to the office swung open and in came Craig and Garry, followed closely by Joe, whose rather serious expression changed completely as soon as he saw me sitting there.
‘Hey pretty boy! You get lucky last night, or what?’ he asked.
I glanced at Jim, who gave me the slightest shake of his head. I wasn’t sure what I should do, but I knew I wasn’t going to let this bastard get the best of me, not yet anyway. And especially not without putting up some sort of fight. Looking back at Joe I could see he was waiting for an answer.
‘Actually, I did,’ I said to him. ‘My date was waiting right where he promised. How about you? Have any trouble unwrapping yours and blowing her up?’
Snorts of laughter quickly echoed around the room, with Joe even getting a friendly slap on the back from Garry, who also said something to the effect that it was about time someone gave him back what he’s been dishing out for all these years.
Joe didn’t look at any of the others though. He just continued to stare at me, with his complexion growing redder and redder.
‘Relax, Joe,’ Jim quickly said to him. ‘The kid’s just done what no-one else has been game enough to do for ages. You were asking for that one!’
‘Maybe I was and maybe I wasn’t,’ he said through a forced smile. ‘He’s still a fag though!’
‘Yeah, we figured that bit out already,’ Craig said to him. ‘Like it matters!’
Joe threw him a furious glare, but Craig just turned and headed for his desk. For me though, it was like a weight being lifted from my shoulders. Now they all knew. And they didn’t care. Well, at least some of them didn’t care.
Maybe things wouldn’t be so bad here after all?
It was into this rather strained atmosphere that the rest of the team, including Helen and the Inspector, arrived a few minutes later, with Tom and Craig both offering some friendly remarks about my presence as they passed my desk.
As they came through the door I heard the Inspector say to Helen, ‘So, I take it you didn’t make it to the motor pool yesterday then?’
‘No, sir,’ Helen replied as they stopped right beside my desk. ‘Jarvis has reared his ugly head again.’
‘Really?’ the Inspector said, sounding quite surprised.
‘Yes sir. We got a call from one of his boys that he’d beaten up one of the others, so we picked up the kid who called us and planted him, just to keep him safe.’
‘Good. Good,’ the Inspector said, nodding his approval. ‘So, you think you can put him away this time?’
‘Yes, sir. I’m sure of it this time. As soon as we can get a statement from the kid that he bashed we’ll be able to go and pick him up. The kid is in St. Vincent’s, so we’ll get a statement from him this morning, then go and pay our Mr. Jarvis a visit.’
‘And what about some of the . . . errrr . . . past matters involving Jarvis?’
‘I think we’ll be able to get enough so that we’ll be able to make something stick.’
‘From the boys?’
‘Yeah. Once a couple of them have talked and we’ve actually got our hands on Jarvis, I reckon the flood gates will open and some of the others will talk too.’
‘Good. Good,’ the Inspector said once more, then adding, ‘Well, keep me informed won’t you?’
‘Yes sir. We will,’ Helen replied.
With a nod of satisfaction, followed by his saying, ‘Good morning, Cooper,’ the Inspector turned and headed for his office, without even waiting for a response from me.
‘Oh, Wheeler. One more thing,’ the Inspector said, while pausing at the door which led to his office.
‘Just make sure that you and Cooper don’t forget your appointment at the Motor Pool.’
‘No sir. We won’t.’
I glanced at Helen, with my eyebrows raised, but she said nothing until the Inspector was safely out of earshot.
‘Don’t worry about it kid,’ she said to me. ‘You’ll get used to him soon enough.’
Around us the room had already settled into the usual daily routine of paper shuffling and telephone calls and Helen glanced quickly around, settling her gaze on Joe, who I soon found was staring in my direction, focussing all his venom toward me.
‘He sure looks pissed at you,’ she said to me. ‘You haven’t been stirring Joe up already, have you?’
‘Me? Never!’ I replied.
She grinned at me and said, ‘All right, we better head over to the Motor Pool. You can tell me all about it on the way there.’
It was just then that the telephone on her desk started ringing, so she walked around to her desk and answered it.
‘G’day Harry, Yeah, we were just leaving actually,’ she said.
She looked up at me and just shook her head.
‘All right, we’ll see you then,’ she said, then disconnected.
‘Well?’ I asked her.
‘Change of plans already. Harry from the Motor Pool has put us back for a bit, he’s had something come up. So I reckon we’ll hit the streets instead, I could probably do with a coffee from down at Alexis’ shop, then we’ll head to St. Vincent’s.’
‘That sounds like a plan,’ I replied.
* * * * *
Just as we had done the previous day we rode the lift down to the marble foyer on the ground floor and headed out through the tinted glass doors, which slid back smoothly at our approach.
Outside in the bright morning the street and the sidewalks were once more busy with people going about their daily routines. Looking across the road at the flower shop I had noticed on the previous day, I saw that its windows were once again filled with brightly coloured bunches of flowers.
We stepped onto the sidewalk and started our rounds, following the same course as we had yesterday and talking to many of the same people. After a short while we came to the same café on Liverpool Street where I had met Alexis, the good looking young Greek guy, with its outdoor seating looking out onto the roadway, just down from Hyde Park.
We stood at the counter for a few moments before someone came to serve us, a young girl who was looking flustered, even at this early hour.
‘Where’s Alexis?’ Helen asked her.
‘We don’t know,’ she replied, in a voice that was thick with a Greek accent. She was clearly exasperated by the busy morning and their apparently being short staffed. ‘He not come to work this morning.’