If you believe what they say, about what happens to our souls after we die, then I suspect that Adam and I weren’t alone as we walked past the gardens and along the paths, before finally we stood at the foot of Martin’s grave. It was a still summer afternoon and in the fading light, looking down upon the grey granite headstone, it appeared to almost be glowing.
Some say that we either go to heaven or hell, based on our deeds while walking this earth in mortal form. Others say that many of us spend eternity with our souls in limbo, held here by some unearthly force, until we are able to complete whatever it is that our supreme being, whichever faith we may observe, tasks us with.
Personally I don’t really know what to believe, but I do kind of like the idea that our souls sometimes remain on this earth, whether to finish something, or to watch over our loved ones, or for some other purpose.
If that were true I think it would explain quite a lot of things that happen after a loved one has passed away. I know that it would certainly explain a lot of the things that have happened around me.
That is why, now, I didn’t entirely believe we were alone. Martin was with us, I felt sure. And it felt as if he was smiling.
Squatting down beside his grave, with Adam standing beside me, his hand resting gently on my shoulder, I looked at Martin’s smiling face gazing out at us from the photo attached to the headstone. God, how I missed him.
In the centre of the granite slab which topped his grave, and just in front of the headstone, a vase had been fixed, which currently held a small bunch of dead flowers, with withered blooms and stalks. Reaching out I pulled them from the vase and tossed them aside.
Just then Adam said, ‘I’ll be back in a minute,’ before turning and walking back along the path we had followed. I wasn’t sure what he was up to, but he said he would be back, so I wasn’t too concerned.
Turning my attention back to the gravestone in front of me I brushed away some dead leaves that had drifted by and fallen upon it, as I tried to think of what I wanted to say, in the hope that Martin would be listening.
‘Marty, I don’t know if you can hear me, but I’m sorry for taking so long to come back to you,’ I said. ‘I’m sure you know just how much I’ve missed you, but I want you to know that I haven’t given up on finding out who did this to you.’
As I said this I felt the gentle touch of a breeze caress my cheek and playfully ruffle my hair, which brought a smile to my face, coupled with joy to my heart. Even if that wasn’t the work of Martin, it still felt nice to think that it could be him, and in these times of uncertainty, any moment of joy, however tenuous, was something that was worth grabbing hold of.
‘I really hope that’s you,’ I quietly said, just as I heard a sound close behind me and turned to see Adam standing there, smiling at me and holding a small bunch of flowers he had picked from the gardens.
‘Don’t stop,’ Adam said, as he stepped forward and squatted down beside me, before reaching out and placing the flowers in the vase. I returned the smile and carried on with what I had intended to say.
‘Marty, you might have noticed that I brought someone with me. This is Adam. He and I are together now . . . but you probably already know that, don’t you? Please don’t ever think I’m going to stop loving you . . . because that will simply never happen . . . but you need to know that I love Adam also. I truly hope that you can understand that.’
While I spoke Adam had reached across and taken hold of my hand, then, once I had finished he cleared his throat, indicating that he wanted to speak also.
‘Martin, I don’t know if you can hear me or not, but just in case you can I just wanted you to know that your boyfriend is in good hands,’ he said. ‘I love him just as much as he has said that he loves me, and I promise I’m going to take real good care of him, for the both of us.’
When he finished he squeezed my hand, then leant in closer, kissing my cheek.
‘I meant every word,’ he whispered, as the late afternoon breeze picked up and swirled around us once more.
* * *
Before we left the cemetery I had one more visit to make and so after we left Martin, Adam and I strolled hand in hand along the gravel pathways until we came to another section of the grounds, which didn’t seemed to receive quite the same amount of care and attention as that where Martin lay.
It always struck me as odd that even in death those that had, and those that didn’t have, were still treated in the same manner as they were when alive, separated not by their deeds on this earth, but by what they could afford.
Adam had looked at me questioningly as we walked the pathways, before finally we came to a standstill in front of a simple wooden cross. It had once been painted white, with neat black lettering spelling out the name of the woman who rested there, but even after these few short years the paint was peeling and the cross looked sad and unloved.
Despite all of that, we could still make out the name, Ellen May Cooper, and the dates that had been painted upon it.
It saddened me to think that apart from the two children she had left behind, this was all there was to mark her passing. I know that my mother may have had her faults, but I now also know that she tried her best to give my sister and me a good upbringing, despite the lack of any real input or assistance from the arsehole of a man who I was supposed to call dad. She died of a tired and broken heart and there was no doubt in my mind that he was the one responsible for putting her in this place, just as surely as if he had committed an act of murder himself.
I had no idea where the man was now, but the day would come, I firmly believed, when he would be called to account, and I sincerely hoped that I would be there to see it.
‘One day I’m going to get her a nice headstone,’ I said to Adam as we stood there looking down at the timber cross. ‘She may not have been a Mother of the Year candidate, but I think she deserves that, at least.’
‘And what about your dad?’ he asked gently.
‘Don’t know. Don’t care,’ I replied. ‘The bastard can rot in hell as far as I’m concerned.’
Adam remained silent, all the while studying me intently.
As for my mother’s grave, there was little I could say or do, and so, having at least paid a visit I turned and started walking back toward the cars, dragging Adam with me.
‘Are you okay?’ he asked after we had gone a short distance.
‘Yeah, I’m fine. I haven’t ever told you very much about my family, but I’ll fill you in over the weekend. I’ve even just found out something new about them myself,’ I said as we walked along.
‘Yeah? What’s that?’
‘Would you believe that my sister got married and I’m now an uncle! How do you like them apples?’
‘And you were never told?’
‘No. Does that tell you enough about them?’ I shrugged.
‘I’m sorry, mate. I really had no idea.’
‘It’s okay . . . it doesn’t bother me now like it all used to. I’m my own man and have very few ties, so my future is what I make it, irrespective of what happened in my past. Come on, how about I take you to meet my real family? They’ll be wondering where we are.’
* * *
It was growing dark by the time we reached Tom and Beth’s house and I pulled Beth’s car into the driveway and parked it. Adam pulled up on the street behind me, just as I got out of the car and so I started to walk back toward his vehicle as he then cut the engine and climbed out to stand beside it.
Standing there he looked to me to be a little nervous, offering me an unsure smile as I took his hand in mind.
‘You’ve got nothing to worry about,’ I reassured him. ‘They’ve already told me you’re more than welcome in their home.’
‘Yeah . . . you’ve said that, but it still feels strange.’
‘Tom and Beth will be fine,’ I repeated. ‘But as for Jimmy and Shane . . . well, anything’s possible with that pair,’ I gently teased.
‘You’re not helping! You know that, don’t you?’
‘C’mon, let’s go in before they come out and drag us inside. By the smell of things I’d say Tom has already got the barbeque going out on the back verandah.’
Walking hand in hand we headed toward the front door, only to have it burst open and two rambunctious teenagers fall through the opening just as we were about to climb the few steps up onto the landing, scaring the crap out of us both.
‘Woo-hoo! Coop’s got a boyfriend!’ Jimmy taunted. ‘Coop’s got a boyfriend!’
Shane was giggling and carrying on as well, but Jimmy seemed to be doing enough ragging on us for the both of them.
Adam stopped and looked up at them, then at me.
‘So, I guess these are the two punks you were telling me about?’ he asked. ‘The ones who are supposed to be lying low and keeping out of trouble . . . ‘til all the shit blows over back in Sydney?’
‘That’d be them. Adam, meet Jimmy . . . he’s the one with the smart mouth . . . and Shane. And boys, this is my mate Adam.’
‘Mate?’ Shane asked. ‘I don’t know many mates who go around holding hands!’ he added, as they jumped down off the landing.
‘Okay then, wise-arse . . . he’s my boyfriend! Happy now?’
‘Well, you said no secrets! Remember!’ Shane chuckled.
‘So I did,’ I laughed in reply, while Adam looked at me sideways with one eyebrow cocked. ‘I’ll explain later,’ I said to him quietly.
‘He sure is pretty, Coop,’ Jimmy chuckled, as the boys and Adam all shook hands. I ruffled Jimmy’s hair, which soon led to us all playfully jostling each other around and laughing.
I could see Adam warming to them already, just as Beth appeared at the door, wondering what all the commotion and laughter was. She pulled up short when she saw Adam and me standing there with the two boys, each of us with an arm around one of them.
‘Well, so nice of you to return my car!’ she gently admonished. ‘And who is this strapping young man?’
‘Beth, this is Adam. Adam, this is Beth Oliver,’ I said.
Adam offered his hand for Beth to shake, but she ignored that and instead came down the steps and embraced him, even standing on her tiptoes and kissing him on the cheek.
‘It’s so nice to get to meet you, Adam. We’ve already heard so much about you,’ she said to him.
‘It’s nice to meet you also. And I’ve heard all about you and Tom as well.’
‘Not all bad, I hope?’ Beth enquired.
‘No, it’s all good. Trust me.’
‘It better be!’ Beth added, while directing a stern expression my way, which soon broke into a smile. ‘Now, come on through. Tom has been dying to meet you . . . he’s just out the back trying not to burn dinner on the barbeque.’
The boys led the way through the house, followed by Beth and then Adam and me. I could see Adam looking around the house as we went, and when we passed through the kitchen he spotted the canvas print of Martin and me he stopped to take a look.
‘That’s one I haven’t seen,’ he said to me quietly.
‘No,’ I simply replied. On hearing us talking Beth stopped just inside the back door to see what was going on, before coming back over to join us.
‘That was taken the night of their Year Twelve formal,’ Beth said. ‘They both looked so handsome, don’t you think?’
‘Oh, absolutely,’ Adam replied. ‘I’m . . . I’m so sorry for your loss.’
‘Thank you, Adam. It hasn’t been easy, but it gets a little easier to cope with each passing year . . .’
Reaching out I placed an arm around Beth’s shoulders and hugged her to me, while gently kissing the side of her head.
‘We . . . we are so proud of our boys,’ she said. ‘And we’re so happy now that Rick has found someone . . .’
‘You have every right to be proud of both of them. From what Rick has told me, Martin was an amazing person . . . and I promise I’ll take good care of Rick for you,’ Adam said.
Beth smiled at him and then turned to me and said, ‘You were right. He is quite a catch,’ before leaving us and waltzing out through the back door and onto the verandah, where we could hear Tom quietly cursing at the barbeque.
‘You actually said that?’ Adam turned to me and asked.
‘Well, it’s the truth, isn’t?’ I boldly replied. ‘Let’s see now . . . good looking, good job, nice unit overlooking the beach, flash car, great in bed, and above all, a great guy! What more could a fella ask for, huh?’
‘I guess you struck the jackpot then,’ he chuckled.
‘I guess I have,’ I answered, before giving him a quick kiss and dragging him toward the back door.
We found Tom keeping watch over some prawn skewers and ham steaks on the barbeque, while Shane was handling the utensils and carefully turning the meat over.
Tom looked up when he saw us come out through the door, and immediately I could see him sizing Adam up, either because of, or in spite of, what Beth and the boys would have already told him.
‘So, this must be the infamous Adam, I presume?’ Tom enquired.
‘Yes, sir,’ Adam replied, as he walked toward Tom with his hand outstretched. ‘And it’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.’
‘And you also,’ Tom replied. ‘But you can cut that sir crap out, okay! My name is Tom, and both of us want you to feel right at home here, you got that?’
Adam grinned at him, but I also thought I caught a glimpse of relief in his expression. I know that the thought of being accepted by Tom and Beth had weighed on his mind somewhat, and so Tom’s immediate order to cut formalities would have quickly put him at ease.
‘Thank you, Tom. Rick has told me how much both you and Beth mean to him and I feel quite humble by your welcoming me into your home like this.’
‘Any friend of Rick’s is a friend of ours . . . if you hadn’t already guessed that,’ Tom chuckled, while nodding toward Jimmy and Shane. ‘Although we could be liable to reassess that after this pair have been here for a while.’
‘Hey!’ Shane pouted, which only caused us all to laugh.
‘Right then, I’d say that these are all about done,’ Tom said, while picking up a set of barbeque tongs and poking at the meat on the barbeque. ‘How about we serve up dinner and we’ll fill Adam in on all of Rick’s bad habits and all the trouble he used to get into?’
‘That sounds like a great idea,’ said Adam. ‘He’s been trying to tell me he was always a Mr Goody-Two-Shoes when he was growing up, but I’m not sure if I should believe him or not.’
* * *
Dinner proved to be another wonderful success, with the barbequed prawns and the ham steaks with barbequed pineapple being a hit with all the outsiders. I remember well the first time I had tried ham steaks like that . . . it was in the bistro at one of the local clubs, and Martin and I had enjoyed them that much that Beth had soon started cooking them at home for us.
As we ate our meals we chatted about quite a few topics, like the boys’ day spent on the water, about Adam and his job, about how he and I had met, and about life in Sydney, compared to living in the provincial areas. The conversation was lively, and even Shane and Jimmy added their two-bob’s worth, which only proved to me that they were already adapting to life away from the clutches of Jarvis and the lifestyle they had been leading. I had the impression that Adam was quite taken with the pair of them.
Thankfully the conversation had so far veered away from the matters which were directly at hand, being predominantly Jarvis and Martin, but I had a feeling that that situation wasn’t going to last. Sooner or later one or both topics would be bound to come up, I was sure of it, and I was proved right shortly after Beth had served up one of her specialties for dessert – a generously proportioned lemon meringue pie.
‘So . . .’ Beth innocently began, ‘apart from visiting the school, what was it that you got up to this afternoon? I thought for a moment there we were going to have to send out a search party for you . . . or perhaps report my car as having been stolen!’
‘Actually, I’ve had a very interesting and informative day,’ I said to her. ‘Which was made all the better for Adam arriving, followed by a lovely visit to the cemetery, and it all being topped off with an exceptional meal.’
‘Quit stalling,’ Tom ordered.
‘Well, like you already know, I paid a visit to the school . . . and I think that we’re finally onto something,’ I added.
‘What do you mean by that?’ asked Tom.
I looked across the table at their faces, both questioning and eager for any snippet of information that might give them some hope as to finding out what happened to their son. As I noticed Tom reach across and took Beth’s hand in his I wondered for a moment, and not for the first time, just how much I should be telling them, but in the end I figured they had every right to know everything that I knew. In fact, I reckoned that I owed them that much.
‘Remember last night when we talked about the art teacher, Mr Corcoran?’ I asked them, to which they both nodded.
‘Yes. That horrid little man. But you said it wasn’t him,’ Beth quickly replied.
‘Yes, Beth. I know. But I found out today that the school had covered up an incident involving Corcoran in the year following Martin’s death.’
‘What sort of incident?’ she enquired.
‘He was caught red-handed in the act of molesting a student. He bolted before he could be apprehended . . . and apparently hasn’t been seen since.’
‘But surely the police could have . . .’ Tom began to say, but stopped short when I started shaking my head. Looking at Beth I could see that the expression on her face was one of shock.
‘They were never told,’ I said to Tom. ‘Cunningham and the school board covered the whole thing up . . . even going so far as to pay the victim’s family some hush money.’
‘That’s . . . that’s scandalous. How the hell could they ever think they could get away with that?’ Tom challenged.
‘Don’t most religious organisations traditionally seem to think they have a right to operate outside the law?’ I responded. ‘It’s the same the world over, and has been for centuries.’
‘What about the victim? Was he harmed in any way?’ Beth asked, her concern for someone she didn’t even know obvious to us all.
‘He was very lucky. His boyfriend and the principal, Cunningham, found them before Corcoran could do too much. From what Cory and Robbie, the victim and the boyfriend, told me this afternoon, there is very little doubt in my mind that it was Corcoran who killed Martin, and that he had the same fate in store for Cory. There were just too many similarities.’
‘But you were so sure it wasn’t Corcoran?’ Beth said.
‘Yes, I know. I had been thinking that whoever it was that I had seen all those times in Sydney was who had killed Alexis and Jimmy Tan, and possibly Martin as well, but that person just didn’t fit Corcoran’s physical profile . . .’
‘And?’ asked Tom, apparently sensing my hesitation as something clicked inside my head.
‘And . . . people can change their looks, can’t they? The slightly overweight, long-haired and bearded Corcoran could always go on a fitness kick . . . lose some weight and get fit, have a shave and a hair cut, and what do you know, he’s a brand new man! I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before.’
‘So the guy stalking you . . .’
‘Might actually be Corcoran after all!’ I exclaimed. ‘I mean, the height and hair colour, even if he’s a little greyer now, were close enough to be a match, so maybe that’s what he’s done?’
‘So, how do you find him then?’ Adam asked.
‘That’s a very good question,’ I replied. ‘I gave Helen all the information I had on him today, so she’ll start the ball rolling with trying to track him down. We can try checking his driver’s licence to see where he may have been living, or if he has any other arrests or convictions under that name, so no matter where he is, we should be able to find out quite quickly. But if he’s been clean for the past five years, or if he’s deliberately been living off the grid, then that might prove problematic.’
‘You don’t think that there might be other victims, do you?’ Beth asked quietly. I looked across at her and noted her ashen appearance. I could see that the thought of there possibly being other victims was weighing heavily on her.
‘I just don’t know,’ I replied. ‘If killing comes so easily to him, then I for one wouldn’t be surprised if there were.’
‘You’ve got to find him, Rick. Not just for us, but for all those other families as well,’ Beth said.
‘I know, Beth. And I promise you I’ll do everything possible to do just that,’ I replied.
After that the topic of conversation began to gravitate away from Corcoran and his proclivities, switching instead to me telling them all about meeting two lovely people in Cody and Robbie, including providing full details of Robbie’s amazing artworks, before we were once again regaled with tales of the boys antics out on the water today. They were so excited and just seeing them like this was worth every bit of the effort that had been made to bring them here.
At one stage, as we helped clear the table, Adam quietly asked me where we were going to be staying tonight, and shouldn’t we perhaps be making a move. Unfortunately it was within earshot of Jimmy, who made a snide remark along the lines of if it’s a rockin’, don’t bother knockin’!
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Adam demanded, but Jimmy simply skipped away, laughing.
‘How about we go for an evening stroll?’ I replied when Adam turned and eyed me suspiciously. ‘I’ll show you.’
‘You’re cooking something up . . . I can tell!’
‘Who? Me?’ I chuckled, before grabbing his hand and dragging him out the kitchen door. ‘We’re just going for a walk along the river,’ I said to the others as we made our way across the verandah and down the steps into the back yard.
‘Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!’ Jimmy called out, which was followed quickly by the sound of him adding, ‘Owww! What the hell was that for?’
Looking back over my shoulder I saw Shane standing there looking upset with him, while Jimmy was gingerly rubbing at the back of his head.
I was still grinning as I led Adam out through the back gate and turned toward the boat ramp at the far end of the easement between the back yard fences and the Hunter River. As we walked that way I started crossing the vacant land, until we were walking alongside the mangroves which grew along the river’s edge. Despite the darkness it was still easy enough to see where we were going, as light coming from the nearby houses was enough to see by, and before long I found the landmark I was looking for – a wooden post sunk into the ground and painted white.
So far Adam had gone along for the ride, but when I turned down a narrow path at the post, a path which seemed to lead straight into the depths of the mangroves, he finally asked, ‘Just where the hell are you taking me?’
‘Do you trust me?’ I asked him.
‘Well, yeah, I guess so.’
‘That’s good. Now follow me, but just watch your step . . .,’ I commanded. ‘I don’t want to have to pull your sorry arse out of the mud tonight!’
In the pale light I could see him grinning, as we stepped from the path up onto a narrow walkway, which I knew led out through the mangroves and to a pontoon, where the locals sometimes moored their boats. That would be where the Gypsy 2 would now be rocking gently on the river, and where we would be spending the night, wrapped up in each other’s arms while listing to the waves gently lapping at the hull.
There was a handrail along the left side of the walkway, which we both held onto. I could also feel his right hand on my shoulder, as he steadied himself.
‘You okay back there?’ I asked Adam. ‘It’s not very far to the end.’
‘Yeah, but to the end of what?’ he questioned me.
‘You’ll see. You’ll see,’ I laughed.
A few moments later we reached the end of the walkway and found ourselves standing on the pontoon at the edge of the Hunter River. Beside us was moored the sail boat, with her white hull shining in the night and with her sails down and safely secured to the boom.
‘What’s this?’ I heard Adam ask once he realised what it was we were looking at.
‘This is the Gypsy 2,’ I replied. ‘Martin and I grew up sailing a little boat around these waters, and this is the boat that Tom and Beth replaced her with, once she had passed her used by date.’
‘I’m still not sure I understand why we’re here?’
‘Well, you did say you liked the idea of waking up to water views, and the sound of the ocean close by, and waves almost lapping at your doorstep,’ I cheekily replied. ‘So that’s what you’ve got.’
‘Okay-y-y then. I have to admit it’s not quite what I had in mind, but I guess I’m game if you are,’ he chuckled.
‘Come on, I’ll show you around inside,’ I laughed, while grabbing his hand. ‘Then we’ll go back and bring your car around the back, so it’s off the street, and also grab our gear.’
I had been inside earlier and so I had an idea of where things were. After climbing on board first I fumbled for the light switch on the inside of the cabin, then once I had them on it was much easier to see what we were doing. Adam climbed on board and followed me into the tiny cabin.
The look on his face as he glanced around at the two bunks on either side, just before he asked, ‘Where do we sleep?’ was priceless.
‘Right here,’ I said, as I sat on one of the bunks and patted the mattress. ‘Tom assures me that modifications had been done on the cabin and that there was a piece which goes between these two bunks, turning it into one quite large one. Or, we can try to squeeze into the little forward storage area if you like, where there are beds as well. It’ll be quite cosy, but we could be liable to hit our heads, or other body parts, if we tried anything too athletic in there.’
‘Well, I guess it beats the hell out of you paying hundreds of dollars for a motel room,’
‘Trust me. It’ll be fun,’ I grinned.
* * *
We took our time and looked over the boat, opening and closing ever door and hatch we could see, then after setting up the bed we took a short stroll around the deck, before heading back to the house.
As we entered the back yard and approached the house we could see the four of them sitting on the back verandah chatting. I could hear the shrill laughter of the boys carrying to us on the night air as they exchanged jokes and stories with Tom and Beth.
‘At least they seem to have settled in okay,’ Adam said as we walked through the back yard. He knew the history of both boys and I knew that he was just as keen as I was to see things work out for them, and for them both to get a positive start in this new life of theirs.
‘Yeah, they sure have,’ I replied. ‘Tom and Beth have both been so welcoming to them and I think the lads are quite simply just glad to be away from the environment they had been living in. I actually think that their being accepted into what is basically a normal family environment will do wonders for them. This is a fresh start for them, and they both know it, so whatever happens from here on is entirely up to them.’
‘They’re lucky to have someone like you looking out for them. A boy needs a big brother to watch out for him, don’t you know?’
‘Is that what you think I am?’
‘It looks to me like you’re the closest thing to a brother that either of them has.’
‘And so what does that make you?’ I asked.
‘I don’t really know. How about prospective brother-in-law?’ Adam replied with a grin.
‘That might work,’ I laughed.
By the time we had reached the steps to the verandah we found that there were four grinning faces looking down at us, each with a question on their lips it seemed.
It was Tom who was the first to break the silence. ‘So, what do you think of your accommodation?’ he asked, directing his question toward Adam.
‘Well, it’s not quite the Ritz Carlton, but she’s a little charmer all the same. Does it come with room service?’
‘Yeah . . . you get your own personal hand-maiden,’ Tom cheekily replied, while nodding in my direction, which only served to send the two teenage boys amongst us into hysterics, having immediately picked up on the innuendo.
‘Hey, what’s wrong with you pair?’ I scolded, which didn’t exactly help the proceedings, as the hysterics continued. I was quickly learning that sometimes, if you want things to slip by un-noticed when there were kids around, the best thing to do was just shut the fuck up!
‘We hope you don’t mind,’ Beth added, trying to restore some sense of normality to the proceedings. ‘We just thought it might be a tad awkward if you and Rick were to share Martin’s room.’
‘It’s perfect. Thank you,’ Adam said to her. ‘And like I said earlier, I’m just so thankful that you have been so welcoming.’
For the next few minutes we chatted with Beth and Tom, while the boys were dispatched to the kitchen to dispose of dirty plates and for a round of coffee for all. While we were chatting my phone went off once more, and upon checking the screen I quickly noticed it was Helen, so I answered it straight away and said hello, figuring that there must be some new developments given that it had only been a matter of a few hours since we had last spoken.
‘Hey Coop. You’ll be pleased to know that the round-up has already begun,’ she chirped. ‘Richardson sent Jim Harris and Tom Buckley out to track down Jarvis’ right hand man, Gus Arbecca, and not only did they find him, but they managed to also get hold of that mysterious little black book!’
‘That’s brilliant news,’ I said, while the faces around me all suddenly began to show interest in the conversation.
‘Yeah, it is. And you should see some of the names in there! The dumb bastard didn’t even bother writing them in any sort of code or anything, so we’ve got pages and pages of names . . . and more than just a few of them are well known names as well.
‘The Police Prosecutors aren’t wasting any time, either. They’ve already had warrants issued for several suspects, and they are expecting to pull in more for questioning over the weekend, so you had better thank our boys for me.’
‘I will, for sure. How about Barrett, and Azzopardi and Ryan?’ I asked.
‘It’s only a matter of time,’ she replied. ‘The Inspector seemed pretty pleased with himself this afternoon after a meeting with Warwick Cooke, so I reckon that things are falling into place just how he was hoping.’
‘Let’s hope they do,’ I remarked, before then asking how Casey was doing.
‘Oh, he’s fine. I think his biggest problem is that he’s missing some of his mates. I’ll call you again if I hear anything new.’
‘Thanks, that’d be great,’ I said, before adding, ‘And can you text me through Cathy’s number please? I’ll get the boys to call him . . . I bought them a phone today so they can get hold of any of us if needed, plus they’ve said that they wanted to try and keep in touch with Casey as well.’
‘Okay. Will do,’ she replied.
We had disconnected by the time the boys arrived with our coffee a few moments later, but they listened intently as I explained the conversation to everyone.
‘I just knew they’d find that damned book,’ Shane excitedly said. ‘And now Jarvis really is screwed, isn’t he?’
‘Him and a whole lot of others,’ I replied. ‘The next thing is for Assistant Commissioner Barrett and his two goons to be charged over what they’ve done to Casey . . . and that should only be a matter of time, because Casey was interviewed this afternoon by officers from internal affairs.’
‘Is he okay?’ Jimmy asked, sounding quite concerned.
‘Yeah, he’s fine. Apparently he handled it like an old pro . . . although according to Helen, his biggest problem is that he’s missing his mates.’
‘I sure wish we could talk to him,’ Shane sighed.
‘Well, I can’t promise anything, but I’ll see if I can get a number for you.’
As we drank our coffee the boys told us some more about Casey and some of his antics. It sounded as if, despite everything, the kid had a reputation amongst Jarvis’ boys of being something of a clown, and would often entertain them all with jokes and impersonations. I figured that it was most likely something of a defence mechanism for him, a way of being able to block out the pain that surrounded him, and I was sure, would sometimes overwhelm him.
I think that in much the same way Jimmy and Shane, who had both been brash and more than a little confronting when I had first met them, had used that as a shield to help them through their time with Jarvis, but once I had managed to break through that tough exterior I had found them both to be compassionate and sensitive boys, whose only real need in life was their wanting to be loved.
By the time we had all finished our coffee Beth was beginning to yawn, so we decided that it was about time we thought about calling it a day. Looking at the clock on my phone I saw that it was much later than I had initially thought, so thoughts of a bed and some real sleep were suddenly quite inviting.
While the boys helped Beth and Tom with the last of the cleaning up, I headed toward Martin’s room to retrieve my overnight bag, accompanied by Adam. As we entered the room I made note of his reaction as he looked around at the memories of a childhood that had been left behind, but definitely not forgotten. He was smiling, which I took as meaning one of two things. It was either a sign of his approval, or he was comparing the room to his own teenage memories . . . and perhaps even comparing himself to Martin.
It didn’t take him long to notice my photograph on the bookcase, and when he stepped in for a closer look and then glanced back at me and grinned I expected to be on the receiving end of at least some half-smart comment. I was mildly surprised, however, when all he said was, ‘Nice! I think I’ll have to get me a photo just like that one. Do you think that guy would mind posing for one these days?’
‘Oh, I think he’s retired from the modeling game, but if the right incentive was there, who knows what he might do?’ I chuckled.
‘That sounds like there’s still some hope then?’ he replied with a sly grin, before turning back to the bookcase and picking up one of Martin’s trophies from the top shelf and taking a closer look.
‘We’ll see,’ I answered.
After taking a look at a few more of Martin’s treasures he turned back toward me, his expression one of seriousness.
‘I think Beth was right,’ he said.
‘About it being somewhat awkward me being here . . . being in here,’ he answered.
‘Is that what it feels like?’ I asked.
‘A little. It’s like . . . it’s like he’s still here almost . . . watching us . . .’
‘I know what you mean. Sometimes it’s like I can almost feel him too, breathing down my neck or standing beside me. It’s probably just my imagination . . . but who can really know . . .
‘Last night I had another nightmare,’ I added, before moving to sit down on the bed. Adam came and sat beside me, placing one hand over mine as it rested on my leg. ‘It was so real . . . it was like Martin was calling to me, waking me and then telling me there was work to be done. And little things keep happening . . . like that wind swirling around us at the cemetery today, or like that school yearbook, there beside the bed, being opened by the breeze to a page with Corcoran’s photograph on it . . .’
‘That’s kind of freaky.’
‘Yeah, you’re not kidding there.’
‘What happened in the nightmare?’ he gently asked.
‘I relived it all . . . I was at the school and Martin was standing beside me . . . then he pointed out another Martin heading off toward home. Next thing I know the Martin who was standing beside me was gone, so I set off after the Martin I could see. Does that make sense?’
‘It was like he sent me after them, to follow them . . . then I saw it all happen, and there wasn’t a fucking thing I could do.’
‘Oh, shit . . .’
‘I must have screamed out, because the next thing I knew I had Jimmy and Shane and Beth and Tom all in here and looking worried.
‘Was it Corcoran who did it, in the dream, I mean?’
‘I really don’t know. I saw a face, but it wasn’t his . . .’
‘Who was it? Did you recognise him?’
‘The face I saw was the guy who I kept seeing in Sydney. That may, or may not, prove to be Corcoran, but . . . but I just don’t know,’ I answered, with a slight tremor in my voice, which certainly didn’t go un-noticed.
Adam gripped my hand more tightly, while placing his other arm around my shoulders and pulling me to him. ‘It’s going to be okay,’ he whispered. ‘You’re going to get this bastard, I just know it.’
‘I wish I had your confidence,’ I sniffed. ‘But thank you anyway.’
‘What for? I haven’t done anything.’
‘Just for being here. That’s enough.’
* * *
After we left Marty’s room we found that the others were still in the kitchen, all sitting around the kitchen table, just talking. We told them we were going to take Adam’s car around back and then turn in for the night, so after saying goodnight we left them to it and headed out the front to his car.
The night was cool and clear, with just a hint of the coming autumn in the air, and the moon had finally decided to show its face. Even just for the short walk out to his car Adam took my hand, which only made me feel that much more loved, a feeling that until recently I hadn’t experienced in quite a while. Glancing up at him I could see him grinning at me in the moonlight, and I couldn’t help but grin back at him.
‘It’s good to get out of the city,’ I said to him. ‘And even better having you here with me.’
‘Yeah, I couldn’t agree more,’ he replied.
‘I don’t know how long the boys might end up here for, but I want to keep a close eye on them while they are. Do you think you could handle a few weekends slumming it up here while they are in residence?’
‘Yeah, I think I could handle that,’ he replied.
‘And what about if I can manage to get Casey tagging along as well? If it can happen I think Jimmy and Shane would be stoked by that. Tom and Beth also own a holiday home in a little town up the coast, so I was thinking I might talk to them about it. When all this trouble blows over it’ll be a great place for all of us to just get away from it all for a few days . . . or longer if we can manage it.’
‘That sounds fantastic. And the more the merrier, I say.’
‘I was hoping you might like that idea.’
‘What you’re doing, by helping these kids out, is a good thing, Rick. I want you to know that.’
‘Thank you. I just figure they deserve a few breaks going their way. I just hope that all the other kids that were trapped in Jarvis’ web are being helped as well.’
‘If DOCS and social services are doing their job properly, I’m sure they are, mate.’
When we reached the car I tossed my carry bag into the back and we both climbed into the front seats. Adam started the car and I directed him toward the end of the parking lane that we were currently sitting in.
‘Just go down to the end, past the last house, and you’ll see a driveway that turns into the left,’ I said to him. ‘There’s a track there which leads around behind all the houses and we can just pull into Tom and Beth’s back yard. It’ll be safe enough there.’
I wasn’t sure what he might think about driving his fancy car over a dirt track, but it was smooth and well worn, with no bumps or holes, so we made it to the gate without incident. When he stopped the car I got out and opened the gate for him and he drove through, before parking the car alongside the garage.
‘Just to be safe, you had better put the top up,’ I said to him, even before he had opened the door.
With a grin he just flicked a switch inside the car, then in about twenty seconds the soft-top roof was firmly in place, with the entire structure emerging from the area behind the seats and reaching forward. It kind of reminded me of the wings of a bat, with a thin black membrane spread over a skeletal frame, all of which enveloped the cabin area of the vehicle.
‘Very neat,’ I said to him as he locked the top in place.
‘Yeah, it certainly is. I just love it,’ he said, while climbing out of the car and tossing my bag at me. After locking the vehicle he walked around to the back of the car and opened the boot, before pulling out his own small carry bag and then closing it.
‘You finally ready?’ I asked him.
‘What do you mean by finally?’ he joked, then after we took one last look at the house, we headed out the back gate and down the moonlit path.
Our walk was a little easier this second time round, with the moon having risen and bathed our world in a soft light. The pale coloured dirt path stretching out before us stood out clearly in the night, as did the white post which marked the beginnings of the timber walkway through the mangroves to the pontoon.
‘It’s a bit easier this time round,’ Adam said as we made our way along the aged timber planks. ‘I feel like a pirate or something, having to walk these planks though. Do you think Tom might have some rum stashed away on board?’
‘I somehow doubt that,’ I answered. ‘But I’m sure we will be able to come up with something to do to be able to keep us warm, if that’s what you are worried about,’ I suggested.
He didn’t say anything in reply, but I could hear some soft laughter coming from behind me, so I knew he had figured it out.
When we reached the pontoon I stepped straight out onto the boat and was about to reach inside to switch on the lights once more, but at the last second decided not to. Instead I stepped into the small cabin and tossed my carry bag onto the bed. Adam followed me inside, and we soon found ourselves sitting side by side on the edge of the bed.
‘So, what do you think now?’ I asked him. ‘Still happy to sleep here? Or are you going to sulk off to the nearest Best Western as soon as I’m out to it?’
‘No babe. It’s all good. We could be sleeping on the beach and I wouldn’t care, just as long as you were with me.’
‘That’s nice to hear . . . but the beach is over on the other side of the cemetery, so we’ll have to just sit tight for now.’
‘I truly don’t mind,’ he said, while taking my hands in his and leaning in closer toward me.
With the moon having risen, and with pale light spilling into the cabin through the several portholes in the hull, there was more than enough light to see by, yet the cabin was still filled with shadows and darkened corners. Looking at Adam, whose shadowed face was just inches from mine, I knew what we both wanted . . . what we both needed, in fact . . . and so I leaned closer also.
When our lips met, soft and tentative at first, it was like the beginnings of a summer shower, light and gentle and moist, but as our passions began to rise things soon began to change. The summer shower became heavier and heavier, until finally a storm of desire was pounding us, tearing at our clothes, while steam was soon pouring from our warm, sweat soaked bodies as we writhed in ecstasy in the darkness.
And as the boat rocked on its moorings, while our bodies rocked together in unison, joined as one, I felt a cool breeze, familiar and comforting, wash over us. It lasted but a second or two, swirling around and then vanishing.
Inwardly I smiled.
I don’t know if it was the thought that Martin could be giving the two of us his seal of approval, or if it was something else that was filling me with a wonderful sense of loving, but for the first time in a long while I felt . . . I don’t know . . . I guess I finally felt content with the world?
To be continued . . .