‘I’ll see what I can do,’ Helen replied when I mentioned the idea of scouring through the CCTV footage from Bondi railway station. ‘And if you think it was him who you also spotted at the Opera House, maybe their external security cameras might have picked him up there also.’
‘Yeah. All we need is a hard copy from one of those cameras and not only can we compare it to the photos I’ve found here, but we can also circulate it around the city . . . maybe that will help to flush him out.’
‘Let’s hope so,’ she replied. ‘I’ll try and set up getting access to the tapes so that you can review them as soon as you’re back in town.’
‘And in the meantime I’m going to continue looking through Marty’s stuff,’ I added.
By the time I disconnected I was beginning to feel a little more comfortable about the direction in which we were heading. A current photo of Corcoran would go a long way toward helping match him to his earlier persona, and the more I thought about it the more confident I was becoming they were one and the same.
While I had been talking to Helen, Adam had fired up his laptop and was now connecting to the internet using a small mobile broadband device. I guess it pays sometimes to keep pace with what’s going on with technology.
‘Okay then. Where do we go to?’ he asked once everything was set and his web browser was open.
‘Live Journal dot com,’ I answered, hoping that I had the right address, especially as it had been so many years since I had visited the site. With a few swift key strokes he soon had the home page displayed, although I couldn’t exactly be sure if it was the right page or not . . . at least not until we tried logging in to an account.
‘All right then . . . what’s the account name and password?’
‘Try Marty McFly 007 . . . all as one word,’ I replied, before pulling out my phone and checking my text messages for the one I had received from Helen with both of our passwords, courtesy of their having been cracked by her friend Denny. ‘The password is trickyricky123.’
‘You’re kidding, right?’
‘What can I say . . . we were only about fifteen or sixteen when we set up these things.’
‘You had an account as well?’ he enquired, to which I could only nod.
‘It’s Tricky Ricky 123.’
‘Priceless!’ Adam replied, offering me a sly smirk as he did so, which earned him precisely the look it deserved. I had never had any idea that Marty had used my user name as a password, but it didn’t surprise me at all, as for my own password I had used his initials and birth date – even if I hadn’t at first remembered that fact and had only recalled it when Denny had cracked the codes and supplied them to us.
Adam typed in the user name and password and sat back as the screen flashed briefly, and then we were in, as a list of Martin’s final entries flashed up on the screen.
For better or for worse, Marty was about to give up his secrets, and together we leant in slightly to read the first entry in the list, which was the final entry Martin had ever made, dated the day prior to his death. It was marked as private, which meant that it was a message for his eyes only.
‘Crazy day today. Exam went well – I think – but will just have to wait and see, I guess. Corcoran asked me to stop by the class room when I was done, but Rick was waiting for me so we could go to Antonio’s for lunch after the exam was over. Not sure what Corcoran wanted . . . especially after the way he weirded me out the other day . . . but I guess I’ll find out tomorrow after my last exam. Maybe he’s going to apologise for the other day? At least I had a bit of a laugh when Rick made an arse of himself AGAIN by flirting with the waiter! Lucky for him I can see the funny side, otherwise I would have had to bitch slap him (LOL).’
‘So, you’ve always been a flirt then?’ Adam asked.
‘I guess it just comes naturally,’ I replied, in as neutral a tone as I could muster. My mind was more concerned with what he was saying about Corcoran.
Apparently sensing my hesitation Adam reached over and placed one hand over mine.
‘At least we know he was meeting Corcoran on that last day. That has to mean something,’ he offered.
‘Would the cops have seen this entry, do you think?’
‘I somehow doubt that, otherwise they’d have been all over the bastard back then. There was never any mention of his name in anything I ever heard or read about the case,’ I answered.
Scrolling down the page we checked through his other entries and found some posts from the previous days, although these all seemed to be set as being for public view, containing only Martin’s thoughts and comments about school and our exams. When we checked the first of these entries we also found that there were more than one hundred comments attached to it, almost all of which consisted of an outpouring of grief and sadness, mostly from people that we both knew, accompanied of course by the occasional message containing little more than hatred and vicious bile.
I was truly touched by the many heartfelt expressions of sympathy, even if I couldn’t put names or faces to many of the contributors, thanks to the inherent anonymity that Live Journal provides. At the same time I was also given a sharp reminder that the haters are always going to hate, no matter what, and that, more than anything, just makes me so sad.
As we continued scrolling through the entries Martin’s quirky sense of humour was clearly evident in some of the shots of our friends and his candid comments. He always seemed to be able to raise a smile on anyone who needed it, which was something that had endeared him to many.
When we flicked backwards to the next page of entries we found more of the same, with the first entry being public and a photo taken the previous weekend when we had been out on the water, accompanied by a comment to that effect.
The entry that followed, however, was private, and once again it related to our weekend.
‘Fantastic day on the water with my boy today. God he makes me so happy when I’m with him . . . with him holding me in his arms . . . the warm sun shining down on us . . . just drifting aimlessly with the tides. Just brilliant. We spent some time by the wetlands, where we cruised around, lying back in the boat and with my head cradled in Rick’s lap. In between making out I snapped some nice shots of the bird life. I know I’ve already got hundreds of similar photos, but it helped me take my mind off school . . . no pressure, just relaxing before my last few exams. Also did some thinking about Mr Corcoran . . . Christ almighty, Rick was right about him . . . I mean, everyone knows he’s always been a bit touchy-feely . . . and if Rick says that Corcoran hit on him and grabbed him by the balls, and tried to kiss him . . . then I totally believe him . . . especially after the weird prick went a bit too far with me this time! He just can’t keep his hands to himself, and I sure as hell didn’t want to feel his hard-on brushing against me! That just sends shivers down my spine even just thinking about it! Fuck him! Just not sure what I should do about it now though . . . should I go see Cunningham? Should I tell Rick? I’m sort of scared of what he might do . . .’
‘Holy shit,’ Adam said. ‘Is he really saying what I think he’s saying? Corcoran hit on both of you?’
For a few moments I simply couldn’t answer. My mouth suddenly went dry and something in my guts seemed to clench up into a tight ball. My head was telling me that what Marty had said about me and Corcoran was right, it just seemed to fit, but as I began searching through my memories of that time I seemed to always be coming up short.
‘Rick?’ Adam asked quietly.
‘I . . . I can’t remember that,’ I murmured.
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean, I can’t really remember him doing that to me. I know he used to touch me, or try to, but it was always just a simple hand on my shoulder or back, or a rub of my arm, all that harmless sort of shit. I’d just try and move out of his way. But this . . . this is different . . . very different . . .’
‘And you can’t remember any of it?’
‘No, I honestly can’t,’ I replied, a wave of helplessness suddenly washing over me. ‘And now Marty is saying he tried it on with him too. I didn’t know that either . . . he never said anything . . .’
We sat there in silence for a time, both of us contemplating the meaning of what had been said. Did I actually tell that to Marty? If so, why couldn’t I remember anything like that happening? And was there anything else that I couldn’t recall . . . anything that might have perhaps helped at the time?
‘Maybe . . .’ I eventually offered. ‘Maybe it’s one of those things I’ve always kind of pushed aside and tried to forget . . . you know, like I tried to block it out? That happens sometimes, doesn’t it?’
‘Yeah . . . quite often, I think,’ he replied, before letting the silence take over once more.
Did this really happen, I wondered? Had I held the key to this whole mess inside my head for all this time? Could I have actually prevented Marty’s death?
Holy fuck! That realisation suddenly hit me like a cement truck!
‘So, why would he be uncertain about telling you?’ Adam eventually asked, breaking the unearthly silence that had overtaken us and snapping me back to reality. ‘You would have believed him, wouldn’t you?’
‘Yes, of course I would have!’ I bristled. ‘If I’d have known about it I also would have gone ballistic and called Corcoran out on it, or even gone to see Cunningham, so maybe that’s why Marty held back . . . I . . . I just don’t know . . .’ I added, as I began to ponder just why Marty hadn’t been forthcoming about his own incident with Corcoran. Was there another reason why he would have kept that from me?
‘And what about Tom and Beth? Are you going to share this with them?’ Adam asked.
‘Would it make any difference?’ I sighed.
Naturally, I knew there was nothing that could be done now, so there was little point in my beating myself up over it and thinking about how differently things could have turned out. What’s done is done, as the old saying goes. All I can do now is my best to fulfill my promise to avenge his death and ensure that the culprit, now that he was in our sights, was brought to justice.
That thought alone started to generate a rage in me that I hadn’t felt in quite a while. All the same, there was more than just a small, niggling feeling that was squirming its way into my brain that maybe, just maybe, if I’d said or done something back then, Marty would still be with me today. It may have started as a whisper, but even I knew that if I wasn’t careful that whisper could soon become a dull roar, verging on graduating into a fully-fledged storm, and that, I also knew, was something that once wound up, would take a hell of a lot to stop.
The question was, despite whatever feelings I was experiencing, could I put those feelings aside and still finish the job at hand?
* * *
For about an hour more we continued to look back through Marty’s journal, delighting in his many posts and photos and laughing at his oftentimes warped sense of humour. Apart from those first comments we had found about Corcoran there was little else said that was explicitly about him, although there were a few remarks containing veiled hints at what had been going on, including at least one which gave vague details of something that I must have mentioned to him at some point. Even so, it was obvious to us both that Marty had given us more than enough to work with, even if he hadn’t actually been aware of the ramifications of posting his private thoughts at the time, and it was now all helping to build a case against the man who, until recently, I had thought Martin had admired.
‘So, what about your journal?’ Adam eventually asked me. ‘Do I get a peek at that one too?’
‘Why not. I don’t think I’ve got anything on there to hide . . . or at least not that I can remember,’ I chuckled, quietly thankful of something else that might just take my mind off those dark thoughts that had seemed to be gathering.
Clicking on the ‘User Info’ link on Marty’s page it brought up, among other things, the page containing Marty’s bio, along with a list of other users whom Marty was friends with. I quickly scanned that list for my user name, then clicked the link through to my page, which itself had been lying dormant for just as long as Marty’s had.
Tricky Ricky’s home page wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as Marty McFly’s, nor did it have anywhere near the number of posts or comments, but it still felt like an old friend, comforting and welcoming, when I finally opened it and found my last entry.
Even now, without needing to read them, I could still recall the prophetic words I had posted there on the day of his funeral, as one final tribute. They had originally been penned by Martin himself, sometime during our final year at school, and I had always thought they summed him up perfectly. And so, without even giving it a second thought, I began to recite them . . .
Should I die tomorrow,
Please do not be sad,
For I know I’ve lived a life
Which hasn’t been half bad.
And should I die tomorrow,
I will have died a happy guy,
For true love, it found me,
And gave me wings to fly.
So, should I die tomorrow,
Please don’t wail and weep.
Just remember me always,
With fond memories to keep.
As I finished reading I felt a comforting hand being placed once more upon mine and when I looked up I found myself gazing into Adam’s loving eyes, which appeared to be glistening with a first hint of moisture.
‘That’s very touching,’ he said quietly. ‘Who wrote it?’
‘It was one of Martin’s,’ I answered. ‘He used to like writing, but he was always a bit bashful about letting others see them. I figured he wouldn’t mind me sharing this one after . . . well, you know . . .’
‘Yeah, I think he’ll forgive you.’
Looking back at the screen I noticed that the link showing the number of comments listed under this post showed quite a large number, so I reached forward and clicked on it to open them up.
Scrolling through the comments I couldn’t help but be touched by the words that had been left, both by people who Martin and I knew, as well as by total strangers. It was both surprising and immensely gratifying that so many people had taken the time to respond, with everything from short messages which simply said Rest in Peace, to more lengthy missives detailing their own experiences with Martin and how he had helped them or touched them in some way.
I’d had no idea that back then he had left such an impression on so many people, and in so many different ways, which only seemed to serve up fresh feelings of loss and heartache for me, which just at this moment in time I really didn’t need.
‘I . . . I had no idea that so many people felt this way about him,’ I managed to stammer after a few moments.
‘It seems you both made quite an impression on folks,’ Adam reassured me.
‘Yeah, I guess,’ I replied, before going quiet once more for a few minutes.
‘So, do you like poetry, then?’ Adam eventually enquired, apparently sensing my pensive mood.
‘Sometimes. Depends on what it is, I guess. Why do you ask?’
‘Well, I’ve been known to write a few poems too,’ he earnestly mentioned.
‘Really? I’m impressed,’ I replied. ‘Can I hear one?’
‘Ohhh . . . I’m not really sure if they’re your type of poem,’ he demurred. It was obvious he was stalling, but I wasn’t having any of that.
‘Try me!’ I commanded.
‘Well . . . if you insist . . .’
For a few moments he sat studying me, as if trying to figure out just which of his little verses he would test out on me, but eventually he began.
There was a young man from Bondi
Who spent all his days getting high
‘Til one day this cop
Stole all his pot . . .
. . . and now they just . . .
‘Now they just what?’ I prompted as he paused in mid-sentence.
‘Now they just fuck like rabbits all day!’ he added.
‘Oh . . . that is smooth, that is!’ I teased him, while giving him a not so gentle thump in the arm. ‘You really know how to spoil the moment, don’t you?’
‘I do my best,’ he grinned.
‘Well, thanks anyhow, but I think Marty has you beat on the creative writing front.’
‘That wouldn’t exactly be difficult,’ he chuckled.
‘At least you can recognise that,’ I teased, before turning my attention back to the computer screen and logging out of the site, with all full intention of taking a closer look at both journals once back in Sydney. My reason for wanting to do so wasn’t because I feared what Adam, or anyone else, might find out about us; it was more to do with the fact that the time Marty and I spent together was special, and I wanted the chance to spend some private time with my memories of him before finally letting go.
A week ago I wouldn’t have been able to even think about doing something like that, but now, with what I felt was a clear path ahead of me, I could also feel that finally I would be able to contemplate doing just that, safe in the knowledge that justice was about to be done and that I had the blessing of Martin’s parents to move on with my own life.
‘So, what do we do now?’ Adam asked, as he gently folded down the screen of his laptop.
‘This, for starters,’ he said, while motioning toward the laptop. ‘Are you going to show Tom and Beth the journal entries?’
‘Yeah, I think so . . . I’ll certainly show them how to find his journal, but I’m not quite sure if I should show them how to log in to read his private entries.’
‘Do you really think it will bother them? I know that there’ll most likely be stuff there that was just between you and him, but surely they already know that the pair of you were in love and they would be open minded enough to have some idea already of the sort of things you got up to, wouldn’t they?’
‘Yeah, I guess so.’
‘Martin may have been your boyfriend, but he was also their son, and don’t you think, just maybe, that they deserve to know just how happy he was in those last days?’
‘But what about all the stuff about Corcoran? And especially the bit about him hitting on me, and my not being able to remember it now?’
‘What’s done is done, Rick. It’s not going to bring him back, and I know that I’ve only just met them, so I don’t really know them that well just yet, but I’m sure Tom and Beth will understand.’
‘I hope you’re right,’ I replied.
‘So do I,’ he replied. ‘Now, what else are we going to do today?’
‘Let’s go talk to Beth and Tom first. Then, after that, I want to call Doc Shortis and find out if he’s working today, so I can take the boys to see him,’ I replied
When we left Martin’s room we found the others out in the back yard, with the boys throwing around an old football of Marty’s, while Tom was on his knees weeding a garden bed, and Beth was relaxing on a bench, shaded by a large tree, while reading a book.
‘That’s a lovely scene, isn’t it?’ Adam whispered as we stopped at the top of the stairs leading off the back deck. ‘Someone in the garden . . . someone reading . . . some kids throwing a ball around . . . a real happy families scene, don’t you think?’
I gave him a smile and took his hand in mine. ‘Do you think that could be us one day?’ I whispered back.
‘Anything’s possible . . . although I’m not quite sure that a white picket fence will really suit my apartment,’ he smirked.
‘Like you said . . . anything’s possible,’ I replied.
Just then we heard Jimmy call out, ‘Hey Rick!’ and we both turned just in time to see him throw the football in our direction. It was a smooth throw, and with some force behind it too, reminiscent of something you would be more likely to see in an American gridiron game than our local game of rugby league, which was the dominant sport in this area. It was also placed perfectly and all I had to do was reach out and catch it, bringing it to my chest and hugging it close to me.
‘Kapow! Great catch!’ Jimmy excitedly called out as he and Shane started running toward us.
Adam and I stepped down off the deck to face them.
‘Where’d you learn to throw like that, kid?’ I asked Jimmy, while passing the ball back to him while he was still on the run.
‘I played a bit of footy in school,’ he replied, while at the same time passing it straight back, in one smooth motion toward Adam, who promptly spilled it onto the ground.
‘Fuck!’ Adam cursed.
‘What’s wrong with you, rich boy? Haven’t you ever played backyard footy before?’ Jimmy teased.
‘Yeah, I played plenty of footy, punk,’ was Adam’s cheeky reply. ‘You think you’ve got what it takes to take down me and my man here? Bring it!’
‘Ohhhhh . . .’ is that a challenge, Jimmy squealed.
‘You bet it is kid,’ Adam replied.
‘How about you, Shane?’ Jimmy asked. ‘You feel up to it?’
It was nice to see that he was mindful of what Shane had recently been through, and that while things were beginning to get back to normal for Shane, his broken ribs might still be an issue.
‘I . . . ummm . . . dunno, Jimmy. I’m still pretty sore.’
‘It’s okay, Shane,’ I said. ‘We can always save it for another day, then me and Adam will whoop both your arses!’
‘In your dreams, pretty boy,’ Jimmy replied, while fronting up to us both, chest out and eyes blazing. ‘You pair will be going down!’
‘We’ll see about that’, Adam responded, while fronting up to Jimmy in the same tough stance. ‘When we come back you just make sure you bring your A Game! You’re going to need it!’
‘You’re on!’ a defiant Jimmy replied, which caused both Shane and me to chuckle, much to their chagrin.
Just then we heard Beth call out to us, asking if everything was all right?
‘All good, thanks Beth,’ I called back to her. ‘We’re just talking football,’ I added, before turning my attention back towards our two young charges. ‘Now, how about you guys hit the showers and I’ll see what I can find out about whether or not old Doc Shortis is working today. The sooner we do something about getting you guys checked out, the happier I’ll be.’
‘Yeah, sure,’ Shane answered. ‘The sooner we do it and the sooner we know we’re clean, the sooner we can get on with our lives.’
‘Attaboy,’ I said to him, while swatting him on the arse as he turned to walk away. He turned back and winked at me, then grabbed hold of Jimmy and began to drag his boyfriend after him.
‘Man, that Jimmy is some piece of work,’ Adam chuckled as we watched them climb the steps.
‘And he ain’t the only one,’ I replied with a laugh.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Oh, nothing . . . nothing at all.’
* * *
While the boys both showered, with the sounds of the two of them giggling easily carrying down the hallway to where Adam and I sat in the kitchen, each of us sipping on coffee, I called the doctor’s surgery to see if they were working today. Thankfully my old family doctor was on duty, at least until lunch time according to his receptionist, and I was able to make an appointment for just before they closed for the day.
After disconnecting I let Adam know we were able to get them in, then went down the hall way and knocked on the bathroom door, letting the boys know also. Looking at my watch I realised that we didn’t have much time, and Adam and I still needed to shower ourselves, so when I returned to the kitchen I mentioned this to Adam.
‘Want me to go and grab us some clothes from our things on the boat?’ he asked.
‘I’ll come down with you. We better hurry though.’
Together we walked outside and down the steps at the rear of the house.
‘And just where are you two off to?’ Beth asked as we approached her.
‘Just going to grab our things before we have a shower, then after that we’re going to take the boys to meet Doc Shortis,’ I answered.
‘Whatever for?’ Beth asked, sounding quite alarmed. ‘There’s nothing wrong, is there?’
‘Oh no, not that we know of. We spoke with them this morning about being tested for STD’s, that’s all, and I suggested that Doc would be the man to help them out and answer any questions they might have. I’ve rung the surgery and we can get in just before he shuts at lunch time.’
‘Oh, that’s a relief. You had me worried there for a second.’
‘It’s all good, Mama. Nothing to worry about . . . at least for the moment.’
Leaving her there we headed down along the river toward where the boat was moored and soon we were on board and rummaging through our belongings, looking for some clean clothes. A short while later we were back at the house, where we found everyone in the kitchen talking; with the boys looking somewhat sheepish.
‘Everything okay?’ I asked, taking a wild guess that the boys had just received the third degree about STD’s and being careful from their new guardians. I hoped that Beth had taken it easy on them, but knowing her as I did I suspected that she would have been straight to the point, and while well-meaning in everything she did, I also suspected that Jimmy and Shane had just been majorly embarrassed.
‘Everything’s fine, dear,’ Beth said. ‘You two just go and have your showers, otherwise you might be late for your appointment.’
‘All right then. We won’t be long,’ I promised, before dragging Adam out of the kitchen with me.
‘What do you think all that was about?’ he asked me, once we had closed the bathroom door.
‘If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the lads would have just received one of Beth’s lectures,’ I replied. ‘She can sometimes come on a bit strong.’
‘Ohhh . . .’ he silently mouthed.
Reaching into the shower I turned on the hot water tap to let it run for a minute while we began to undress, but just as I did so I felt two hands on my hips, tugging at the bottom edge of my t-shirt.
‘We haven’t really got time for . . .’ I began to say, but found myself cut short as I was quickly, and quite forcefully spun around to front Adam, our faces almost rubbing together, just like our bodies were suddenly already doing.
‘You were saying?’ Adam whispered, but before I could reply he swiftly leaned forward, planting his lips over mine, which prevented me from answering him anyhow.
For just a few moments it seemed like we went to heaven and back, as our tongues dueled and hands roamed over each other, each titillating and exciting the other, yet both knowing that we wouldn’t be able to bring this session to the conclusion we would have liked . . . or at least not right at this moment.
Breaking away from Adam I leaned my forehead against his. ‘What I was saying,’ I rather hoarsely said to him, ‘is that we can’t do this . . . or at least not right now.’
‘Later then?’ he pleaded.
‘Yeah, I reckon that we’ll be able to squeeze something in.’
‘Oh, that most definitely sounds like a plan,’ Adam teased, before once again grabbing hold of my t-shirt, this time pulling it over my head, before then letting me do the same for him.
‘We better make this a quick one,’ I said as we both dropped our shorts and stepped out of them.
‘I take it you’re talking about the shower?’ Adam chuckled, which only earned him a firm slap on his butt as he went to step into the shower stall, leaving a bright red handprint clearly visible.
‘Hey! That’s police brutality!’ he exclaimed, as he gave a bit of a skip.
‘Not when the recipient is enjoying it, it isn’t.’
‘Hehehe . . . yeah, I guess you’ve got me there.’
As tempting as it was to take things further, we both knew that we did indeed have to make it a quick one and so we had to settle on washing each other down, applying soap and lathering each other with suds, our hands roaming each other’s bodies and our lips tenderly touching here and there. These actions alone almost proved to be enough of a catalyst for an eruption of passion to take place, but somehow we both managed to contain ourselves, safe in the knowledge that in just a few short hours’ time there would be no need for such boundaries to disrupt our evening.
When we made it back to the kitchen a short time later, cleaned and changed into fresh clothes and ready for whatever the remainder of the day had in store for us, we were greeted by a combination of expressions. There was the sly, knowing grin offered by Jimmy, apparently convinced that he knew we had just fucked each other’s brains out, to the almost embarrassed expression of Shane, who I’m sure was thinking that something must have happened in there but he just wasn’t quite sure what, and if it did, was it really any concern of his anyhow?
Then there was the almost surprised expression of Beth, who no doubt was wondering why we had only taken ten minutes to shower, dry off and get dressed.
‘Right-o then, you lot! Wipe those smirks from your faces and get your minds out of the gutter!’ I demanded. ‘Jimmy and Shane . . . you pair have got two minutes to get your sorry arses out to the car! And Beth, we’ll be back straight after we get out of Doc’s surgery, so we can all head out on the water and have a great afternoon together.’
‘That sounds perfect dear. Give Harold my love, won’t you.’
‘For you, anything,’ I replied, as I leant down and kissed her cheek, before hurrying my companions out the door.
* * *
The thing about the suburbs on the northern side of the Hunter River was that they were nothing at all like the suburbs on the city side. While there were certainly pockets of suburbia, to me the whole northern area had an almost semi-rural feel to it, with spacious parkland and grassy paddocks separating many of the built-up areas. There was certainly nothing pretentious about the area . . . it was just like a big, sprawling country town.
In each of the suburbs there seemed to be a central shopping centre which housed all manner of businesses, although not housed in a monstrosity of a mall, like on the other side of the river. As luck would have it, it was to the same shopping centre in Stockton that we had visited yesterday where I directed Adam to take us, which was where Doc Shortis had his surgery.
As we pulled into the car park in Adam’s fancy wheels, with the top down and the wind in our hair, more than one head turned in our direction. Glancing back at the boys I could see them laughing and smiling, just lapping up the attention.
‘Don’t let it go to your heads, boys,’ I teased them. ‘When Adam and I go back to Sydney tomorrow you’ll probably be walking.’
‘Yeah, we know,’ Shane said. ‘But hey, this sure is good while it lasts.’
‘That’s certainly true,’ I chuckled, while at the same time I thought of something I needed to ask Tom, once we got back to the house.
At my direction Adam pulled into a parking space at the end of the car park closest to our destination, then, once we had climbed out of the car he flicked the switch for the soft top to unfurl.
‘Oh, man! How cool is that?’ Jimmy exclaimed as he watched it all happen, even though he had already seen it open once.
‘Come on, enough gawking,’ I suggested. ‘We’re going to be late.’
‘Aren’t most doctors always running late anyhow?’ Adam enquired.
‘You’re not exactly helping here,’ I gently scolded.
‘I’m just playing Good Cop,’ he replied. ‘You can be Bad Cop.’
As we set off toward where the Doc’s surgery was located I noticed that the boys seemed to have gone quiet. I wasn’t too sure, but I thought it could have been due to their possibly being apprehensive about what was about to happen, so I thought it best to remain quiet and just let things pan out naturally, rather than say something and risk making things worse. The last thing I needed was for one, or both of them, to take fright at the sight of a needle.
Opening the door to the surgery we walked into an almost empty waiting room, where just one patient, a rather pompous looking woman who appeared to be in the thirties, could be found sitting in the row of seats along one wall. It was an office that was furnished in a rather spartan way, which I thought was a reflection on the area in which we were located. Nothing seemed to have changed much since I was here last.
I pointed to the chairs and told the boys to take a seat, while I approached the receptionist to let her know who I was and that we were here for an appointment.
‘What? All of you?’ she asked, sounding quite surprised.
‘Yes, that’s right. I’ve been a patient here since I was a kid, and the boys are currently in my care, so we wanted to discuss a few issues with Doctor Shortis.’
‘Oh, I see. Well, please take a seat and I’m sure he will be with you shortly,’ came the curt reply.
‘Thank you,’ I answered, before joining the others and sitting down beside Adam, who could only manage to raise his eyebrows at me as I sat down.
Now, if you’ve ever sat in a waiting room with two teenage boys I’m sure that you would know just what the next few minutes were like, with both our young charges fidgeting and generally making a nuisance of themselves, and most likely wishing they were anywhere but here. Thankfully, however, we were saved any enduring pain with the emergence from his office of our long-time friend, shortly after an elderly woman had first appeared. He was a tall, thin man, with a shock of unruly hair, which was just a little greyer than I had remembered it. He looked a little older, which was to be expected I suppose, but it was unmistakably him.
I watched as he crossed the floor to the reception counter, where he was handed a folder by the woman sitting behind it, before then glancing at the name printed on the top label and turning to face the room. His gaze passed over Adam and me, seemingly settling briefly on the woman who had been waiting when we had arrived, but then his eyes darted back to me. I could see the recognition dawn in his expression, before he then smiled.
‘Mr Cooper, please,’ he said, as the others all looked at me. The woman who had been waiting looked really pissed.
‘Just let me sort out with him what we’re here for, then I’ll call you in,’ I said to my companions, before getting to my feet and heading in the Doc’s direction. As I passed the reception desk the woman behind that looked totally flummoxed.
Doc Shortis showed me into his room and closed the door.
‘Rick, it’s so good to see you again,’ he said to me, while offering his outstretched hand. Clasping my hand in both of his he asked, ‘How long has it been? It must be four or five years, at least. And what are you doing with yourself these days?’
‘It has been just over five,’ I answered, ‘And yes, it’s good to see you too. As for what I’m doing . . . I’m with the police force, living and working in Sydney.’
‘I’m impressed. I’m so glad that despite what happened you’ve been able to make something of yourself.’
‘Well, I can’t say it has been easy, but I owed that to Marty. In part it was because of what happened to him that I joined the police force.’
‘I see. So, to what do I owe this pleasure? Are those other guys out there with you also?’ he asked, while gesturing for me to take a seat.
‘Yeah, the older guy is the guy I’m currently seeing, Adam, and it’s the two boys who are the reason we’re here actually.’
‘This sounds interesting,’ he chuckled.
‘Well, it’s actually quite a story, Doc, but the long and the short of it is that they’ve been taken in by Tom and Beth, but before they came here they were living on the streets in Sydney, and getting by the only way they knew how. Without my having to spell it out exactly, does that give you some insight into what I mean?’ I replied.
‘Loud and clear,’ Doc replied. ‘I didn’t come down with the last shower, you know!’
‘No, of course not,’ I countered. ‘So, because of that I asked them this morning about whether they had ever been checked out or tested for STD’s, and of course the answer was no, so I told them about you and about how helpful you were to both Marty and me, so here we are.’
‘I seem to remember something on the news this morning about some sort of sex scandal blowing up in Sydney and arrests being made. Did you, or do they, have anything to do with that?’
‘I’m afraid so. The boys are key witnesses and that’s why we’ve smuggled them out of the city.’
‘I see,’ he said, while sitting back in his chair and looking at me thoughtfully. ‘Well, considering the circumstances, Rick, I think you’ve done the right thing bringing them here. This needs to be treated carefully, so I can give them a check-up for you and we can draw some blood to send off to pathology for testing, then what do we do once we have the results?’
‘I’ll be back in Sydney after tomorrow, but you can call me and if anything needs to happen I’ll talk to Tom and Beth.’
‘Okay, I think we can do that. Now, what about you? I hope you’re playing safe these days?’
‘Always, Doc. You know me!’
‘That’s why I asked,’ he teased.
‘Actually, in all seriousness, we’ll get you to test Adam and me as well, if you could. We’re both clean . . . I haven’t been with anyone else since Marty, and Adam was only tested a short time ago, but at least we’ll be able to show the boys that there’s nothing to worry about.’
‘Okay then, if that’s what you want. You better go and bring them in then, before that Adele woman out there really gets pissed off.’
‘Do you want to see her first? We won’t mind waiting.’
‘Oh no, she’s a bloody hypochondriac, probably got nothing wrong with her anyhow, so she can wait a few more minutes,’ he joked.
Getting to my feet I left the room, smiling to myself, and walked back out into the waiting area, beckoning the three of them to come in. Glancing at Adele, as Adam and the boys walked past me and into Doc’s office, the last thing I saw before closing the door was her sitting there scowling at us all.
‘Doc Shortis, I’d like you to meet Adam, Jimmy and Shane,’ I said, as the Doc came around from behind his desk and shook their hands.
‘Nice to meet all of you,’ he said to them, while offering the boys the two seats in front of his desk.
‘So, I’ve told Doc what we’re here for,’ I said, ‘and he understands totally, so Jimmy and Shane, you have nothing to worry about with him, okay?’
They both nodded, but I could still see their apprehension. I’m sure we all noted the fresh flush of crimson in their cheeks.
Glancing back at the Doc I noticed him studying them both intently.
‘Now, like Rick said, he has told me a little bit about what you’ve been caught up in . . . not very much mind you . . . but just enough to put me in the picture,’ the Doc offered. ‘It’s a terrible thing that, but it’s good that they’ve rounded up those responsible. I just hope that the innocent ones who have been caught up in the whole sorry affair are able to get some help if they need it. I know that I wouldn’t hesitate to help them out if they ever came to me wanting assistance or advice, or just someone to talk to.
‘Sometimes, boys, we all do things that we aren’t proud of. It’s not that we want to do it, but sometimes we just have to do it to get by. I’m not going to judge you or anything like that . . . just like I didn’t judge Rick and his boyfriend when they came to me all those years ago. It’s my job to help folks, and while ever you’re living with Tom and Beth, that’s what I’m here to do for you. Do you understand?’
‘Yes,’ Shane nervously replied, while Jimmy nodded beside him. ‘And thank you.’
‘That’s good. I’m glad we understand each other.’
This was the Doc Shortis I remembered; a caring figure, always there for whomever needed him. It was so pleasing to see that he hadn’t changed.
‘So, just how do you fit into this scene, young fella?’ Doc asked, directing his question toward Adam.
‘Oh, I’m just along for the ride,’ he replied. ‘These things can sometimes happen when you get yourself tangled up with a cop.’
‘Yes, I guess they can,’ Doc chuckled, while giving me a wink and a smile. ‘So, I guess we had best get down to business then, eh? Who’s first to get a needle stuck in him? I think it should be Rick, what do you boys reckon?’
‘Absolutely,’ Jimmy chirped.
‘Oh, that’s just great,’ I sighed. ‘Try to do the right thing by these kids and this is how I get treated!’
‘Toughen up, princess!’ Doc declared as he began to rummage around in a cabinet for what I assumed would be the tools he was going to need.
Nervously I watched as he pulled on some rubber gloves and then laid out some needles, some glass vials and a rubber strap.
‘Okay Rick, how about you sit on the examination table and let me have my wicked way with you?’
‘Sadist!’ I complained.
‘Now shut up and give me your arm!’ which only brought giggles from my three companions.
It only took a few minutes for him to do his thing, after first wrapping the strap tightly around my bicep, then inserting a double ended needle, before then pushing one of the glass vials onto the end of the needle. Blood squirted forcefully into the container and it filled quickly, before Doc swapped it for a fresh one and filled that as well.
When he was finished he pulled out the needle, removed the rubber strap and placed a cotton ball over the puncture mark, before folding my arm up and telling me to hold that pose for a few minutes. While I was doing that he wrote on some labels and attached them to the vials, before returning to me and replacing the cotton ball with a Band-Aid.
‘Right, then. One down, three to go,’ he cheerfully started.
It only took a few minutes more to repeat the procedure on Adam, then once finished he said to us, ‘Okay, how about you pair leave me alone with these two rascals for a little while and go wait outside, while I give them both a thorough going over. They might not want to flash their junk in front of you two.’
‘We don’t mind,’ Jimmy cheekily interjected, which only seemed to raise Doc’s eyebrows.
‘I think you’ve got a good idea, there Doc,’ I responded. Taking a look in the boys’ direction I noticed Jimmy grinning, while Shane was just looking slightly embarrassed.
‘Go on,’ Doc urged. ‘I’ll call you if I need you.’
Giving Adam a signal with a nod of my head we made for the door, leaving them there in Doc’s capable hands.
‘Does he have any idea what he’s letting himself in for?’ Adam giggled as we closed the office door.
‘Yeah, I reckon he does. He had to put up with me and Marty one time, remember?’
‘Oh yeah, I guess you’re right there.’
Under the indignant glare of Adele, who was still waiting, we sat down in the nearest seats, but just as we did so my phone started to ring.
Looking at the screen on the phone I knew in an instant who it was; my blonde-haired, blue-eyed fourteen year old next door neighbor, Nick. ‘What the hell would he want?’ I wondered.
‘I’ll duck outside to take it,’ I said to Adam, then once I had hit the receive button I said, ‘Hi Nick! What’s going on?’
‘Where are you at?’ he desperately demanded. Apart from what sounded like anger, something else in his voice had me instantly on edge.
‘I’m in Newcastle, mate. Why? What’s up? Is everything okay?’
‘I . . . I dunno,’ he replied.
‘There’s this guy . . .’
‘Hangin’ around here . . . around the flats. He’s gone now, but he was giving us the creeps.’
‘Fuck!’ I thought.
‘What does he look like, and what has he been doing?’
‘He’s tall and skinny, with short hair what’s going grey. Brad said he asked him something about whether you lived here, but it freaked him out, so he got away from the dude as quick as he could.’
Double fuck! Alarm bells started going off in my head and something inside my stomach started to churn. This couldn’t be good.
‘I think he was here the other day too . . . but I’m not totally sure if it was the same guy or not.’
‘Apart from asking Brad about me, has he said or done anything else? Has he touched either of you?’
‘What? Why would he . . . oh shit, you don’t think he’s a pedo or something, do you?’
‘Just the fact he’s asking about me is enough to have me worried, mate. As for him being a pedo, I have no idea, but he must have got you and Brad worried if you’re ringing me.’
I had no idea if it was him or not, but the guy sounded like he matched Corcoran’s description, and even if it wasn’t Corcoran, just the fact that some stranger was at the place where I lived and was asking after me was enough of a red flag for me to be more than just a little concerned.
‘We took a photo of him on the phone. Do you want me to send it to you?’
‘Yeah! That’d be a good idea,’ I replied. ‘But first, have you got a pen or anything to write with?’
‘I want you to write down this number,’ I said. ‘If he comes back I want you stay the fuck away from him, then call this number straight away.’
I recited Helen’s number to him and told him who it was, and that he could trust her.
‘When are you coming back?’
‘Tomorrow,’ I answered. ‘Now send me that photo as soon as you can, will you?’
To be continued . . .