1975 – Sandmen Ch03

Sandmen  –  Chapter Three

Jake didn’t know what time it was when he awoke . . . or should that be, when he regained consciousness? He knew that something had happened last night, but as he lay face down in the sandy patch of dirt just near his shelter, looking at his disheveled campsite and the back of his van, he couldn’t remember what it had been.

All he knew now was that he was cold, his face was throbbing, his head was spinning and his body was aching all over. He wasn’t sure, but judging by the distorted view of the world he currently had, he suspected that one of his eyes was barely open.

‘Fuck! Just what happened?’ he wondered.

Slowly he tried to move. Just a fraction at first . . . like the end of his index finger.

Okay. So far so good. That bit worked.

Now for something more.

Gradually he worked through his limbs, trying to see what was going to work, and what was not. There were howls of protest everywhere, but eventually all of his parts complied.

It was around then that he became aware of another pain . . . one that was coming from deep down inside him. It was a pain he had felt before, and he suspected that he knew what it meant.

It was at this thought that tears began to form.

His final thought before succumbing to the pain and the heartache was, ‘Oh, God no. Not again!’

*     *     *

Even from a distance Danny could tell that something was wrong. He and Nate had seen the tyre marks which had cut up the carpark just as soon as they had ridden in, but when they spotted Jake’s cooler and chair and some other items lying scattered outside his shelter they both knew immediately that something had happened.

The question now, was just what had happened, and where was Jake?

After worried glances at each other they both started pedaling as hard and as fast as they could, coming to a stop outside the shelter a few moments later, dropping their bikes in the dirt, leaving the wheels spinning, and rushing inside.

‘Jake!’ Danny called out. ‘Are you here?’

This was quickly echoed by Nate, but there were no answers forthcoming to either of their calls.

Looking around them they could see the place had been turned over. The bedroll had been flung open and the pillow and blankets were strewn everywhere. The food and drinks from his cooler, which was now upturned outside, were scattered everywhere, with very little being salvageable, and the table and chair were both broken. Oddly enough, just about the only thing that didn’t appear to be damaged was Jake’s wash basin.

Danny looked around the campsite, then his eyes settled on the back of the van. There were two piles of broken plastic on the ground, directly below where the tail lights used to be. The license plate was swinging off just one screw, and there appeared to be some damage around the rear door handle, although when Danny tried it he found that it was, thankfully, still locked, and all of Jake’s equipment and work was still safely locked inside.

While Danny was doing this he noticed Nate start to look around outside the campsite, and it was only moments later when he heard Nate call out to him.

‘Danny. Over here,’ Nate said, but it didn’t seem like it was an urgent call. It was one that seemed to be filled more with dread than anything else.

Dashing directly through the sheltered campsite Danny emerged out the other side, where he found Nate a few yards away, and down on his knees. It was only as he got closer that he realised Nate was looking down on Jake, who was out to it, lying on his side amongst long and dry clumps of summer grass, and naked. What was worse, though, was the state of his face, which was sporting a huge, swollen black eye and was covered with blood. There was also blood on Jake’s legs.

‘Oh, my god! Jake!’ exclaimed Danny as he sunk down to his knees beside his friend. ‘My god! What the fuck has happened?’

Jake couldn’t answer him, not that he even tried.

‘Is he . . . is he dead?’ Nate asked.

Carefully Danny leaned forward and touched Jake’s forehead, brushing some hair away out of Jake’s eyes.

‘No!’ a thankful Danny replied, having just seen the flicker of an eyelid, and the slight movement of Jake’s chest as he took a breath. ‘See, he’s breathing,’ Danny added, in a voice that was trembling with emotion.

‘So, what do we do?’

They had no idea just how seriously Jake might be injured, but they could see he need help, and quickly.

‘He needs help,’ Danny said. ‘One of us needs to go back to town and tell the Sarge. He’ll know what to do. Can you do that?’

‘I . . . I . . .’

‘Nate!’ Danny said forcefully. ‘Jake needs our help . . . and fast. Just ride to the first farmhouse . . . they’ll have a phone, they’re bound to! Quick . . . we’ve got to move!’

Slowly Nate looked up into the eyes of his friend, who he could see was silently pleading with him.

‘Please?’ whispered Danny.

Finally it seemed that Nate understood, and with just a nod he stood.

‘And Nate . . . just don’t say anything about him being . . .’

‘Naked?’ Nate asked.

‘Yeah. Just say he’s been bashed up, or something.’

‘Okay. Got it. Maybe you should try and find his clothes or something . . .’ Nate replied, before leaving them, running quickly back through the campsite to his bike, picking it up and jumping on, then pedaling off as fast as he could go.

‘It’s going to be okay, Jake. It’s going to be okay,’ Danny whispered, as he ran his fingers back through his lover’s hair.

He wondered if he shouldn’t be doing something while he waited. Maybe he could try and make him more comfortable, or even just try and clean some of the blood and dirt from around Jake’s face.

Looking around him at the remnants of the camp site Danny could see the wash basin, along with Jake’s bedding. He knew that there was a tap across the car park, near to where the toilets and showers were, but were there any others that were closer, he wondered.

He needed to try and do something, but first things first. He decided that he needed to cover Jake over, while also making him as comfortable as possible, and so after getting to his feet he quickly gathered up some of the bedding, bringing the pillow over first, which he gently placed under Jake’s head. Jake moaned as he did so, which he took as being a good sign.

He then found a blanket and carefully placed it over Jake, but not before taking a closer look at the blood on Jake’s legs. When he realised where it had come from he gasped.

‘Oh, shit,’ he whispered. ‘Oh, shit.’

Despite his shock, however, he knew that he needed to look closer, and so carefully he leaned in, placing a hand on either side of Jake’s butt cheeks and pulling them apart.

He didn’t know what it was that he had expected to see, and yes, things were a bit messy down there, but there didn’t appear to be too much damage, as far as he could tell. It was the first time he had ever seen another human anus up close . . . hell, he’d never even seen his own . . . but he took it as being just another lesson in his awakening sexuality, even if it was at the expense of someone he was beginning to care about deeply.

But right now he had other issues to worry about. He needed some water, so that he could try and clean Jake up a little before the cavalry arrived, so he left Jake for the moment and grabbed the wash basin, then went in search of a tap. The only one he could find was across the car park near the showers, so as quickly as he could he half-filled the basin with water, which thankfully was almost warm, then hurried back toward where Jake was lying.

When he arrived there he found that Jake hadn’t moved, so he placed the basin down beside him, then retrieved what he initially thought was a rag lying on the ground, but proved to be a sheet from Jake’s bedroll.

Quickly he dipped one corner in the water and then roughly squeezed out the excess, before steeling himself for what he knew he must do. He needed to clean up Jake’s legs first, so that if anyone came they wouldn’t see that he was hurt down there. Afterwards he would then clean up his face.

Pulling back the blanket he began wiping at the inside of Jake’s leg. There was no initial reaction from Jake as he began his work, and the blood cleaned away easily, but when he dipped the sheet back into the water again, turning the clear liquid a murky reddish-brown, and then pulled apart Jake’s buttocks again, there was a noticeable and quite sharp intake of breath when Danny ran the cloth along the length of the hollow, no doubt as he touched the most private and tender areas.

‘I’m sorry, Jake, but I have to do this,’ Danny said quietly.

Jake seemed to mumble something, but he continued his work, finishing a few moments later, satisfied with what he had done.

Jake’s nakedness still bothered Danny . . . not so much the fact that he was naked, but moreso he was worried what others who might come out here could think. He decided that Nate’s suggestion was a good one, so he started to take a look around for Jake’s shorts. At first he was to be disappointed, but just as he was about to give up that idea he found them, in some grass not too far away from the camp.

With some difficulty, and some groans from Jake, he managed to pull them back up Jake’s legs and get them into place, so at least now he was covered.

Next came cleaning up Jake’s face, and so after selecting another corner of the sheet he soaked that in the water and then carefully started to wipe the blood from Jake’s eyes and nose and mouth.

Jake made a number of noises as he did so, even rolling his head from side to side a couple of times, but Danny persisted, until once again he was satisfied with the results.

With the superficial blood all gone, he could see that Jake had cuts to his lip and nose, and above his eyes.

‘Those fucking bastards!’ Danny said as the damage began to become apparent. ‘We’re going to find out who did this to you,’ he promised.

Just as he said that Jake seemed to groan slightly, once more rolling his head from side to side. Danny thought he was trying to say something and leaned in closer.

He thought Jake mumbled something, but Danny couldn’t quite make it out.

*     *     *

After gathering up the few surviving items he could, Danny sat beside Jake, holding his hand as they waited. By the time Danny heard the sound of a car coming at speed along Beachside Lane, Jake’s eyes were finally open.

‘See, I told you they would come,’ Danny said to him, as he brushed a hand back through Jake’s hair.

‘Yes,’ Jake croaked. It was the first thing he had said. The second thing he said was, ‘Water?’

Danny grinned at him seeing as there was little else he could do, then jumped to his feet. There had been a bottle of water in the cooler which hadn’t been lost, so he grabbed that, along with a plastic mug which had a crack in the side of it, but would still function okay.

Jake watched as Danny poured the water into the mug, before then holding it up to Jake’s lips with one hand, while supporting Jake with the other hand, helping him to sit up.

For Jake, nothing had ever tasted sweeter, as he let the cool water trickle down his throat. When he finished the mug full Danny poured another.

‘Is that better?’ Danny asked.

‘Yes. Thank you,’ Jake replied, sounding somewhat croaky.

By this time the car was almost at the picnic area, and when Danny looked up he could see glimpses of the town’s one and only police wagon as it flashed amongst the trees, a pale blue Ford pick-up with a closed in section on the back where the prisoner would usually get thrown.

‘Car keys,’ Jake managed to say, while nodding toward his vehicle. ‘Dig under the back tyre.’

For a moment Danny didn’t understand, but when Jake repeated himself and managed to point he sprang into action, scrambling over to the car and digging in the loose sand behind the rear tyre and soon coming up with the keys.

‘What did you do that for?’ Danny asked as he sat back down beside Jake and handed him the keys.

‘So they couldn’t find them,’ Jake answered, his voice still sounding shaky, but improving.

‘And who were they? Did you see who did it?’

‘Yes . . .’

‘And are you going to tell the police about them?’

‘I . . . I don’t know . . .’

Danny frowned slightly at his friend.

‘Just let me do the talking . . . and I promise I’ll explain it all to you later,’ Jake assured Danny.

Before Danny had the chance to say anything the paddy-wagon came to a halt right in front of Jake’s van, stirring up a cloud of dust as it did so.

Despite his obvious discomfort, Jake threw back the blanket that covered him and sat up, which took Danny by surprise.

‘Just help me up, will you?’ he quietly asked, as the lone police officer approached them, with Nate hurrying along behind. Jake would learn later that there was only one officer stationed in the town and that he usually liked to avoid anything that required copious amounts of paperwork, so he was counting on the fact that the chances of Inspector Plod wanting to get too involved in the bashing of some blow-through who was careless enough to get himself worked over by some local yahoos would be slim, at best.

Danny obliged and helped Jake to his feet, and a rather unsteady looking Jake was soon trying to adjust his shorts slightly as he stood there. He was at least grateful that he had worn a more casual pair of footy shorts on his trip to town yesterday, rather than the ultra-tight cut-offs that he could most often found in; it never served any purpose to give the police any excuse to think badly of you, especially when you were a queer guy in a small country town. The chances of being believed were slim to non-existent to start with, so stirring things up by flaunting your sexuality would only be like waving a red flag in front of a bull; something only the foolhardy or completely idiotic would do.

‘So, they tell me you got yourself in a bit of trouble last night,’ Sergeant Bailey said as he came to a stop in front of Jake and Danny.

‘I’m afraid so, officer,’ Jake replied. ‘Just a couple of locals out for some fun I think. No real harm done though.’

‘Wh . . .’ Nate started to say, but a quick elbow in the ribs from Danny soon silenced him, while also earning him a reproachful stare from his best friend.

‘Hmmm . . . doesn’t much look like harmless fun to me,’ the sergeant responded, as he surveyed the damage to Jake’s face, then looked around him at the damage to the car and the campsite. ‘Did you see who did this to you?’

‘It was dark,’ Jake shrugged. ‘But there were two of them, though.’

‘How about a car?’

‘Like I said, it was dark. I saw a car pull in over on the far side, but I couldn’t make out any details. I didn’t actually take too much notice of them at first. It was only later on, after they had been there for quite some time that I started to become concerned.’

‘I see,’ the sergeant thoughtfully replied. ‘So, do you want to tell me what happened?’

‘There’s not much to tell really . . . a couple of locals decided they’d have a bit of fun at my expense. It’s not the first time it has happened . . .’

‘Is that right? And why do you think that is?’ the sergeant asked, as he looked Jake up and down, with a slight smirk appearing on his face as he did so.

Jake knew that the policeman already had him pegged for exactly what he was, so there was no use trying to bluff his way through this. The things that happen to gay guys in small country towns are the same the world over. Jake knew it. This police officer knew it. Even the boys knew it.

‘Why do you think, officer? Guys like me tend to be an easy mark, even if we are careful about where we go and what we do.’

‘Guys like me? And just what do you mean by that exactly?’

At that Jake simply shrugged, obviously unwilling to say out loud what was plain to everyone, even Danny and Nate. Sergeant Bailey’s response was just a wry grin, before he started to once again look around him at Jake’s campsite, then at his van, before finally settling his eyes on the two boys and then frowning.

‘And just what might you two lads be doing out here, anyhow?’ the police officer asked.

Danny and Nate looked at each other, neither quite sure at first what to say.

‘Well then?’ urged Sergeant Bailey.

‘We just come out for a swim,’ Nate finally answered. It didn’t take a genius to work out that the Sarge was fishing for something.

‘And I suppose you just found this poor fella here like this?’

‘That’s right,’ Danny offered. ‘We saw all his stuff lying across the car park and came over to check it out . . . that’s when we found him . . .’

‘Yeah, and then I set off up the road to the nearest house, fast as I could, to ring you,’ added Nate.

‘And had you seen him before today? You knew who he was?’

‘Yeah, of course!’ replied Nate. ‘He’s been hangin’ around town for a week or so. We even spoke to him a few times . . .’

Jake was understandably nervous that the police officer was talking to the boys, but there wasn’t really anything he could do about it. The boys had already proven that they could think on their feet, so he knew they would be careful about what they said, it was just that having a police officer prying into his affairs, even when he was the victim here and he didn’t feel like he had done anything wrong, could be asking for trouble.

‘You’ve spoken with him, eh? What about?’

‘Just stuff . . .’ Nate replied with a shrug. ‘About his car . . . and surfing . . . and stuff. He’s been telling us about his travelling up the coast painting pictures and writing and taking photos for a magazine or something.’

‘Is that so?’ the sergeant asked Jake.

‘Yes, sir. I’m a freelance artist . . . and writer,’ Jake replied. ‘I’m working on some artworks and articles about holiday spots worth travelling to up and down the coast.’

‘Well, I had actually heard something about that . . . it seems news sometimes travels faster than you think in some of these backwater places.’

‘I’m beginning to learn that, officer,’ Jake replied. It was all the boys could do to keep a straight face.

For a few moments he seemed to consider Jake, before then turning his attention to the van and starting to walk toward it. He stopped and took another look at the broken tail lights, before starting to walk right around the vehicle, making some notes in his pocket notebook as he went.

‘And what about registration and a driver’s license? I don’t suppose you’ve got either of those, young fella?’

‘Of course,’ Jake replied, before hobbling toward the passenger side of the vehicle, eventually opening the door after fumbling with his keys for a moment, and then gingerly sitting down on the front seat. He opened the glove compartment and after a quick search through it he came up with what he was looking for, which he soon passed to the sergeant.

Danny wasn’t sure if the others noticed how carefully Jake was moving, but he could see that Jake was really hurting.

‘Hmmm . . . so you’re a Newcastle boy?’ the sergeant asked as he ran his eye over the paperwork, then started scribbling details down in his notebook.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Bit of a fancy machine for a young fella like you to own, isn’t it?’

‘My parents bought it for me,’ Jake patiently replied.

He knew what was coming next. That would be the smirk. Then a remark that would go something like, ‘I’ll just bet they did!’

Then after that the nosy old bastard would probably want to take a look inside, just to make sure there was nothing illegal . . . especially of the herbal variety. Jake was just grateful he’d used up his last bag of weed in the last town and thankfully hadn’t been able to find any more just yet.

He knew that if the sergeant searched thoroughly enough he might just find the photos of the boys, along with the sketches and paintings of naked guys in the back, which could just about be enough to get him in trouble if he was stopped by just the wrong policeman, on just the wrong day, and in just the wrong frame of mind.

He hoped to god that today wouldn’t be that day.

After finishing with the registration and license Sergeant Bailey handed them back to Jake, then snapped his notebook closed and dropped it back into his shirt pocket.

‘I’m tempted to take a look through your vehicle, you know,’ the sergeant said to Jake, as he looked down at him. ‘And I would be quite within my rights, I believe, but I think that on this occasion you’ve probably gone through enough for one day.’

Jake looked up at him as he tried to size the police officer up. ‘I can honestly say, officer, that you won’t find any drugs, if that’s what you’re wondering,’ Jake said.

‘Well then, that’s something at least,’ the sergeant chuckled. ‘Anyhow, I guess there’s not really a lot else that I can do for you, young fella, especially if you can’t give me a description of whoever it was that paid you a visit. I’ll write up a report, just in case you need it for insurance or something, and you can collect a copy of that from the station if you need it, but that’s about all I can do.’

‘Thank you.’

‘You just see to it that you get the lights fixed on the car, pronto. I’d hate to have to give you a ticket for an un-roadworthy vehicle if I see it around town. And I’d suggest that you probably should get yourself looked over by the doc at the hospital . . .’

‘Yes, sir.’

With a nod, then one final glance at Danny and Nate, the sergeant seemed to dismiss them all and started toward his vehicle, but then he stopped and turned back to face the three boys.

‘You better get your bike from out of the back, Nate,’ he said. ‘And you young fellas best be careful riding around out here like this . . . you just don’t know who might be about, or what they might be up to!’

‘Yeah, thanks Sarge. We’ll be careful,’ Danny responded, knowing full well that they had been given a warning that was as much about Jake, and the type of person the sergeant saw him as being, as it was about the people who had done this to Jake.

As Nate scurried after the sergeant and disappeared around the back of the police paddy-wagon, Jake and Danny looked at each other. They had both picked up on the veiled warning and they were both silently seething, for Danny knew now that whatever might be said about Jake would now apply equally to him. He now knew in his own heart how difficult a road it would be for any queer guy to make his way in life, especially living in a place like this, and could see not only the obstacles that Jake had recently been facing, but those which he himself would be facing in the very near future as well.

Not a word was said between them as they gazed into each other’s eyes. Nothing needed to be said. The understanding that was quickly developing between the two of them was quite remarkable.

The silent exchange was only broken by the sound of the police vehicle starting up and driving away, and then Nate rejoining them, pushing his bike.

‘Okay then,’ Nate said. ‘Does someone want to tell me what that was all about?’

Jake smiled at him. The kid’s naiveté was simply beautiful.

‘We were just warned to be careful of Jake,’ Danny said. ‘The sergeant must think he might want to get up to no good with us if we spend too much time hanging around out here close to him!’

‘He . . . he what?’ Nate spat. ‘How the hell do you work that one out?’

‘I’m a gay guy, and your Sarge knew it as soon as he laid eyes on me. You’re young and impressionable boys hanging around me . . . I guess he must be worried I might have my eye on you two and might want to do wicked things with you!’

Nate’s eyes damn near bugged out of their sockets when the realisation of what Jake had just said finally sunk in. ‘No way!’ he responded, before moments later asking, ‘Do you?’

Jake simply shrugged.

‘I think we’re safe,’ Danny added. ‘He’s been totally up front about everything so far, hasn’t he? And he hasn’t tried to kiss you, or grab hold of your dick yet, has he?’ he asked, while cocking an eyebrow toward Jake.

Jake smiled once more. Danny was like an open book, yet his best friend still couldn’t see it.

‘I . . . errr . . . no . . . I guess not,’ Nate spluttered.

‘So there you have it. Maybe he’s got his eye on someone else, then?’

‘Maybe I do,’ Jake replied.

*     *     *

After Sergeant Bailey had left, the boys helped Jake straighten out his campsite and clean up the mess of broken glass and plastic from the shattered lights and tail lights, before they all sat down beneath the canvas shelter.

‘So, are you going to tell us now what actually happened?’ Danny asked. ‘And why you wouldn’t tell the Sarge everything?’

‘I promised you I would,’ Jake replied. ‘But you might not like the answers.’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ asked Nate.

Jake gathered his thoughts for a few moments, going over things in his mind before deciding to reply.

‘It means that the details aren’t exactly what most people would want to hear about,’ Jake replied. ‘The things that can happen to a gay guy when he gets jumped by two other guys hell bent on causing trouble can be quite unpleasant . . . it’s not usually like a regular bashing . . . it’s often much worse.’

‘You mean it’s like . . . errr . . . sexual, as well as physical?’ Danny enquired.

‘Yeah, it often is.’

‘I saw blood on your legs . . .’ Nate cautiously ventured.

Jake nodded.

‘Does that mean they . . .’ he started to ask, but he just couldn’t finish the sentence.

‘You’re asking does that mean they raped me?’ Jake softly prompted. ‘Yeah, mate. They did.’

‘Oh, fuck!’ Nate whispered.

Both Danny and Nate could tell that Jake was growing quite emotional as he recounted in his own mind what had happened. They couldn’t begin to imagine the horror that their friend must have gone through, yet neither boy knew quite what they could – or should – say or do to help him.

Eventually Danny moved over and sat down beside Jake, putting his arm around Jake’s shoulders, gently rubbing his shoulder with his hand. He half expected Nate to say something, but thankfully he didn’t.

‘Has that . . . ummm . . . ever happened before?’ Danny gently asked.

Jake nodded, as the boys could see the beginnings of tears welling up in his eyes.

For a long time nobody said anything. Danny continued to comfort Jake, as Nate looked on, somewhat uncomfortably.

‘You said there was two of them,’ Nate eventually asked, trying to change the subject and take Jake’s mind off what they had been talking about, although not quite sure if he had succeeded.

‘Yeah, that’s right,’ Jake sniffed.

‘And did you see their car, or can you remember anything about them?’ added Danny.

‘It was red. A red Valiant.’

‘With black stripes?’ asked Nate.

Jake nodded.

He saw the look that the two boys gave each other. It was obvious that they knew the car.

‘One of them called the other one, Thommo,’ Jake said, and judging by the nods coming from Nate and Danny that confirmed their first suspicions.

‘That’d be Frank Thompson,’ Nate spat. ‘Dark curly hair? Pretty solid build?’

‘Sounds like him,’ Jake replied.

‘And was his friend a skinny blonde guy, with a huge nose?’ asked Danny.

Once more Jake nodded.

‘Fuck . . . I think I’m beginning to hate this town,’ Danny grumbled

‘It’s not the town . . .’ Jake said. ‘It’s just some of the people in it.’

‘Well, they’re not going to get away with it, I promise you that,’ Nate avowed.

‘And just what are we going to be able to do about it?’ asked Danny.

‘I’ll ask Lachlan,’ Nate replied, referring to his older brother. ‘He’ll know what to do.’

‘No, guys . . . I don’t want you to do anything . . . I don’t want either of you getting yourselves into any sort of trouble on my account . . . or getting anyone else involved,’ Jake protested.

‘Is that why you didn’t tell the Sarge everything?’ Danny asked.

‘Yeah, something like that . . . it’d only be more trouble.’

‘Don’t worry . . . we won’t be getting ourselves into trouble,’ Nate promised. ‘But that doesn’t mean that Frank and his buddy will be getting off Scott-free! Lachie will know what to do. You just leave it to us.’

Looking sideways at Danny, Jake asked, ‘Do you think that you can talk any sense into your friend?’

‘I’m not even going to try,’ Danny replied. ‘The bastards deserve whatever they get.’

Slowly Jake shook his head. Despite what had happened to him, this wasn’t what he wanted.

‘Now . . .’ Danny asked. ‘What are you going to do with yourself? You can’t stay out here on your own.’

‘No, you definitely can’t! They might come back!’ added Nate. ‘You should go into the caravan park and camp there. At least it’ll be safer in there.’

‘I think I might just do that, boys . . . stay in a cabin or something, at least for a couple of nights, while I get over the aches and pains I just know I’m going to have, and get a few repairs done on the car . . . but after that I think I’ll head home to the folks for Christmas a few days early.’

‘You’ll come back again, though, won’t you?’ Danny anxiously asked.

‘Of course, mate. It’ll take more than one incident to scare me away totally . . . especially now that I have friends here.’

The two boys beamed. They both thought of him as a friend also . . . and for one of them he had already become so much more than that.

‘So, do you want some help packing up?’ Nate asked.

‘I’d really appreciate that. Thank you.’

*     *    *

It was well into the afternoon when Jake pulled out of the camping area, with the boys following behind on their bikes. By the time they reached the caravan park a short time later Jake had already checked in and parked his van beside one of the cabins. The back of the van was open and he was obviously starting to get himself settled.

Packing all of Jake’s gear away out at the campsite had proved something of a challenge, but between the three of them they had managed it okay, as once Jake got moving he seemed to brighten up.

The boys had been worried that everything would all spill out onto the ground just as soon as Jake opened up the back of the van; it would have been just great having naked photos of the two of them blowing across the manicured lawns of the caravan park for all to see, particularly if any of the boys who lived there and whom they went to school with, of which there were a few, happened to pick them up. Thankfully none of those boys were sighted as Nate and Danny rode in through the main gate and headed directly toward where they could see Jake’s van parked.

Jake came to the door of the cabin when they knocked, looking a bit more alive than he had when the boys had watched him climb into the van and drive away, but they could see he was still moving quite gingerly.

‘Are you sure you’re going to be okay?’ Danny asked him, without even trying to disguise the concern in his voice.

‘Yeah, maybe you should see a doctor or something, like the Sarge said,’ added Nate.

‘I’ll be fine, boys. If I’d had some weed that would have dulled the pain a little, so it looks like I’ll just have to settle for some Vincent’s powders and a bit of sleep in a decent bed. After that I’ll be as right as rain. You’ll see.’

Danny didn’t know much about where to get some weed from, but he knew what Vincent’s powders were; they were those disgusting tasting pain killers that his father lived on when he was hung over. He’d had them himself when he’d had bad tooth aches, and while they were great for what they were made for, they still tasted like crap.

‘What about something to eat or drink?’ Danny asked. ‘You really need to have something.’

‘Maybe later,’ Jake replied. ‘For starters I think I’m just going to go and have a hot shower and then hit the sack for a little while. After that I’ll do something about getting some food . . . I promise.’

‘Just so long as you do,’ Danny said firmly.

Jake thought it was sweet how Danny was fussing over him, which only served to make him grow fonder of the boy. He noted that Danny was still being quite careful about not doing anything or saying anything that might let his friend in on their secret, but he knew that eventually – either by accident or design – Nate would find out that the two of them meant more to each other than just being mentor and student, or only friends, and when that time came the relationship between the three of them would most definitely change. Just how Nate might handle that he couldn’t be sure, but given his acceptance of Jake and the things that they had all so far done together, he suspected – and hoped – that Nate would be cool with the news when it came.

Looking around the small cabin Danny could see that it was quite well equipped, with a separate bedroom, a kitchen, a living area, and even its own toilet. There was no shower, however, which meant that Jake would have to use the communal shower block that everyone else in the park used.

‘Are you going to be okay getting across to the showers?’ Danny asked.

‘What? Are you going to go and hold his hand? Or wash his back?’ Nate chuckled.

‘Nooo,’ Danny nervously replied. ‘But just look at him . . . he’s not exactly in the best shape he’s ever been in, is he?’

‘I’ll be fine, Danny,’ Jake repeated. ‘You don’t have to worry so much. Why don’t you boys go and catch up with your friends, or something? You don’t need to hang around here . . . like I said, I’m just going to have a long, hot shower, then get some sleep. I’ll catch up with you tomorrow and I bet I’ll be as good as gold by then.’

‘Yeah, that sounds like a good idea,’ added Nate, with a glint in his eye that didn’t go unnoticed by Danny, who just knew that Nate had something in mind for them to do. Chances were, Danny thought, that if he didn’t spend the afternoon babysitting Jake, he would be spending it babysitting Nate instead. He also knew that Jake would be perfectly okay on his own, sleeping off the effects of what he had gone through in the previous twenty-four hours, but knowing Nate as he did there was every chance that Nate would most likely be the one who would really need saving today.

‘All right then, if you’re sure you’ll be okay,’ Danny said to Jake.

‘I’m sure. Now go,’ Jake ordered, but in a light hearted manner. ‘I’ll see you later on, okay?’

‘Okay,’ Nate answered for the both of them. ‘We’ll see you later,’ he said, as he started dragging Danny toward the door and eventually outside.

Jake followed them out, and as he watched the boys ride away he shut and locked the back of the van, before heading back inside the cabin. He may have promised the sergeant that he was drug free at the moment, but he sure wished he had a little weed right about now, just to take the edge off. Maybe later he might be able to find out where he could get some.

When the boys left the caravan park behind them, Nate started pedaling fast back toward town, not even bothering to wait and see if Danny was following him, before veering off the main road and heading for his place. Danny was sure that his friend had something in mind, so he followed along behind, knowing full well that whatever he was up to would affect him also, so he needed to keep an eye on him.

‘Hey, what are you planning?’ Danny called out to Nate, but the grin that Nate shot back over his shoulder was enough to confirm his suspicions that something was up.

When they reached Nate’s house they rode straight down behind it and to the large corrugated iron shed that stood at the bottom of the yard. There were three sets of double doors across the front of it, of which two were currently open. One of these had the tail end of Nate’s older brother, Lachlan’s, pride and joy — a pale blue 1965 Ford sedan — sticking out of it. Danny could see that the doors of the car were open and the bonnet was up.

The boys dropped their bikes outside and walked through the other open doorway, where they found Lachie leaning over the mudguards and doing something to the motor.

‘Hey, Lach. Watcha’ doing?’ Nate asked.

‘What does it look like, dick brain?’ came the reply, without Lachlan even looking up from what he was doing.

‘Fuckin’ up something else on your car, I’d say. Why don’t you just take it to Reardon’s garage and get it fixed properly?’

‘Coz that costs money . . . and besides, this is more fun,’ Lachie replied, this time sticking his head up and flashing the boys a smile, before standing up and facing them. In his hand was a distributor cap with wires hanging off it.

Danny liked Nate’s brother. He was eighteen and had always been like a big brother to him as well as Nate, not to mention being the source of many fantasies in recent times as he would lie awake in bed at night with his hands down his underwear. The two brothers looked as if they had been cast from the same mould, but not only that, they had the same quirky personality and laconic sense of humour. It wasn’t hard to like them.

‘So, what have you dorks been up to? Get yourselves in any trouble today?’

‘As a matter of fact, I had a ride in the paddy-wagon this morning,’ Nate casually replied.

‘You what? What the fuck did you do this time? Dad’ll tan your hide . . . again!’

‘Relax . . . it was nothin’ like that . . . we was helping someone out.’

Lachlan looked at Danny, then his brother, then back again.

‘What’s he got you involved with this time, Dan?’

‘It’s okay, we’re not in trouble,’ Danny promised.

‘But something did happen?’

‘Yeah . . . it did,’ Nate replied. ‘We went out to Hidden Beach this morning. Danny’s been getting some painting lessons off Jake, you know, that guy in the Sandman I was telling you about.’

‘I hope you’re being careful . . . I’ve been hearing stories about him . . .’

‘Oh, relax. He’s okay,’ Nate replied. ‘He’s a friend of ours.’

‘If you say so . . . so, what happened out there?’

‘When we got there we found him all bashed up,’ Danny answered.

‘Yeah, you should have seen it, there was blood all over him, and they smashed up his car too,’ Nate added, knowing full well that an attack on a car like Jake’s Sandman panel van would possibly be considered even more serious that the attack on Jake himself.

‘Holy fuck! You said they? Do you know who did it?’

Nate and Danny glanced at each other, then they both nodded at Lachie.


‘It was Frank Thompson and his mate, Snoz,’ said Nate. ‘Jake told us they were in a red Valiant with black stripes, and when we described Frank and his mate, he said yeah, that was them.’

‘So, who called the cops?’

‘I did,’ Nate answered. ‘I rode back down the road on my bike to the first farmhouse and got them to call the Sarge, and he came out pretty quick. He picked me up at the farmhouse and then we went back and found Danny and Jake.’

‘But he told the Sarge who did it, didn’t he?’

‘No, he didn’t want to make a fuss or stir up any more trouble.’

‘Why? What else happened?’ Lachlan demanded.

Once more the two boys looked at each other.

‘We’ve got to tell him,’ Nate said quietly.

‘I . . . ummm . . . no, we shouldn’t . . .’ Danny murmured.

‘Come on guys . . . if it’s that serious then it sounds like Frank and his pal are going to need sorting out,’ Lachie said.

‘You . . . you can’t tell anyone . . .’ Nate said. ‘You’ve got to promise. Especially not the Sarge.’

After a few moments of thought, during which Lach’s eyes flicked from his brother to his friend and back again, he eventually nodded.

‘Okay then. If that’s what you want, I won’t tell anyone,’ Lachlan promised.

*    *     *

When the boys had finished telling their story, Lachlan leaned back against his car and let out a long whistle. They had told him of how they met Jake and how they had become friends with him, which mainly revolved around him helping out Danny with his artworks, but leaving out only their ‘modelling job’ and anything that might tag Jake as definitely being queer.

‘So, let me get this straight,’ he said to them. ‘This guy was camping out there, and Frank and his buddy decided to have themselves a bit of fun, which ended up with them bashing and raping your friend and then trying to trash his car?’

‘Yeah,’ Nate replied. ‘I ain’t ever heard of guys getting raped before. Have you?’

‘I guess it happens, but it’s not something anyone ever talks about much, is it,’ Lachie thoughtfully replied.

‘So, what should we do?’ Danny asked.

‘You guys have done enough already,’ Lachlan replied. ‘Frank can’t get away with this . . . and he’s not going to. If we can’t go to the cops then we’re going to need to think about what we can do.’

Everyone knew that Frank had a bit of a reputation around town for being something of a bully, and there had also been rumours of him using his stand-over skills to force himself upon others, although it appeared that no complaints had ever been made, or if they had been, nothing was ever proven. It was possible that his family connections, coming from the family that founded the town, had probably been what had saved him. What Danny and Nate didn’t know, however, was that Lachlan had had some first-hand experience with Frank, and so payback, for Lachlan at least, was going to be something sweet, whichever form it took.

‘What have you got in mind?’ Nate asked his brother.

‘Don’t you worry about that, little brother,’ Lachlan said, while playfully ruffling his hair. ‘Just be happy knowing that the bastard is going to get just what he deserves . . . and boys, no matter what happens, you know nothing about it, okay?’

Danny and Nate glanced at each other, before they both nodded their agreement.

‘Good. Now how about you leave it with me? You’ll know soon enough when something happens,’ Lachlan said to them. ‘Now how about you piss off and let me finish fixing this heap of crap so I can go and catch up with some mates this afternoon,’ he added, before turning his attention back to the distributor cap in his hand and returning it to its rightful place in his car.

‘C’mon, mate,’ Nate said to Danny. ‘Let’s go up to the house and grab a drink or something,’ he suggested, as he grabbed hold of Danny’s t-shirt and tried dragging him away.

‘Yeah, right-o,’ Danny answered, and the two boys set off for the doorway, before Danny stopped and turned back to face Lachlan.

‘Geez, now what?’ Nate exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air as he did so.

‘Hey . . . ummm . . . Lachie . . .’ Danny said.

‘Yeah, mate?’ came the reply from beneath the hood of the car.

‘Have you got any . . . ummm . . . grass? Or do you know where we can get some?’

‘What the hell?’ Lachie exclaimed, as he stood up and faced the boys. ‘Don’t tell me you guys have started with that shit?’

‘Fuck no!’ Nate quickly announced, before shooting daggers at his friend.

Lachie just raised his eyebrows toward Danny.

‘It . . . it’s for Jake,’ Danny stammered. ‘He said it would help take away some of the pain he’s in.’

‘Yeah . . . I just bet it would,’ Lachie chuckled, as once more he leaned back against the mudguard of his car, looking from one boy to the other and back again, weighing each of them up, along with the dilemma of just how far he should go for them.

‘What?’ Nate asked, recognising the curious expression on his brother’s face. ‘Don’t tell me you’ve got some?’

The corners of Lachie’s mouth edged up slightly.

‘Now it’s my turn to demand a promise,’ Lachie said, before leaning in through the open door of his car.

‘Anything!’ Danny quickly responded.

‘Are you shittin’ me?’ Nate demanded.

‘This goes no further than this garage, you got it? If I hear one fucking peep about it, especially from the olds, Nate, I’ll have your balls for decorations to hang from my mirror, right beside my fuzzy dice! You got that?’ Lachlan demanded.

When he finally turned to face them he was holding a small plastic bag, containing just a small amount of green matter.

The boys knew what it was. Even if they’d never tried it they had still seen enough people with it. They knew what it smelt like too, from school.

‘There’s not a lot left . . . it’s all I have. But it’ll be enough for your friend to roll one. Just remember that you kids, and your mate, are going to owe me, big time!’ he said, as he tossed the bag to Danny. ‘And keep it out of sight . . . and if anyone catches you with it, tell ‘em it’s not yours and you found it on the beach or something. Okay?’

‘Errr . . . yeah, of course. Oh, man, thank you!’ Danny gushed.

‘Orright, orright, let’s not get too mushy. Just leave the other thing to me and I’ll see what I can do, okay? Now get out of my face before I start wonderin’ why I’m being so nice to you two dweebs.’

With that Lachie turned his back on the boys and went back to his motor. Nate and Danny backed out of the garage, watching Lachie as they went, before finally turning and heading for their bikes.

‘You heard him . . . keep it out of sight,’ Nate hissed as they picked up their bikes. Danny’s shorts didn’t have any pockets, so he quickly shoved it inside his jocks, before then making sure his t-shirt was hanging low enough to cover any suspicious bulge.

‘I can’t fuckin’ believe it,’ Danny whispered.

‘You’re not wrong,’ Nate replied. ‘Who woulda thought it, my brother the pot head! Fuck, mum would have a conniption fit if she found out!’

‘Well, you better hope she doesn’t find out; otherwise we all know just where your balls are going to be hanging!’

Danny noticed Nate swallow hard. They both knew Lachie well enough to know that there was every chance he would follow through on a threat like that. After all, wasn’t that why Nate turned to him in the first place?

The boys walked up the back yard to the house, leaving their bikes on the grass just near the back steps, before heading inside. Thankfully there was no one else home, so Nate organized a couple of drinks for them, then they headed for his room.

‘I still can’t fuckin’ believe it,’ Nate whispered, as if he was afraid there might be someone hiding inside the house still. ‘I never knew he was into that shit.’

‘C’mon, mate. It’s not that big a deal. Every second person has tried it, I bet.’

‘Have you?’

‘No. Never.’

‘Well, I haven’t either.’

‘Well I guess that makes Pat and Thomas the pot heads out of our little group then!’ Danny chuckled.

‘What about wanting to try it? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to give it a go?’

‘Maybe . . . but until today I never even knew where to get some from!’

‘Yeah, me neither!’ replied Nate. ‘Although I guess there would be enough folks at school who would be able to get hold of some for us if we wanted some.’

‘Yeah . . . but it doesn’t matter now though, does it? We can just ask your brother!’

‘Oh, Jesus. Wouldn’t that be just great!’

‘Hey, why don’t you spend your fifty bucks on some?’

‘Fuck that!’ Nate laughed. ‘Then Lachie would want to know where I got fifty bucks from!’

‘Oh yeah . . . I didn’t think of that. Anyhow, what do you want to do this afternoon? Do you want to go find the others?’

‘Naw . . . not really. We could always go to the movies. Wasn’t that new shark movie supposed to have started playing here this week?’

‘Oh, yeah. Jaws, or something, wasn’t it called? Sounds pretty scary.’

‘Yeah, and I want to see it so bad!’

‘Okay, count me in. But I better just ring mum first and tell her where we’re going,’ Danny replied.

‘Sure. Knock yourself out,’ Nate replied.

*     *     *

The boys were lucky. When they finally made it to the small movie theatre the late afternoon show was only just starting, with the first movie – a cowboy movie that had been here before – having just gone in. They bought their tickets for the double feature, then a drink, a packet of Jaffa lollies and a choc-top ice cream each but then decided to wait out most of the first movie in the foyer, at least until it was almost over; then they would go in, find a seat, and while everyone else was outside during intermission they would settle in.

One thing they could never understand was why they always had double feature shows, where you always had to sit through one movie – which was almost always a re-run of some ‘B’ grade flick – then have an intermission, before finally getting to enjoy the main show.

It wouldn’t be until many years later when the picture theatres would figure out they could make more money by showing the feature movie twice in the same amount of time it took to show a double feature and so they eventually started to change their programming.

From where Nate and Danny sat in the foyer they could easily see outside. At once they noticed the lake and beginnings of the sunset that was being reflected from it as the sun readied itself to dip behind the mountains. They could also see boats and water-trikes skimming the surface of the lake, with people taking advantage of the warm summer afternoon. Danny wondered what a painting of this scene at sunset might look like.

Leaving the foyer behind, with about ten minutes left to run on the first show, they headed inside the theatre itself, which on this particular afternoon seemed to be packed. The reputation for this movie had spread quickly. They looked around and found a couple of empty seats in one of the back rows, which were located right behind a bunch of teenagers they didn’t recognise in the darkness.

Up on the screen there was a shoot-out going on, but the guy with the white hat was shooting twice as many bad guys as anyone else, so the boys knew the end wasn’t too far away now. Somewhere there was a damsel in distress who was about to be rescued, and once that happened she and the hero would be riding off into the sunset. They had seen it before.

As he watched the story unfold, Danny wondered what it would be like to drive off into the sunset in a Sandmen panel van, rather than ride off on horseback, and he couldn’t help but smile to himself as he pictured that scenario in his head.

Before they both knew it, it was time for intermission and no sooner than had the lights come on there were people streaming out past them to go to the cafeteria, or to use the rest rooms. Nate and Danny stayed right where they were, still sipping on their drinks as they watched everyone file past them.

They saw a few people whom they knew, but there were also quite a few people they didn’t know, who they thought must have been tourists; not that the town was one that could be considered a tourist mecca in those years. That would come later. Much later.

‘Hey, you still got that stuff for Jake?’ Nate asked in a whisper, when they were all but alone.

‘Yeah. All safe and sound,’ Danny replied, in an equally quiet tone, while patting a spot just near his left hip. ‘I was thinking I might take it around to him after the movies.’

‘I still can’t fucking believe Lachie gave it to you . . . or even had it in the first place, for that matter,’ Nate whispered. They were leaning in close to each other, trying to make sure no one else could hear them.

‘Hey, what are you homos whispering about?’ said a voice coming from behind them. They knew in an instant who it was. Thomas. Apparently they hadn’t seen each other as Thomas had left for intermission.

‘Trying to figure out a way to make sure we didn’t get spotted by you!’ Nate replied.

‘Looks like you failed on that front!’ Thomas laughed. ‘Anyhow, where have you been? Me and Pat were beginning to think you were avoiding us.’

‘Nah, just been busy,’ Danny replied.

‘What? Together? That sounds a bit suss! People might start to talk if you’re not careful,’ Thomas giggled. ‘Maybe you should go and visit that Jake guy . . . hey, did you hear he got bashed up?’

‘Where the fuck did you hear that?’ Danny demanded, with his anger quick to rise, although he was also quick to make sure it didn’t show.

‘Heard Frank Thompson’s brother talking about it up the street today. He was sayin’ that Jake caught someone trying to break into his van, then whoever it was turned on Jake and bashed him good.’

‘Is that what they’re saying? Sounds like a tall tale to me,’ Danny remarked.

Thomas shrugged. ‘I’m only sayin’ what I heard.’

‘Yeah well, I . . . don’t think that’s right,’ Nate ventured. ‘We were talking to him today, weren’t we Danny?’

‘Yeah, and he told us a different story when we saw him. Maybe them Thompson boys are just making things up as they go along . . . again?’

‘Why would they do that?’

‘You figure it out,’ Danny flatly replied, just as the lights in the theatre started to dim.

Thomas left them after that, quickly returning to the seats where his family were sitting, but not before he cast one long curious look back at his friends.

‘He’ll believe anything,’ Nate leaned over and whispered to Danny. ‘They could all be in for a bit of a surprise after Lachie does gets through with Frank.’

‘Just so long as Lachie doesn’t do anything stupid and get himself in trouble . . . I don’t want the Sarge visiting him as well!’

‘You don’t have to worry about him . . . Lachie knows how to look after himself.’

‘I fuckin’ hope so!’

For the next two hours the boys sat back and watched a movie about a shark terrorizing a seaside holiday town, with their mouths agape most of the time; either in amazement or surprise, or simply being scared witless. Occasionally they got to laugh as well, but for the most part they were simply spellbound, and when they eventually left the theatre their heads were spinning.

‘Oh, man. I’m gonna have to see that again! How awesome was that shark? Do you think it was a real one?’ Nate asked as they found their bikes and climbed on. ‘You don’t think they could train a shark to do all that, do you . . . you know, like they do with Flipper on TV?’

‘Nah . . . too dangerous. I think it would have to be fake. Maybe rubber or something.’

‘Well, it still looked pretty real, didn’t it?’

‘Fuck yeah!’

‘And what about that leg that got bitten off . . .’

‘Yeah, didn’t something like that happen in the lake here one time . . . years and years ago . . . before they built the weir . . .’

‘I think I remember something about that.’

‘And what about the shark rammin’ the boat . . .’

‘I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat!’ Nate laughed into the warm summer night.

Someone walking along the footpath in the shadows laughed at him as well, but he didn’t care.

*     *     *

They rode away from the theatre without a worry in the world, their minds replaying the movie over and over again. It was only when they stopped at the intersection to the road to Nate’s place that they were brought back to earth, with Danny quickly remembering the package he had safely stowed away in his jocks for Jake.

‘You gonna take it to him tonight?’ Nate asked his friend once they came to a stop on the side of the road.

‘Yeah, I think I should. You want to come too?’

‘Nah, I better not. The folks will have a fit if I’m home too late . . . you know what they’re like.’

‘Yeah, I do,’ Danny chuckled.

‘What about your folks? Won’t you cop it from them if you’re late?’

‘It’s school holidays, the old man is still away, and mum thinks I’ll be with you, so it won’t matter too much what I do. I might just see how Jake is, then I’ll work something out after that . . .’

‘Come around home if you want. Just knock on my window if the lights are out.’

‘You sure?’

‘Yeah, why not,’ Nate replied.

‘Okay, thanks. I’ll see what happens.’

‘It’s all good, mate. I’ll catch you in a while then, eh? Tell Jake I said hello.’

They bumped fists in farewell and once Nate had disappeared into the night Danny set off for the caravan park, pedaling as fast as he could.

The lights at the park entrance were on when he rode through the gateway, but there didn’t appear to be anyone around, so he sped down along the roadway and pulled up in front of the cabin that Jake’s Sandman was parked beside.

He could see a light on inside, so after leaning his bike against the wall he knocked gently on the door. No one came, so he knocked again . . . this time a little louder, and waited.

‘Maybe he’s still asleep,’ he whispered to himself.

After there being still no response he decided to try the door handle. It proved to be unlocked, so he pushed the door open and cautiously stepped into the doorway.

‘Are you there, Jake? It’s me, Danny,’ he said.

The television was on, with the volume turned down quite low, but the small living room was empty. Worrying slightly he decided to step inside and check out the bedroom, to see if Jake might be in there asleep, but the bed proved to be empty. There was no sign of him.

Just then he heard a noise, which sounded quite close. He wasn’t sure what it was, but then it was followed by the familiar sound of a toilet being flushed.

‘Fuck! I forgot about that,’ Danny chuckled to himself, just as a door opened and Jake stepped out into the small hallway that led to the bedroom.

‘Oh, Jesus! You scared the crap out of me!’ Jake exclaimed when he spotted Danny standing in the shadows of the bedroom doorway. ‘How long have you been here?’

‘Only just got here. I’m sorry . . . I knocked, but there was no answer . . .’ Danny replied, suddenly worried he was intruding. ‘Are you okay?’

‘Yeah, mate . . . I just needed a piss.’

For a few moments they simply stood there looking at each other, until Jake broke out into a smile, which was soon copied by Danny.

‘So, what are you doing back here? I mean, I’m glad you’re here, but I just didn’t expect to see you . . .’

‘I . . . I brought you something,’ Danny quickly replied, while at the same time putting his hand inside his shorts.

‘Don’t you think we better close the door first?’ Jake asked, with his mouth twisted up in a strange grin.

‘What? Oh, no, it’s not what you’re thinking,’ Danny giggled. ‘It’s this,’ he said, as he pulled out the crumpled plastic bag and held it up for Jake to see.

This time Jake did move quickly to close the door, before turning back and facing Danny.

‘What the fuck? Where did you get that from?’ Jake asked.

‘Just a friend,’ Danny replied. ‘Is there enough? He said it was all he had left . . . but I think he can get you some more if you need it.’

Jake walked over closer and closed his hand around Danny’s and the plastic bag.

‘There’s enough,’ he replied. ‘And I’m grateful, but you shouldn’t have risked carrying it around like that. What if you’d been caught by that policeman?’

‘I wasn’t worried about that,’ Danny replied. ‘I was just worried about helping you.’

‘And does Nate know you have it?’

‘Yeah . . . it was his brother who we got it from.’

‘Oh, Danny. You boys just keep continuing to surprise me,’ Jake laughed, before pulling Danny to him and hugging him.

‘In a good way, I hope?’

‘Yes, mate. Definitely in a good way.’

For the first time since he had arrived Danny took a look at Jake’s face. The swelling around his eye was still there and the bruising was really starting to come out now, while the cuts looked like they were beginning to scab over. He knew that it was probably going to look even worse in the morning.

‘So, have you had anything to eat today?’ Danny asked.

‘I cannot tell a lie . . . no, I haven’t,’ Jake replied.

‘Why the hell not?’ Danny exclaimed.

‘I guess I was asleep for just about all of it.’

‘Well, I’m going to go uptown and get you something . . .’

‘Don’t be silly. There’s some packet soup and some biscuits and stuff packed away in the van . . . I’ll go and get that.’

‘I’ll go. You just put the kettle on and boil some water. Is it all in that silver box you had your food stored in at the campsite?’

‘Yeah,’ Jake answered, before tossing Danny the car keys. ‘It’s stowed away in the back. And take a look in the glove box too, will you. I think you’ll find a packet of cigarette papers and some matches in there.’

‘Got it,’ Danny said, with a shit-eating grin on his face.

As Jake watched Danny head back out into the night he couldn’t help but think of how thankful he was that the two boys had shown up that morning. If he’d been left there he was pretty sure that the outcome wouldn’t have been good. It was then that another thought struck him . . . just how easily the two of them had begun working together, first with Jake helping out with Danny’s paintings, then with how they seemed to understand each other, almost like they knew what the other was thinking, or needed. It was the same feeling he had felt that morning while they were staring at each other, as they waited for Nate to get his bike out of the paddy-wagon and for the sarge to drive off.

He didn’t know whether he should be excited or scared by that, but he knew it made him feel alive . . . and that was a feeling he loved.

While Danny was outside, making what seemed like a hell of a lot of noise as he searched through the back of the van, Jake sought out the basic appliances which his new landlord had told him were in the cabin, such as the electric kettle and some mugs and plates. These were all soon located in a cupboard beneath the sink in the kitchen and by the time Danny came back inside, carrying Jake’s prized food locker, he had the kettle filled and switched on, and with some plates also lined up on the benchtop.

The first thing Danny did was drop the cigarette papers and matches onto the kitchen counter, before turning his attention to the food locker.

‘So, what have we got in here?’ Danny asked, as he flipped the lid of the box open and began taking stuff out and placing it on the counter.

‘Have you had anything to eat yourself tonight?’ Jake asked Danny.

‘Only a snack at the movie theatre.’

‘Oh, really? And what did you go and see?’

Jaws!’ Danny replied. ‘And it was amazing!’

‘Did you go with Nate?’

‘Yeah, who else?’

‘You should have brought him around here with you . . . especially seeing as he kind of supplied this,’ Jake said, as he held up the plastic bag with the green stuff in it.

‘I asked him, but he thought he better get home.’

‘And what about you? Do you need to get home?’

‘N-not for a while,’ Danny quietly replied, as he placed a packet of chocolate biscuits on the counter that he had been holding.

‘I’m glad,’ Jake replied.

*     *     *

Their first dinner together proved to be packet tomato soup, for appetizer and mains all rolled into one, followed by chocolate covered biscuits and then a shared packet of sugar coated jube lollies for desert, all washed down with sweet instant coffee.

Jake always tried to keep a few treats on hand for himself, seeing as he had a sweet tooth that was always crying out to be fed, and he was glad that he’d had them there tonight.

Sharing something like this with Danny, even something as simple as some soup and biscuits, felt, for Jake at least, as if it could be the beginning of something more, something that would carry them both well into a wondrous future. Just how Danny might feel about that he couldn’t be sure, but it was a question that was now beginning to play on his mind.

‘So, what are we going to do now?’ Danny asked, now that they had finished eating and were sitting opposite each other at the small table in the kitchen.

Jake simply smiled and reached for the plastic bag, before holding it up between them.

‘You won’t mind, will you?’ he asked Danny.

‘No, of course not.’

‘Do you want to give it a try?’ Jake asked, as he pulled a couple of cigarette papers from the packet Danny had brought in from the car, then opened the plastic bag.

Danny was in two minds as he watched Jake roll a very thin joint, followed by another, using up all of the meagre amount of grass that he had given him.

‘I . . . I’m not really sure.’

‘No pressure, mate. I guess there are a lot of things I get up to that are new to you.’

‘Yeah, hanging around with you has certainly been . . . what’s the word . . . educational!’ Danny replied, with a slight grin on his face.

‘I would have thought it more . . . enlightening! Have you been shocked?’

For a moment Danny thought about it, while Jake watched him from across the table.

‘No . . . not shocked. Surprised, maybe, but I am sixteen, it’s not like I’m a little kid any more . . . so I do know some of what goes on in the world. I guess I just didn’t expect to meet someone so soon who would show me some of those things . . .’

‘And?’ Jake prompted.

‘And . . . I think that I like what I’ve seen so far . . . and I want to see and do more of it.’

‘I think that can be arranged,’ Jake replied, as he reached across the table and placed a hand over Danny’s.

Danny smiled and rolled his hand over beneath Jake’s, allowing their fingers to become intertwined.

‘You know,’ Jake said after a lengthy silence, during which all they could do was grin at each other. ‘I’m really grateful that you and Nate showed up this morning. I don’t think I will ever be able to repay you for what you guys did for me today. I owe you both, big time.’

‘No you don’t. It’s not about anyone owing anyone else anything at all. You are our friend and you were in trouble. You needed help and we just happened to be the right people there, and at the right time . . . and I’m just so glad we were.’

‘Yeah, me too.’

‘So, are you really okay after what happened? I mean, are you hurt or anything . . . you know, where they . . .’

‘I’ll be okay,’ Danny replied. ‘There’s nothing too badly damaged, if that’s what you mean. When I go home I’ll go and see the family doctor and get checked out.’

‘You said it . . . it happened before . . .’

‘Did I? Well . . . yeah, it did. I’m not going to lie to you . . .’

‘Do you want to tell me about it?’

Jake’s expression seemed to glaze over, as the unpleasant memories came flooding back.

‘There’s not much to tell, really. It happened when I was at school . . . after a football game, when I was in the showers . . . as you go through life, you’ll find that bullies exist everywhere.’

‘I’m sorry . . .’

‘What do you have to be sorry for? It wasn’t your fault.’

‘I’m just sorry it happened to you . . .’

‘Thank you, Danny. You’re a sweet guy . . . have I told you that before?’

‘I . . . I’m not sure,’ Danny replied.

‘Well, you are,’ Jake said, as he gently squeezed Danny’s hand. ‘Now, how about we make ourselves a little more comfortable? I want to try my medicine,’ he added as he let go of Danny’s hand and stood up, holding the two joints out in front of him on the palm of his hand for Danny to see, before also picking up the matches.

‘Is that what they call it these days?’ Danny chuckled.

‘It’ll do for me,’ Jake replied, before holding his other hand out for Danny and then dragging him to his feet.

As they walked through to the bedroom Jake reached out and flicked off the switch for the lights in the living area and kitchen, plunging the whole cabin into darkness, at least until their eyes adjusted to the light from the street lamp outside, which was now coming in through the windows.

‘I promised that I would continue your education,’ Jake said, as he sat down on the edge of the double bed, with Danny also joining him there. ‘But I think I’m going to need to take it easy for a few days I’m afraid.’

‘You don’t . . .’

‘Shhh . . . it’s okay,’ Jake said, as he reached up and placed a finger over Danny’s lips to silence him. ‘I said that there is so much I want to teach you and show you . . . and I will . . . but all in good time, my beautiful boy.’

With light flooding into the bedroom from outside, Danny could easily make out the shape of Jake silhouetted against the pale rectangle of the window. He watched as Jake placed one of the joints in his mouth, before fumbling with the packet of Redhead matches. Eventually he managed to strike a match, the light from which flared up, bathing everything in an intense white, before settling back down. It was then that Jake brought the flame closer to his face and lit the end of the joint, drawing in deeply as he did so and savouring the intense flavor of the smoke.

Almost immediately Danny was struck by the sweet, nauseous and heady scent, which he knew from his high school in Macquarie Harbour, where students would often hide out in the dilapidated toilet block on the far side of the sports oval and partake, while others would take turn standing guard. The teachers knew what went on in there, of course, but usually chose to turn a blind eye, knowing that while ever the few students who did indulge had that place in which to do so, they were keeping the stuff away from the rest of the school, as illogical as that may sound.

Danny had always been amazed that even when there was no one there the place still reeked of what, to him at least, was a stale and sickly smell. But now, in close proximity to the stuff, being in a room which was rapidly filling with smoke, after a little while he found himself beginning to think differently, once the first waves of nausea had come and gone.

Now, he found himself willingly breathing in the smoke that filled the room. He was surprised by the strange peacefulness that seemed to be washing over him, accompanied by a little light-headedness, and for some reason that he couldn’t explain, he was beginning to like it.

‘How are you going?’ he heard Jake ask him, but it was starting to sound like he was talking down a tunnel or something. It sounded totally weird. ‘You want to give it a try?’

When he turned his head he could see Jake holding the joint out for him. There wasn’t much left, but he figured he didn’t have much to lose, so he took it from him. Tentatively he started to bring it up to his lips.

‘Just draw back as deep as you can, and try and hold it there,’ Jake suggested.

For some reason that Danny couldn’t understand, he just wanted to start giggling, but somehow he managed to keep it together just long enough to bring the butt to his lips and close them around the end of it.

For a few moments nothing happened, but then he remembered he was supposed to suck on it, to draw the smoke back into his lungs. Once more the giggles stared to come, but then he was drawing back, sucking the smoke into his lungs like he was supposed to . . . or at least like he thought he was supposed to! That lasted for about two seconds before he started coughing and spluttering, spewing smoke back out, then gasping for air, before finally giving in to his giggle fit.

Jake took the butt from him before he dropped it, taking one last draw on it himself before it was all gone, while at the same time slapping Danny on the back.

‘You did good, kiddo,’ Jake said to him. ‘You’ll get better with practice!’

‘I . . . ( . . . cough . . . cough . . . ) . . . I’m not sure I want to!’ Danny managed to splutter, but even to him it didn’t sound convincing. He fell back onto the double bed, before crawling up onto it a little more, then he rolled over, drawing his knees up close to his chest. ‘I think I want to puke!’

‘You’ll be fine, mate. It’ll pass,’ Jake reassured him, having climbed onto the bed and was now leaning over Danny, one hand running through the younger boy’s hair, while the other was gently running up and down his arm.

After a minute or so Danny rolled over and faced Jake. ‘You must think I’m a real pussy, huh?’

‘No. Not at all,’ Jake replied, before leaning forward and kissing Danny on the forehead.

‘What was that for?’ Danny giggled.

‘For being here,’ Jake replied.

‘So, did it work? Did it take the edge off?’

‘Oh, it did more than that, my friend.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘It means that it brought you to me . . . and right when I needed a pick-me-up . . .’

‘So, that’s a good thing, right?’


For a few moments Danny looked up into the face that was hovering above him in shadow. ‘Will you hold me?’ he asked.

‘Only if you hold me.’

Even in the near darkness, Danny could see Jake smiling.

To be continued . . .

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