Struggle Town


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Struggle Town





Struggle Town

By HR Jones

based on true events.





This book is dedicated to the memory of Harry Cottrell.

Rest in Peace Harry.

A big thanks to the Hardwood law enforcement officers who

spent many an hour with the author, reflecting on the issues facing country people.

To Sergeant Martin Ebden who spent not only his working life

but his retired life serving the community of Hardwood.

Thank you to the new owners of The Peppers property for

allowing the author to wander freely through their home as I attempted to visualise that grisly event.

To the Hollands family who now farm over the old Bungil township site for allowing me to explore their land and view their substantial

collection of memorabilia collected from the Bungil location.

To Sue-Anne who made this novel possible, who kept the author focused.




Cover photograph courtesy of

Gilbert Atkin,

Afternoon at Lake Hume and Tallangatta.





This book is for adults only, contains adult themes and is intended for the entertainment of mature persons. Contains acts of violence, horror, sexual references, an act of self-harm and drug taking, the author does not in any way condone animal cruelty or domestic violence. Any similarity to persons living or deceased is purely accidental. Reader discretion is advised.






Bungil is known by the first people of Australia as the great Eaglehawk spirit who created the rivers and the mountains. The township of Bungil on the Murray River, the river known by the first people as Indi pronounced In-die and Millewa, once stood upstream from the township of Hardwood for well over one hundred and fifty years. European explorers discovered the lush river lands of the Upper Murray in the early eighteen hundreds and within a few years several stock runs of sheep and cattle were established to feed the settlers of the Port Phillip District and the Town of Melbourne on the Yarra Yarra River, at the northern end of Port Phillip Bay approximately three hundred and fifty kilometres south-west in what was to become the state of Victoria. The first people call the river Birrarung as the name Yarra Yarra is believed to mean waterfall, mistakenly named Yarra Yarra by the first European explorers.

The population of Bungil exploded during the gold rush era of the mid eighteen hundreds with many thousands of Chinese and Europeans occupying the surrounding area hoping to make their fortune. As the years went on the gold eventually petered out forcing the gold hungry inhabitants to move to other fields, with a much smaller population remaining the township continued to prosper relying on the farming community to keep it wealthy. Farming progressively became mechanised during the nineteen hundreds resulting in the number of residents to slowly dwindle.

Tourism in the late nineteen hundreds became Bungil’s main source of income as the Hume Dam provided a large lake for aquatic activities. Bungil has the privilege of enjoying a grand old hotel, a service station and a main street full of shops, the last recorded population was just over one thousand seven hundred and fifty, a far cry from the late nineteen hundreds which saw well over fifteen thousand. The population would swell during the summer months with holiday makers camping along the lake foreshore or at the leafy caravan Park, it was estimated during these times that the population doubled.

The people from the surrounding townships that didn’t have the good fortune of having a large lake lapping at their doorstep would travel to Bungil to swim and fish in the cool water, then partake in a leisurely picnic under the shade from one of the large English oaks or the plentiful plane trees with their cooling lush green leaves. High up in the branches the Red Rumped Parrots would occasionally drop a pair of baubles on to the dosing picnickers. Later in the evening when it’s cooler, visitors would take a leisurely stroll to the top of one of the many hills to admire the panoramic view of the majestic lake and the undulating hills with the snowcapped Alps in the distance.

During periods of drought which occur quite regularly in Australia due to it being one of the driest continents in the world, the lake would vanish from in front of Bungil exposing the old winding river course with its dead Red River Gums once homes for Possums and Kookaburras, the trunks some with hollows were home for Huntsmen Spiders, the Red Belly Black Snake or even the Tiger Snake. The eucalyptus were once plentiful along the old river banks and floodplains of the Murray River, termed by the locals as the widow maker as the branches weighing many tons could suddenly fall on unsuspecting campers. They follow the river as it twists its way west then south, defining the borders between New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia eventually ending its journey in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean several thousand kilometres away. The lake can be quite haunting in the early winter mornings when the fog rolls in across the water reducing visibility to only a few metres. On sunny days the view is spectacular with the Sun reflecting off the cold water of the lake, surrounded by the lush green undulating hills cleared of their trees by the early settlers to allow sheep and cattle to graze. Bungil is truly a paradise for those that farm the land and those that come to holiday yet below the surface if one digs deep enough there are scars that have been conveniently forgotten as time goes on.

Struggle Town is one of those stories that delves into the lives of what on the surface appears to be normality, yet the truth can be stranger than fiction, it can also be elusive. The reader need to be vigilant for those that weren’t there pretend to know what happened, and those that were there are reluctant to talk about it. This book tells the story of those days based on eyewitness accounts and police records. Names and locations have been altered to protect individuals who were fearful to speak openly. Any similarity to any living or deceased person is purely accidental.

City people sometimes say they would like to live in the country for a quieter existence, the reality will disappoint them. Set in the beautiful upper Murray region, where Struggle Town is just around the next bend.

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Chapter 1

A Close Call.

It was a cold winter’s day on the water of Lake Hume in the north-east of Victoria, lush green hills surrounded the lake with the small township of Bungil just visible in the distance as alone fisherman made his way up the Murray river arm. The surface of the lake was light grey and without a breeze it resembled glass in the morning sunlight. With the monotonous high-pitched whine of the small outboard motor the fishermen sat with one hand on the accelerator and his pale grey eyes staring straight ahead towards the township perched on the slopes of the lake. On arrival Harry Cottrell dragged his aluminium tinny up onto the bank and headed up towards the town’s local pub, as he’d done so for many years. The Bungil Hotel a large red bricked two story building with a long shady veranda which stretched from one end of the building to the other, its corrugated iron roof a patchwork of rust which matched the colour of the bricks. Four tall chimneys reached up towards the sky, monuments to a colonial era. Painted on the bricks above the veranda, in faded white letters was the name of the hotel which could just be read with some difficulty from the street below.

The windows on the second floor were tall and narrow, all in desperate need of repair as many had lost their protective coating of paint and now the bare timber was exposed to the relentless destructive elements, the weather had turned some to light grey and others to light green as they slowly rotted away. A grand old hotel in its day, the place hadn’t changed in all the years Harry had been a customer. A sudden thought occurred to Harry as he stopped to regain his breath after walking up the slope of the bank, the old place had survived for over one hundred years and would more than likely survive another one hundred, he’d be lucky to see the next five years considering how he’d been feeling lately. A shiver ran down Harry’s spine, he wondered where that morbid thought had come from, he quickly dismissed it from his mind replacing it with the anticipation of the first drink of the day. He continued his journey towards the worn wooden doors of the old hotel. Harry entered the bar and noticed immediately that no one was present. No locals seated at the bar sipping down pots of beer, Betty or her daughter Margaret busy working behind the bar as was normal for this time of day, it was completely quiet. A musty smell wafted through Harry’s nostrils, an unpleasant odour which Harry had never noticed before. The musty smell was mingled with the stale smell of beer and cigarette smoke.

Harry looked around to see empty beer glasses, overflowing ashtrays on the counter and dirty plates just left where customers had consumed them. People are such pigs Harry thought to himself as he walked towards the bar and position his backside on an old wooden bar stool looking left then right, expecting any minute to see his favourite barmaid Margaret. A pretty woman with long black hair, pale complexion and intense blue eyes. She was always behind the bar at this time of day, pouring beers and chatting with the regulars. She always had a smile for Harry and would ask him how he was as she placed a pot of beer in front of him. Staying for lunch Harry? She would ask without stopping for a minute as she poured beers and worked the till. She made Harry feel special, It amazed Harry just how many jobs she could do while still maintaining a conversation on any topic from politics, or the weather, or to who amongst the local fishermen are catching good size yellowbelly. She had a good memory of events past and present for someone of her age. Harry reckoned Margaret was at least forty years younger than him, she was someone who had a charm about her, who was at ease talking to the young and the old who frequented these premises. Why she hadn’t married Harry couldn’t understand, there must’ve been plenty of young men eager to get hitched with such a lovely person, and the fact that her father owned a pub could only be considered an added bonus.

What started as a couple of quick drinks would usually turn into an afternoon of laughter, lubricated by a steady supply of amber liquid with the thought of fishing long forgotten. Harry had been caught before, losing track of time, that relaxed warm feeling that socialising and beer drinking brings which makes time just slip by. Leaving the trip home to the last minute, the last few kilometres on the lake with the small outboard motor running flat out, watching like an owl the silhouette of the hills against the night sky to locate the boat ramp as the day quickly became night. It always amazed Harry just how quickly the sunset on the lake and how the landmarks all looked the same just before dusk, turning his mind back to the present as he rocked from side to side on the old wooden bar stool, the wooden joints creaked loudly in protest, his patience beginning to run thin.

“Hello anybody home?” But not too loud, he didn’t want to make a fool of himself just in case someone was listening. No one answered the call, the place was dead quiet. He’d been looking forward to the first cold beer of the day, the amber fluid that would subdue the craving for alcohol that his body now demanded. Bewilderment as to where everybody had gone had now been replaced with an anger that he was being ignored. A sudden urge gripped him to reach over the bar and pour himself a pot of beer, it couldn’t be that hard, he’d leave some money of course, he wasn’t a thief. Harry leant over the bar and like a child who was about to commit his first act of shoplifting his hand shook uncontrollably as he touched the vertical worn chrome tap handle gently pushing it forward slightly, the amber liquid flowed out from the orifice into the chrome tray below where it instantly turned into white bubbling froth. As Harry licked his dry lips he thought to himself, well that’s a good sign, he looked around for a clean beer glass but there was none.

“Okay the jokes over, very funny everyone you can come out now,” shouted Harry, but no one came running in to laugh at Harry, there was just dead silence. Looking around the bar once again at the mess and the missing drinkers who wouldn’t under any normal circumstances be anywhere else than at the bar drinking, the craving for a cold beer was fast passing as he felt the sudden urge to leave the hotel, a puff of cold air touched the back of Harry’s neck, such was the intense sensation of cold it felt like someone had briefly held an ice block on it. The cold sensation lingered on for several seconds as Harry instinctively swung around to see who’d entered the bar, but the door was closed, no one was there. Harry got to his feet and as he walked towards the hallway which led to the upstairs rooms, he reached up with both hands and lifted the collar of his fishing jacket just a little bit higher on his neck. He stopped at the base of the stairs looking up into the dimly lit stairway, clearing his dry throat he shouted out.

“Harry here, anybody home, hello hello?” No one replied, just the sound of an old clock ticking away in the cold dark hallway. He thought about going up the stairs to have a thorough look around, after all he was a retired cop. But he felt uneasy and his legs seemed reluctant to take the first step, it was cold in here yet he suddenly felt hot, the place gave him the creeps. It occurred to Harry that he’d never been on his own inside this hotel before, there was always someone about. He felt a sudden urge to leave but instead he took a deep breath which brought the urge to flee under control, enough to allow him to calmly turn and make his way towards the door of the Bungil hotel. Outside he looked left then right at the same time exhaling deeply. He had a creepy feeling that he was being watched, no Harry you’re just imagining it, he told himself. He decided to head left down High Street towards the service station where he regularly visited to purchase fuel and bait for his fishing trips.

The street was deserted not a soul to be seen, someone must’ve died suddenly that’s why no one is about he thought to himself as he looked about expecting any minute to see a familiar face, or for that matter any face would’ve settled the anxiety that Harry was now feeling. His throat was bone dry and his heart seem to be racing uncontrollably, his tongue had become stuck to the roof of his mouth and it took all of Harry’s concentration to unstick it, how he needed a drink desperately. Once again Harry had to fight the instinct to retreat back to the safety of his boat, he inhaled deeply before reaching inside his fishing jacket to remove a chrome flask, he quickly unscrewed the cap before throwing his head back to take a long swig.

“That’s better” sighed Harry before continuing his journey towards the service station. The main street of Bungil wasn’t that busy at the best of times, it was hardly the hub of activity but even so there was always the odd old lady doing her shopping or a retired farmer making a beeline for the pub even on the coldest days. Harry looked up at the sign above the entrance to the service station, Wyse Mechanical Repairs as he walked right in, as usual the place wasn’t locked up. He span around looking for Trevor, in all the years he’d been coming to Bungil Trevor was never absent from his service station workshop, Harry was completely confused, it was like they’d vanished off the face of the earth.

“Are you there Trevor?” Shouted Harry. His wife won’t be pleased leaving the service station unattended like this, he’ll cop it tonight that’s for sure. Trevor a short stocky man with black greasy hair which stuck to his scalp as if he’d deliberately applied a handful of grease to hold it in place, his fingernails were long with black dirt caked under them, why his wife hadn’t complained about them Harry couldn’t understand, she took great pleasure in complaining in just about every other thing that Trevor did. He was always dressed in light blue nylon overalls which were caked around the hip area with a layer of black grease due to him regularly wiping his hands on them, he stunk of petrol and sweat as good mechanics do. It wasn’t a good idea to get too close to Trevor during summer. Harry pushed the brim of his baseball cap back as he scanned the workshop, he noticed a newish looking red Ford parked right down the other end of the shed which Harry couldn’t remember seeing before, its bonnet was up, just maybe Trevor was working under the bonnet and was so occupied with his work he hadn’t heard Harry calling out.

He decided to meander down to the red Ford and take a look. Along the way he stopped and checked around rows of old cars that were covered in dust and parked so close together you couldn’t open their doors. In between the front and back of the dusty automobiles machine lathes, radial drills and all sorts of portable devices like welding machines and oxyacetylene cutting equipment had been packed in. Harry had a gloomy thought that if Trevor had collapsed amongst all this machinery it could take days to find him. But even with that thought he checked where he could just in case. Unless of course he was playing a trick on Harry, but that would be out of character for Trevor, he wasn’t the joking type. Trevor had certainly collected a lot of junk in a lifetime of motor vehicle repairs, Harry grumbled to himself. Eventually he reached the red Ford pausing on the driver side to stick his head inside as the window was down.

“Interior is in pretty good nick, the boys at the Geelong factory knew what they were doing.” Harry had a pang of sadness at the thought that a fine motor vehicle like this one were now things of the past, the Aussie built motor vehicle built tough for Australian conditions was now just a fading memory to a generation of baby boomers who’d sat happily in the back as kids, possibly on the very same seat that their conception had occurred. Shaking his head to clear his mind he walked around to have a look under the bonnet.

“Jesus! What a flaming mess,” Harry wondered how on earth Trevor made any sense out of this tangled mess, he stepped back to examine the engine compartment with its partially dismantled engine, wires running in all directions and other shiny bits running down the centre that resembled large ashtrays, it kept Harry amused for several minutes as he tried to identify engine components. In the end he’d had enough, shaking his head before walking away back up towards the counter where he looked around once again and wondered just where Trevor was can make, he was nowhere to be seen or smelt for that matter, inhaling deeply into his lungs that unmistakable smell of petrol and oil that was always associated with car repair workshops, he then leant over the counter to see if anybody was hiding behind it and noticed immediately that someone had opened up the cash register draw and removed all the money, he scratched his head and looked around again, it was unusual for Trevor not to have some money in the till, and there was something else which was bothering Harry, the quietness, it just wasn’t right.

Then it dawned on him that Trevor’s radio wasn’t on, it was always blaring away with talk back radio simulcast from Melbourne. That’s very strange, no Trevor, no cash in the till and no radio. He wasn’t one to avoid having a good chat, in fact he could chat for hours on end about cars he’d owned and repaired over the years. His wife Jan Wyse would drop in from the supermarket where she worked unannounced and shout at him, are you still chatting? You men have the hide to tell us women we gossip too much. Harry just ignore the comment and continue the conversation, Jan would immediately open up the till and count the day’s takings giving Trevor the death stare with those dark beady eyes. Trevor would go quiet and stick his grubby hands into his overall pockets and just step back. He was just like a little kid when his wife showed up. Harry couldn’t stand Jan and if she hung around he would take off and go fishing. See you later Trevor, Harry would shout as he made a hasty exit, he felt like shouting out sucker on those occasions but he didn’t. Trevor’s ego had been crushed enough for one day. He called out Trevor’s name one more time with less enthusiasm than before, but still there wasn’t a reply just the sound of little rodent feet running across the metal roof and a cracking noise coming from the metal sheeting as it expanded and contracted due to the temperature outside slowly increasing. He turned and with the feeling of loss headed back out onto the street.

There was a few old cars parked around the service station and along the street, nothing unusual about that. He made a mental note to himself to ask Trevor why he kept so many old cars parked outside the service station, he’d never seen Trevor driving any of them and most needed a good wash and air in the tyres. Standing outside on the footpath under the Wyse Mechanical Repairs sign Harry took his glasses off and using his handkerchief gave the lenses a quick clean, a thought suddenly popped into his head, of course that’s where they are, the town folk must be at the Town Hall having some sort of emergency meeting. The Town Hall building was just around the corner from the Wyse Mechanical Repair workshop so with renewed vigour Harry headed off convinced that he’d soon be surrounded by familiar faces, he paid no attention as he walked towards the Town Hall to the closed derelict shops that dominated the main street nor the cracked and misaligned concrete pavement that his feet stumbled over.

He arrived at the Town Hall and started climbing the stairs which led to heavy timber doors, he stopped halfway up to listen for any sound coming from within, nothing could be heard just the occasional sound of a pigeon above his head. The large door creaked and groaned as Harry slowly pushed it open before proceeding into the dark hall where it took several minutes for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, on his right was a large wooden counter with a class screen above it with a hole about the height of an adults head and a chrome steel money shoot under the glass. Nobody stood behind the counter and judging by the dust on the wooden counter the place hadn’t been used in some time. It was cold and smelt like old books. Harry shouted loudly,

“Anybody home, anybody there?” A loud bang came from somewhere at the back of the hall which made Harry jump, it sounded like a wooden door being slammed shut, but he wasn’t sure. He yelled out once again,

“hello anybody there?” But there was no reply. Just an eerie echo which made the hairs on the back of his neck rise. He turned around and was about to leave but he stopped and looked back over his shoulder into the dark void, his eyes had adapted to the darkness he could now partially make out the wooden stage at the back of the hall. For some reason whether it was the shot of whiskey combined with the need to find someone Harry found himself walking through the dark void using the partial light to choose his steps cautiously in the direction the bang had emanated from. Bang! He froze, there it was again. Harry racked his brain as he tried to visualise what could make such a loud noise as he turned his head slightly in an attempt to increase his audio perception, but the only sound he heard was his raspy breathing and the rapid thumping of his heart inside his chest. What the hell is going on? Harry thought, as he looked back to where the entrance door and several small opaque windows allowed partial light to illuminate the foyer. He felt his eagerness to investigate the noise somewhat waning. But he pushed on, that’s right Harry you’re a man not a mouse he whispered to himself as he walked towards the stage.

As Harry got closer he noticed there were single doors on both sides but first he walked to the centre of the stage which was about chest height. There didn’t appear to be anything or anybody up there although Harry couldn’t see the back. He didn’t feel like climbing up there to take a look so he walked over to the side door where he slowly turned the door handle before pushing the door wide open, a burst of cold air struck Harry in the face as if he’d opened a freezer door in a supermarket, it made him shudder briefly. The room was in total darkness as he fumbled for several seconds to locate the light switch on the wall, the fluorescent light flickered on and off for some time which gave Harry a flashing view of the interior of the small room with a round table and chairs in the middle. As the light stabilised he entered and noticed a partially open door on the other side of the room. A large ashtray on the table was overflowing with cigarette butts next to it was an old Eveready torch, a leather bound Bible caught Harry’s eye as it looked quite old. It had a bright yellow page marker with writing on it sticking out, it seemed out of place in such an old looking book. He picked it up and examine the yellow page marker briefly before attempting with some difficulty to read the untidy hand writing out loud,

“Luke chapter six verse thirty-one, Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Underneath written in the same untidy childlike handwriting.

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Good advice thought Harry as he flipped open the inside cover to read the perfectly proportioned flowing handwriting of the inscription.

“Best wishes to Narelle and James,” there had been more written, but someone using a cigarette had worked their way along the rest of the message burning the writing and the paper leaving only an ugly black scar from one side of the Bible to the other. The only thing left at the bottom was,

“Yours Sincerely Father Murray O’Brien.” He put the Bible down and walked over to the partially open door pushing it open fully to reveal a wooden stairway which Harry presumed led to underneath the stage. He flicked the light switch up and down several times but it wasn’t working, he stood there staring into the darkness with cold air flowing up from below contemplating whether he should venture down. Without warning the light behind him went out, Harry instantly span around to look back into the now dark room, his eyes a custom to the brightness of the fluorescent light were now totally useless in the pitch black as he stood motionless perched in a precarious position at the top of the wooden staircase. A step in the wrong direction would spell disaster thought Harry as he reached out with his hands to find the door opening. Bang! Harry jumped although he couldn’t see a damn thing it sounded like the door to the room had slammed shut.

“Who’s there?” He called out, for some reason Harry felt that he wasn’t the only one in the room, was it the smell of another human being? Just enough of an odour to trigger a smell memory, or had his ears heard something and subconsciously interpreted rightly or wrongly, the presence of another breathing body? He shook violently for a split second before shouting out.

“Well that’s just fucking great.” Taking several deep breaths before moving forward cautiously using the wall as a guide he placed both hands upon it and walked sideways knowing that eventually it would lead to the entry door and the light switch. As Harry worked his way around the room he wondered whether it was just a coincidence that the light failed and the door slammed shut, he could understand the door slamming shut due to the draught coming up from the stairway but how did the light switch itself off. It didn’t matter Harry thought to himself, when he reached the entry door he would quickly leave this dark cold hall, the sooner the better. Reaching the door he grasped the handle firmly and as he turned it the handle came off in his hand.

“You’ve got to be joking.” Cried Harry as he tried desperately to refit it back on, but in the dark it was hopeless. He moved his hand up and down the wall until he found the light switch, click, click, but nothing happened.

“That’s just great, I’m trapped in the flaming dark.” Harry said in disbelief as he felt his heart beating so hard it felt like it’d moved to the back of his dry throat. He reached in to his jacket and took out his silver flask quickly removing the cap he took one long swig of soothing whiskey.

“Don’t panic Harry, you’re going to be okay there’s got to be away out of here.” He said out loud, for some reason hearing the sound of his own voice had a calming affect along with the whiskey it helped keep the rising tide of panic from overwhelming him. Harry couldn’t understand why the handle had broken off, he squatted down and using his fingers he located the small hole were once there was a shaft attached to the handle. He brought his eye up to the opening so that he could peek through, Harry could just make out the foyer which was partially illuminated from the dim light that struggled to penetrate through the opaque windows. Suddenly the light went out for a brief second, Harry jolted his head back in fright at the sudden brief darkness, had someone walked past the door? Harry froze for several seconds as his brain tried to make sense of what had just happened. There must be someone on the other side of the door.

“Open the door! It’s Harry here, who’s there?” Harry held his breath as he waited for a reply, but there was just silence.

“Stop mucking around and open the fucking door!” Harry shouted angrily, but there was no reply, just the creaking sound of the old wooden building. He kept looking through the small hole for some time until his vision started to blur, Harry took off his glasses and in the darkness he rubbed his tired eyes as he contemplated his position. How did I end up locked in a dark room? Harry asked himself silently. He thought about where he should be right now, at the bar on his third pot of beer well entrenched in conversation with several drinking buddies, not trapped here on his own in the dark. Things just weren’t going well, and then he remembered the torch on the table. He quickly put his glasses back on and with his arms stretched out in front of him he crept towards the table. With fumbling hands he came upon the plastic Eveready torch, at least armed with the torch he might be able to open the door. As he picked up the torch it felt rather light, Harry gave it a good shake.

“No bloody batteries you rotten bastard.” Harry shouted as he threw the useless plastic torch in the direction of the closed door. His hand briefly touched the Bible and for a brief second he had a glimpse of himself praying for a miracle but then he remembered he was an atheist and even if he was religious there was no way he could read in the dark. Leaning forward with both hands resting on the table the cold breeze gently flowing across his face Harry wondered just how long before someone would come and rescue him. His tinny with all his fishing gear was on the bank of the lake, the only thing that would tell someone that he’d arrived at Bungil. But who would realise that Harry was missing, no one saw him land. He wouldn’t be missed at home either, he lived on his own. There wasn’t a devoted wife at home waiting patiently for him to arrive with a lovely hot meal ready to be served. No, those days were just distant memories. It made Harry feel depressed like the darkness that surrounded him, no one would see that he wasn’t around. He reached inside his jacket with the intention of taking another swig of whiskey, but instead he shivered uncontrollably for several seconds from the cold air coming up from the stairway. The air was as cold as the air outside, some inconsiderate idiot has left a window open he guessed. Not only am I trapped in this dark room but now I’m going to die a slow death from hypothermia. The realisation struck Harry like a physical blow to his body.

“You idiot Harry.” He shouted out loudly, of course if the air can get in, I might be able to get out. The thought of the whiskey now forgotten replaced with the possibility of escape, Harry’s emotional spirits lifted but he wasn’t there yet, he had to negotiate the staircase in the dark not knowing just where it would take him. Harry fumbled his way towards the door opening which was the start of the wooden staircase, he reached the entrance where he placed his hand up against the wall and lowering it slowly until he found the handrail that would hopefully guide him safely to the bottom. One step at a time Harry blindly worked his way down the stairs, taking his time in placing his foot on the step below, it was an eerie feeling not knowing just what was in front of him. The wooden staircase creaked every time Harry made a step but several times he heard creaking when he hadn’t made a step, he stopped to listen, he had a spooky feeling that someone was behind him so he spun around with his arm out and his hand clenched in a tight fist, but there was nothing there. If I can’t see then they can’t see me thought Harry, there’s nobody there anyway he told himself. It’s just my imagination, he wanted to believe that but in the back of his mind he had the dreadful feeling that there was someone close by.

The handrail came to an end and just to make sure that the stairs were finished Harry slid his foot out in front of him as far as he could reach. Standing at the bottom of the staircase he slowly turned in the direction that the cold air was coming from, suddenly the breeze stopped for a brief second as if something had passed between him and the flow of cold air. Harry lifted both arms up as he was about to take his first step in the direction of the cold breeze, with his fingers stretched out the tips touched something in the darkness that felt like coarse human hair, he reel back in fright as the adrenaline surged instantly through his body, Harry wanted to run away from the object in the dark but there was nowhere to go to escape this nightmare.

“Who’s there?” Harry shouted,

“stop mucking around, I know someone is there.” But there was no response, standing still he listened while trying desperately to breathe quietly, there was no sound just the cold darkness which threaten to overwhelm him. Harry tried to steady his nerves by taking some deep breaths, for some reason there was a strong smell of perspiration or was it onions, he wasn’t sure all he knew was that he had to keep moving so that he could escape this place.

Walking in the dark with his arms stretched out in front of him with his nerves stretched to the limit his confidence low yet he felt a small amount of pride that he’d successfully manoeuvred the stairs and with that belief and the sense that escape from this dark place was only metres away it spurred him on perhaps recklessly for after only several steps something struck him hard in the groin. He fell to the ground in agony curled up in the fetal position with his hands grasping his throbbing testicles, his face contorted with the pain, he tried to breathe deeply to control the agony but there was no relief from the intense waves of excruciating pain which bought tears to Harry’s eyes. He lay there for some time until the pain slowly eased, eventually he reached up to find the object that he’d blindly walked into. His hands touched a cold metal object which felt like a steel pipe or pole he wasn’t sure. Slowly got to his feet still shaken by the blow to his groin he carefully manoeuvred himself around the metal object before starting his blind walk towards the cold breeze at a somewhat slower pace with one arm held lower just in case there were more such objects in his path. A few minutes later Harry tripped over a solid object that was on the floor he fell with his arms outstretched in front of him which broke his fall but even so he landed heavily on the hard concrete where he cursed out loudly.

“You son of a bitch.” For a brief second Harry thought he heard someone chuckling as he lay on the floor. Remaining still while he concentrated on listening once again he could only hear the thumping of his heart. Harry decided that he would crawl along the ground and that way he couldn’t be hurt anymore by objects laying on the floor. On his hands and knees he crawled like a baby across the floor eventually coming to a brick wall where he got back up onto his feet. With his hands touching the wall he walked sideways. Several steps along his hip came in contact with a solid wooden object, feeling with his hands he guessed the object was a workbench. Navigating around the bench he continued his journey, hands on the wall guiding Harry along his feet stepping sideways like a crab walking along a rocky foreshore, his throat dry the saliva replaced with the abrasive taste of decaying dust. Sticky spider webs stuck themselves to Harry’s face, he would stop to furiously brush off the silky substance wondering where the spider had gone, could things get any worse? Harry thought as he pushed on battered and bruised. He worked his way along the wall eventually coming to an opening which led to another room where the cold air flow was at its strongest, there was something else about this room that Harry at first couldn’t comprehend, it took his eyes some time to adjust to the glow before he realised that the long glowing narrow strip was in fact daylight coming under what could only be a large rectangular gap at the bottom of an exit door.

As Harry was about to head for the door something large touched him briefly on the shoulder, it felt like a large human hand. He span around in fright, furiously swinging both of his arms out trying to hit the thing that had touched his shoulder. In absolute fear Harry ran towards the light and using both hands managed to locate the door handle in the dark, grasping the handle firmly he pulled back with all the strength that the adrenaline was now supplying to his muscles. But the adrenaline which gave him an immense boost of strength was overwhelming the ability of his brain to rationally think, its only thought was to escape. The door wouldn’t open the handle turned but it refused to open, Harry shouted in fear,

“open up for fuck’s sake, open up you fucking useless piece of wood.” and then Harry realised that it was an exit door and opened out, he pushed so hard outwards that he fell forward landing painfully on his knees and even though it was an overcast day, the light was bright enough to briefly blind him. With painful knees he got to his feet and with all the strength he could master he dragged his sorry body up the slippery muddy path alongside the building he’d just escaped, back up onto the road where he’d first entered the town Hall. Covered from head to toe with concrete dust and sticky spider webs, his glasses caked in a layer of fine dust, his knees throbbing with a dull pain, Harry turned and looked fearfully at the Town Hall expecting any minute for someone to come running out after him, and although his knees hurt like hell, Harry turned away and stumble on with a feeling of relief. He reached the shores of the lake in absolute agony huffing for air like a steam locomotive climbing a steep incline, he didn’t know if he had the strength to push his boat back into the water, he just wanted to lay down and die. With his hands grasping the side rail of the boat and the cold water of the lake just under his knees, his aching body bent over at the hips Harry glanced over his shoulder to give the town one last look, he thought he saw something move between the buildings, he froze briefly. He wasn’t sure what he’d seen as doubt entered his mind, his eyesight wasn’t good even with glasses but add the fine dust to the lenses it only made Harry’s vision cloudy. Grunting like a weightlifter in the gym he pushed and then jumped into his boat, after several exhausting attempts to zip start the motor it eventually spluttered several times before running loudly, spewing out a white cloud of two stroke smoke before Harry took off at maximum speed.

The man with the high-powered hunting rifle look through the crosshairs as he watched Harry speed away in his aluminium fishing boat. He tapped his right trigger finger gently against the outside of the trigger guard as he studied the back of Harry’s head, his night vision goggles lay next to him.

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Chapter 2

Sweet Revenge.

Sergeant Ebden felt his blood pressure rise and his heart rate quicken as he read the headlines of the town’s local newspaper, The Hardwood Mail. In bold print splashed across the front it read, The Bonnie and Clyde Couple, the newspaper had dubbed the two troublemakers as if they were travelling comedians here to entertain the local Hardwood residents. It was just over twelve months ago when the Hardwood police station received an early morning phone call from a disgruntled customer staying at the local Union Inn motel.

The manager and owner Wendell Carter a large pot bellied man in his late fifties, with a grey beard and receding hairline who was overdue for a haircut, as his long scruffy grey hair had reached his collar at the back of his neck. He fought the urge to yawn as he leered through his cheap black rimmed glasses that sat on his bulging blue nose at the young couple as they got out of their brand-new black European saloon.

“What the fuck have we got here?” Wendell whispered to himself as the tip of his nicotine stained tongue licked his dry lips, his eyes were now glued to the long muscular legs of the female passenger as she walked towards the motel foyer. Wendell had the feeling that he was watching an old Hollywood movie in slow motion as the young lady swayed her ample hips from side to side in her tight fitting dress that left nothing to the imagination. He suddenly realised he was staring and that his mouth had become dry, so he looked down at the imitation wood grain counter and told himself to snap the fuck out of it. He knew the local girls reckoned he was a sleaze, a dirty old perv, and he’d overheard the unpleasant name that they’d bestowed on him. But he couldn’t help himself, what seemed to be a good idea at the time ended badly and now Wendell had to live with those painful memories of his disastrous attempts at romance. Some harmless fun ending with his reputation trashed for all time. It had taken him some time to work up the courage to look for romance online, but with stories circulating around the town of couples getting together for a night of mutual enjoyment, Wendell decided to take the plunge, he didn’t want to miss out. Wendell was intrigued by the new technology that had made hooking up with females as simple as dialling for a pizza.

He’d downloaded the dating app to his mobile phone and placed a photograph of himself taken ten years earlier when he had more hair and less facial puffiness, and in his bio he’d written, well-to-do businessman seeks open minded female. It was slightly misleading, but what the hell Wendell was on a roll, he’d even come up with a fanciful alias, Mr Wonderful 48. After all, by all appearances he would appear quite successful. He ran his own motel, sure it was run down and badly needed renovating not to mention the fact that it hadn’t made a profit in the last twenty years, which the bank kept reminding him in their threatening letters. Sure, he wasn’t as young as he once was, he’d stacked on the kilos over the last few years and his teeth were a bit stained from coffee and cigarettes. Not to mention the fact that he had a face that only a mother could love, he wouldn’t let this impede his passion for dial up romance. Minor details he told himself, he had to think positively, dazzle them with his charm and wit. It wasn’t long before Wendell was texting with several potential matches, it was a dream come true. Within a couple of weeks he was preparing for a dinner date with a local lady, he’d taken the liberty of booking a table for two at the classy Beef Pit Grill restaurant. Wendell spent hours scrubbing himself under the shower and meticulously ironing his long sleeve pale blue shirt and his navy blue trousers. He even splashed on some expensive Beckham aftershave that apparently was all the rage at the moment, according to the young lady behind the counter. Wendell had even visited the local barber give his unruly hair a decent trim along with his beard and had a bunch of protruding nasal hairs trimmed back.

Wendell’s app match was a middle age lady named Tonya, she was quite short with medium breasts and reasonably pretty considering her age. Her shoulder length blond hair was parted down the middle with a defined line of black roots showing. Her nose was somewhat long but not unattractive, her brown eyes seemed to sparkle when she talked. What she lacked in height she made up for with her high pitched whiny voice and her ability to talk without stopping for a breath, Wendell founded it quite annoying and somewhat irritating. She was dressed quite nicely in a long sleeved yellow dress that went right down to her knees. Wendell was convinced that he’d seen Tonya somewhere before, but he couldn’t quite place her. Wendell had ordered the T-bone and his dinner date had ordered the Scotch fillet, along with a bottle of their best red wine and within a very short time he’d ordered another bottle. Things were moving along nicely, Wendell had a lovely glowing feeling throughout his body. They’d chatted away for hours although Wendell felt like time was standing still. They’d talked about the weather, the local football and even Tonya’s cooking abilities using the Weber barbecue. Wendell was fascinated, he’d never considered just how versatile cooking outdoors in a Weber could be, and the more red wine he drank the less annoying her high pitched voice was. Eventually the subject got onto relationships and of course sex raised its curious head. It’s always an interesting topic especially when you’ve consumed large quantities of alcohol. Unfortunately for Wendell he’d consumed most of the last bottle of red which made him vulnerable to crossing the line from gentlemen to creepy guy.

Tonya had asked in her whiny voice what he’d meant by open minded female in his bio, Wendell at first was hesitant to go into too much detail. But the red wine got the better of him so he opened up that part of his fantasy world that he normally kept locked away. With a boyish grin he leaned forward in his chair and asked his date whether she was okay with anal sex. Sure it was their first date, but why beat around the bush. She seemed somewhat shocked at first but quickly recovered leaning forward she asked Wendell to tell her more. Wendell took this as an encouraging sign so he continued telling her that he would like to experiment and experience something different. He lifted the wine glass to his mouth and gulped down the remainder of the red wine. He had a feeling that he was impressing this lady with his frankness, his confession, that he was pretty trendy, a real out there type guy. Never a dull moment with Wendell the hotel entrepreneur guy. Those doubts about going on a date with a complete stranger, someone that he’d only exchanged short text messages over a few short weeks were now well and truly forgotten. Tonya seemed real interested in what Wendell had to say.

They left the restaurant in the back of a taxi with Wendell taking the opportunity to land a sloppy puppy dog kiss on his unsuspecting date’s lips, and as he did he took the opportunity with one eye open to drop a little gift into Tonya’s open handbag. When the taxi stopped outside her flat he unclip his safety belt expecting to be invited in for coffee, but Tonya departed in a hurry with just a goodbye. Wendell went to bed that night with the feeling of euphoria, he couldn’t sleep. So he got up and with a bag of salt and vinegar chips he watched some late night porn, and once the chips were finished he gave the monkey a good smack.

The following morning Wendell half fell, half crawled out of bed with a blinding headache and a hangover from hell. For a while he just lay on the bathroom floor with his face resting on the cold tiles, he was convinced any sudden movement would kill him. Eventually he made his way to the motel foyer, dressed in a grubby pair of shorts and a singlet top with a steaming mug of black coffee gripped firmly with shaking hands. Wendell managed to position himself on an old wooden stool and once he felt he was balanced, slowly stretched his arms out in front of him onto the counter and gingerly lowered his head between his arms. He concentrated on his breathing as his stomach threatened to erupt. His mouth tasted like a bird had shit in it, he thought about sculling down some cold water from the fridge, but he knew if he overdid it, he would be violently ill.

As he lifted his head Wendell tried to focus his eyes on his faded lime green Leyland P76 parked directly outside the foyer, he took off his cheap black rimmed glasses and gave his bloodshot eyes a good rub before placing the glasses back on his nose and focusing on the object under the windscreen wiper blades of his car. Wendell didn’t know whether he had the strength or the will to walk outside but the object under the wiper blade had him intrigued. Wendell shuffled his way out of the foyer and on reaching the Leyland leant his body up against its side as he reached over and extracted the object. It was then he realised what the object was, Tonya had returned the gift that Wendell had sneakily dropped into her handbag. She’d attached a little note as well, probably a thank you note for a wonderful evening, how thoughtful Wendell thought to himself as he slowly unfold it.

“Dear Wendell, keep your fucking butt plug, you’re a fucking creep.”

“Creep hey, well fuck you miss ungrateful.” Wendell shouted in a croaky voice as his brain throbbed painfully. He had to get back inside quickly as the Sun felt like it was burning a hole through the top of his head. How dare she reject me Wendell thought as he pushed open the foyer door and shuffled his way inside heading for the nearest couch. He glanced down at his mobile phone and scanned a few more potential matches but he couldn’t concentrate. You win some you lose some, the fact that he’d spent a bundle of cash on the night out was a bit concerning though, this dating app which was free could end up costing him a small fortune. The feeling of being rejected just added to the pain that Wendell was feeling from over indulging in the red, Matt well stuffed you, there’s plenty of fish in the river he told himself as he rested his head against the back of the couch and closed his bloodshot eyes. Wendell woke with a sudden jolt, his friend was standing in front of him laughing.

“What the hell have you been up to Wendell?” Kenny the cleaner stood in front of Wendell in his powder blue long sleeved shirt with his vacuum strapped to his back, the nozzle and hose clipped on to his chest strap like some futuristic weapon. His big smile face revealed several missing teeth and many others in decay. He urgently needed dental work but as a cleaner he couldn’t afford the air fares to Asia to see an Australian trained Asian dentist. And now with the government abolishing penalty rates on the weekend, Kenny had become little more than slave labor, the new working poor of Australia with no prospects of dental care as Kenny used his meagre income to keep a roof over his family’s head. Wendell felt guilty when he paid Kenny his miserable wage, what could Wendell do? He was hardly living the high life himself in his rundown motel with the bank threatening to shut him down permanently. The only thing he could do was shout Kenny the occasional meal down at the local pub, and even then Kenny had to buy his own beer. By cutting weekend penalty rates the government was convinced that the trickle-down effect of the economy would be activated, with employers passing down their wealth to their employees. Politicians are such bullshit artists Wendell thought to himself as he considered Kenny’s question.

“Don’t tell me you took out Tonya, she’s got the biggest mouth in Hardwood.” Before Wendell had time to formulate a reply Kenny had his phone out and was holding it in front of Wendell’s face.

“You’re famous Wendell.” Wendell lent forward in his chair and focused his eyes on the photograph on the phone, he realised it was the little gift he dropped into Tonya’s bag. She’d photographed it and placed it on Facebook with the following comment. Wendell tried to read it but the writing was too small so Kenny read it out loud.

“Went out with Wendell from the motel last night and look what he gave me for a present, this guy is seriously creepy.” Kenny was now laughing uncontrollably, Wendell felt like punching him but he didn’t have the strength to get up out of the couch.

“Even my wife knows about this.” Chuckled Kenny.

“She asked me as I crawled out of bed in the early hours of the morning, are you going to work today for Wendell the sodomise? I said to her, what the hell are you talking about?” Kenny burst out laughing once again. This was the last straw for Wendell, he screamed at Kenny to get the fuck out. Kenny left the foyer still struggling to contain himself. But unfortunately this wasn’t the end of Wendell’s humiliation, Tonya’s posting on Facebook had gone viral, there was even a photograph of the offending item on Snapchat. The events of that night had become the most talked about story on the local social media with many questioning the appropriateness of such gifts on a first date, with others being outraged and demanding retribution to Wendell. The threats of violence alarmed Wendell so for the next few weeks he lay low. Even the dating app had dried up with every female he showed interest in ignored him. He was now known by the females of the town as Wendell the sodomise. Fuck them all, Wendell thought to himself.

Wendell desperately needed a cigarette but instead he reached under the counter for his asthma inhaler and took several quick shots, as the medication opened up his airways he felt the old familiar jitters invade his body. Wendell had gone into the motel game at the peak of the industries profitability thinking that after a few short years he would make his fortune and retire a wealthy man but after twenty-five years of long hours running the Union Inn Motel and a Global Financial Crisis to deal with, the only people getting rich were the greedy banks that sucked him dry with their fees and charges, and the local council who crucified him every year with exorbitant rate bills. Wendell had lost a truckload of dough during the financial crisis and had never recovered the large sums of money that his over enthusiastic investment advisor had recommended. He could still hear him now telling Wendell to invest big, with a balanced portfolio Wendell’s future would be secure in low risk good quality products, never once did his self-assured investment advisor tell him that the stock exchange and the products they sell are just another dodgy gambling scam designed to take money off gullible fools like Wendell. The thing that really annoyed Wendell was that the products that he’d invested in were legitimate finance industry approved. From shopping centres, media companies and mining conglomerates. All failed, all took Wendell’s money and a little bit of his sanity. All Wendell had left to show for the hundreds of thousands of dollars invested was a pile of glossy sales brochures with financial graphs showing substantial returns and paragraph after paragraph of writing justifying investment in their product. Every page had a large photograph at the top of a retired couple holding hands with big smiles as they looked out over pure white sands and watched the sunset over a perfectly calm blue ocean. The caption underneath read, your future is secure in our hands.

It was all made up, a cruel hoax of wealth redistribution, take from the gullible and give to the money men, they always got their cut and their substantial end of year bonus no matter how many of their clients were eating dog food on Christmas Day. Wendell felt no guilt in taking cash from customers to avoid tax or receiving a kickback from the local brothel for turning a blind eye to young ladies of the night dressed in their short miniskirts who visited the middle-aged salesman, why shouldn’t he? He’d been an honest person, but the system had screwed him, now he was out to make a dollar, he’d learnt a long time ago that to take the moral high ground was all very well and good, but it didn’t pay the bills. No, that had been eroded away long ago. When it came to financial security the only person who had your best interest first was yourself, every investment advisor, every financial company advertising for your hard earned money only ever had their own personal financial gain at heart, fiduciary duty doesn’t apply when it came to self-gratification. It was a cruel lesson that had taken Wendell some years to learn, that lesson had cost him his life savings.

The heavily built driver of the luxury European saloon, a man of Anglo Celtic appearance with a neat crewcut dressed in a white Number One T-shirt, Adidas black tracksuit pants and a brand-new pair of bright white Jordan joggers. He had every inch of his exposed skin apart from his face covered in tattoos. Around his thick muscular neck hung a chunky gold chain which matched the chunky gold watch on his wrist which Wendell guessed could feed a small African country for a year. His girlfriend looked much younger and was somewhat shorter with long black hair and a white short dress which clung her body like it was an expensive spray job on a Ferrari. She was pretty and had spent many hours under the needle adorning her body with artistic tattoos down her arms and big Gothic letters carved across her symmetrically perfect breasts. Wendell attempted to read the Gothic letters, but every time he tried her perfect breasts stole his ability to read, in the end he gave up trying. The Anglo Celtic Beemer driving dude who could have easily been mistaken for an American rapper rather than an Aussie kid booking in to a cheap motel swaggered in with his moving graffiti on his arm. She hadn’t taken her eyes off her mobile phone screen relying on Mr. Muscles to guide her through to the rundown foyer. He entered as if he owned the place giving Wendell the eye of superiority and the knowing look of, don’t fuck with me, I’m a bad arse mother fucker.

Wendell had seen it all before, the tough guy with the tats and expensive jewellery, the fancy car and the beautiful girlfriend. Wendell’s face lit up with his standard welcoming smile not betraying for a minute his calculating mind that was now running some numbers through it as to just how much money he could safely rip-off from Mr. Muscles. He wants to play the tough guy game, then who was Wendell to shatter his delusion, if he had plenty of cash then Wendell would gladly play the role of humble motel servant, kissing the arse of his wealthy customer in return for financial gain, preferably hard black market cash.

“Welcome to the Union Inn Motel, what can I do for you?” Wendell said in a voice which sounded like he was greeting the Royal family.

“I want the best room for me self and my Babe.”

“Just sign here please sir.” Wendell pointed to the register book.

“Do you have pretzels?” Asked the heavily built tattooed man as the held his tattooed lady tightly around her slender waist.

“Yes,” Wendell said as he reached up behind the counter and pulled out a bag of pretzels.”

“Are they fresh pretzels?”

“Yes, they certainly are Mr. um.” Wendell looked down at the registry book and read the name that Mr. Muscles had written. Wendell had to fight the urge to laugh.

“Give me all the packs of pretzels, I’m fucking starving.”

“Certainly Mr. Beckham.” Wendell cleaned out the tray which contained several packs of pretzels and place them on to the counter in front of Mr. Beckham, he’d already calculated the numbers and added a hundred percent to the price.

“Will that be cash or credit card?” Wendell said in a business like tone. Mr. Beckham didn’t answer, he picked up a pack of pretzels, slowly opening them before placing one pretzel onto his nicotine stained tongue. He chewed slowly for several seconds with his eyes closed before swallowing. It was like Mr. Beckham was sampling an expensive wine and for a minute Wendell wondered whether he should get a bucket for Mr. Beckham to spit into. Wendell had experienced this game of egotism many times before, where wealth and power distorts one’s ability to think like an ordinary person, where their self-driven egotism demands perfection, they need to be given everything that is perfect, to receive something below standard is taken as a personal insult and considered an attack on their integrity that requires extraordinary punishment.

Even something like a cheap pack of pretzels demands perfection, they had to be up to scratch because Mr. Beckham considered himself a walking legend whose egotism defied commonsense, but not to him. An arrogant individual best not crossed, but who could reward loyalty with extreme gratitude. Mr. Beckham opened his pale blue eyes and looked straight at Wendell for an uncomfortable second before Mr. Beckham smiled and nodded his head.

“They’re good pretzels, very good.” He turned to face his tattooed girlfriend while still holding her small waist. She inhaled deeply on her cigarette, her eyes glued to her phone as she continued to text message, the phone beeped every few seconds which Wendell found quite irritating as a thought occurred to him whether she texted while having sex with Mr. Beckham, he fought the urge to smile as he imagined the young woman naked, eyes locked on the screen as Mr. Beckham rode the pony all the way home.

“Try one baby boo.” Said Mr. Beckham as he held one in his hand and tried to place it into his girlfriend’s mouth. She blew a perfect smoke ring from her sausage shaped silicon filled lips that gently travelled to encircle the tattooed hand that held the pretzel, her eyes immediately returning to the phone screen. Mr. Beckham with the pretzel held between finger and thumb moved his tattooed hand around to in front of Wendell’s mouth and gestured by nodding his head slowly that Wendell should eat it. Wendell froze briefly as he desperately tried to think of an excuse to refuse the pretzel. But his mind went blank. He leant forward over the counter and opened his mouth up and stuck his tongue out, Mr. Beckham placed the dry salty knotted pretzel onto his tongue as the two men’s eyes made contact. Wendell got a strong smell of nicotine as he chewed slowly on the pretzel as the two men looked at each other over the counter.

“Good pretzels, aren’t they my man?” Said Mr. Beckham with a straight face. Wendell just nodded in agreement as a little bead of sweat ran down his forehead, Wendell had an uneasy feeling of vulnerability, like he’d just committed a lewd sexual act and been caught red handed.

“Cash” said Mr. Beckham.

“I haven’t got any.” Said Wendell without thinking.

“For the room, my man.” As Mr. Beckham extracted from his Adidas pants pocket a rolled up wad of fifty dollar notes the diameter of a large Coke bottle, he peeled six notes off and threw them onto the counter.

“I think that should just about cover it Mr. Beckham.” Said Wendell as he quickly picked up the six notes and handed him the room key.

Connie Belvoir was the district sales representative for the water cooler company, Freshwater which covered the north-east of Victoria an area that required her to spend days on the road to reach customers. She had taken the job reluctantly after losing her previous job as a luxury car sales person in Melbourne. The downturn in the economy had decimated the top end luxury motor vehicle sales. Gone were the late starts, the expensive tailored business suits, along with the erotic French lingerie, the long hours at the exclusive hair salon, cutting, colouring and waxing of unsightly hair with the mandatory anal bleaching for special occasion. Gone also was the long Friday cocktails at Bernadette’s with the girls spent discussing whose husband was fucking which secretary, and what really hurt the most was the loss of the extraordinary generous financial commissions. The buyers had dropped off as if the show room and the sales staff had contracted a deadly African disease. First to abandon the showroom with its overpriced imported shiny bits of painted metal on rubber were the social climbers who felt that their status in society would be enhanced behind the wheel of an imported European sports utility vehicle, regardless of the outrageously high repayments and the crippling insurance cost which sucked their bank balance dry, the greater the vanity, the higher the cost. Second to go was the socialite Barbie wife whose only desire was to make an impression on her girlfriends at their regular afternoon tennis game in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne.

Third to give the showrooms the finger was the entrepreneur businessmen come fast talking professional bullshit artists who had by a stroke of luck funnelled their wealth into tax haven overseas which had the added advantage of reducing their tax liability to the wonderful figure of zero, the overseas location also made it devilishly difficult for law authorities to recoup investor’s money. Connie didn’t like being away from home at the best of times, but especially now as her lesbian wife was expecting their first baby, Connie hated herself for not being there. They’d married several years ago when the Liberal government through a simple act of Parliament had allowed same-sex partners to marry, they had to jettison several of their right wing religious loonies in the process, but they were a much better party for doing so.

It had been one of those days, you couldn’t give away a water cooler no matter how many demonstrations you did, no matter how much sweet talking you did, it was just one of those days, the fish weren’t biting. But the lack of sales didn’t stop Connie having to deal with some of the most stupidest people she’d ever had the misfortune to meet. How many times did she have to explain how a water cooler worked, it wasn’t rocket science. You put the water in the top and cool water comes out the bottom, and that’s about it. No, you don’t boil the water first, no, you don’t buy special water, tap water is just fine. No, it doesn’t need chemicals, it’s a fucking water cooler, it cools the water, that’s all it does. The questions had been relentless, the day had used up every ounce of patience that Connie possessed, she was just looking forward to phoning her wife and having a hot shower before hitting the sack, ready for an early morning trip home.

All was quiet at the Union Inn motel, Connie had spent a good twenty minutes talking to her wife before taking along hot shower and then carefully applying a hydrating face mask, she was now in a deep contented sleep. Mr. Beckham and his girlfriend had been dozing on the bed watching some telly as they ate the last of the pretzels in between snorts of cocaine and smoking some ice. Their first visitor arrived about quarter past twelve, he came in handed over the cash and took off with his gear, a satisfied customer. The next visitors arrived twenty minutes later and were much louder as they parked their loud V8 in the courtyard of the Union Inn, as the night wore on a steady stream of individuals arrived, some by foot others by car, all had one thing on their mind. Connie rolled over in her bed and punched her pillow several times before drifting back off, sometime later she woke up, Connie sat upright as her foggy mind try to interpret the noise she was hearing, for a brief second she thought someone was banging on the motel door. Connie reached over and picked up her mobile phone from the side table and checked the time blinking constantly as she tried to correct her blurred vision. Connie groaned out loud.

“You’ve got to be kidding?” Shouted Connie.

“It’s one thirty in the fucking morning.” Thump thump thump, on and on the repetitive thump penetrated through brick and concrete, human flesh wasn’t immune either, every cell of Connie’s body was now being assaulted. Connie wrapped the pillow around her head in an attempt to muffle the repetitive low-frequency bass emanating from a subwoofer amplifier, the pillow was useless, there was no escaping it, Connie threw the pillow away in anger.

“Who on earth is playing loud music at this time of night?” No one replied to Connie’s question as she turned on the bedside light. Connie reached for her business trousers which she’d folded neatly over the bedside chair, she pulled them on quickly annoyed that she was wasting precious sleeping time. Bare chested she fumbled with the door lock before stepping outside into the night. The penetrating thumping beat was even louder outside, the repetitive thumping sounded like some sort of bizarre music without any singing, on top of the repetitive thumping was a sound of metal being dragged against metal, the constant brain penetrating thud reminded Connie of a helicopter flying overhead. It was coming from a motel room that had cars double parked in front of it. Connie walked quickly towards the door and nearly tripped over a body lying on the walkway, someone yelled out something, but Connie couldn’t hear above the deafening music. Reaching the door she went to bang on the flimsy plywood of the motel room but it was partially open, the smell of cigarette smoke, alcohol and human body sweat drifted up into Connie’s nasal passages as she gently pushed the door open.

The small motel room was covered with bodies, some naked some not, some smoking or drinking, others doing both. Most were sitting on any exposed flat surface a few were prostrated on the floor in stinking pools of their own vomit. Others just stood or leaned over the cheap furniture, wherever they could. Some were trying to communicate by shouting above the music, their shouts just added to the cacophony of the room. A couple were having sex on the edge of the bed, oblivious to those around them as they thrusted to the beat of the music, their bodies shone with salty sweat. The side table was covered with clear plastic bags full of white powder and ice crystals, as well as opened bottles of spirits, cartons of cigarettes and piles of cash scattered untidily over it. The music was coming from a large portable amplifier which had one guy dressed in black crouched in front of it who was playing around with the dials as he held a burning cigarette between his teeth. A naked middle-aged chubby woman with tattoos all over her body appeared to be in some sort of trance with eyes closed she spun around in a circle, her large tattooed breasts and her rolls of loose skin defied gravity as they floated outward, as she spun faster her tattoos had merged to become one. Although her face was pale white which matched her long hair the rest of her body had now become a blurry black mass.

Connie stood there in the doorway in shock, a big guy with tattoos and a gold chain around his neck grabbed her by the shoulder and shouted into her ear.

“What you want? Some chunky love or snow, did you bring your cash bitch?” He said as he looked at Connie’s naked chest and then her white creamed face, she could see the look on his face that he wasn’t sure what to make of Connie. With her small cone shaped breasts exposed to the gaze of the semiconscious drug taking individuals inside the small motel room Connie suddenly felt rather vulnerable. She quickly raised hands to cover her bare chest. But there was nothing she could do about the white hydration mask on her face that made her resemble a clown.

“What the fuck do you want bitch?” Asked aggressively the tattooed guy who had now placed his angry face very close to Connie’s face. Connie jerked her head back as the tattooed guy’s breath assaulted her olfactory receptors, his breath smelt like rotting fish that had been left in the council’s green compost bin for far too long, it was disgusting.

“Turn the music off, people are trying to sleep you fucking idiot!” The words came out of Connie’s mouth in a high pitched screech which surprised even her just how loud she sounded even with the amplifier’s deafening beat. The big guy with the tats stepped closer as he stared at Connie and then without warning he delivered a powerful blow to Connie’s naked stomach, she dropped to the ground in agony clutching her stomach as her lungs screamed for air, Connie fought the urge to vomit as she tried to breathe. Someone grabbed Connie by her slender ankles and dragged her roughly away from the doorway across the concrete path and then on to the bitumen car park where she was dumped between two cars. Connie had screamed loudly in protest through the whole painful ordeal, Connie’s lovely soft flesh on her elbows and back felt like someone had sanded it with an angle grinder, the skin had been removed and now large red patches had appeared, the pain was intense and her skin felt like it was burning.

Whoever was dragging her either didn’t hear her screams of protest or didn’t care, Connie rolled over as she struggled to get to her feet but before she had a chance someone kicked her hard in the head, so hard that Connie’s head hit the side of the motor car next to her, it was the last thing Connie remembered as the roaring train ran through her ears and her brain switched off the lights.

Wendell open one eye, he wanted to open the other but it wouldn’t move. He focused on the ambulance officer with his bright blue latex gloves trying to shine his little bright torch light into his eye. Wendell wanted to tell him just how annoying that was, but he couldn’t form the words in his head that he wanted to say. He was asking Wendell a question, over and over he kept asking, but Wendell couldn’t comprehend what he was saying. In fact Wendell wasn’t really sure where he was, he slowly looked down to see his naked fat belly and his two chubby legs sitting in a shower recess. There was something familiar about the shower, and then it slowly came back to him, he’d come over to close down the loud music and investigate the steady flow of cars arriving. For some unknown reason Wendell had accepted a drink from Mr. Beckham or was it several drinks? His head was hurting and there was a funny salty taste in his mouth, his skin felt tight and had an unusual shiny look. Wendell tried to move his dry tongue around, and then he remembered he’d been chasing a large naked tattooed woman around the car park, he vaguely remembered catching her but after that he wasn’t sure. He wanted to spit desperately but his mouth was too dry, he tried to remember what he’d done, but he couldn’t, nor could he remember stripping off and getting into the shower, it was a complete blank. Standing behind the ambulance officer Wendell recognised Constable Quinlan. Quinlan was yelling something, he didn’t look happy, Wendell tried to focus his one eye on Constable Quinlan’s moving lips as they moved up and down like two large garden worms.

“Wendell, what the fuck happened here?” Shouted Quinlan. Wendell blinked his eye and tried to rub it with his hand as he looked at Constable Quinlan again, for a brief second he thought that Quinlan resembled a large rabbit, he burst out laughing hysterically as the ambulance officer jabbed him in the arm with a large needle.

Connie woke up in pain, her head felt like it was twice its normal size and her back felt like it was on fire, she stumbled to her feet using the side of the car to keep herself vertical. A deep thumping pain inside Connie’s brain made her feel weak and the urge to vomit was strong, the loud thumping music added to the pain of the loud ringing noise in her ears as she stumbled on woozy legs to her motel room where she sat for a while on the edge of the bed with her eyes closed waiting for the ringing and the nausea to ease. All Connie wanted was a good night’s sleep, she glanced at her car keys on the table next to the bed and for a brief second she thought about taking off, hitting the road home. But as she looked down at her shaking hands the urge to retaliate, to get revenge was overpowering. Even a lousy water fountain salesperson deserves some respect. Connie suddenly got up and walked around the bed to the metal chair that had only a short time ago been supporting her pristine business trousers that her loving wife had spent hours fussing over, Connie briefly looked down at those trousers. They were now covered in dirt and the knees were badly abraded, she picked up the metal chair and held it to her bruised abdomen as she turned and calmly walked out into the night.

Connie stood outside the motel room as the thumping beat reverberated through her body, she lifted the chair with both hands high up over her shoulder and with all the strength she could muster she threw it at the window. The window exploded into a million crystal pieces, the curtain on the other side flew open as the chair sailed into the crowded room. Loud screams and shouts erupted from the motel room above the thumping beat as several bloodied figures ran screaming from the room and disappeared into the night. The big guy with tattoos and the gold chain ran out with the look of pure rage on his face, a trickle of blood ran down his forehead from a small cut somewhere on his scalp. He moved quickly for such a solidly built man and before Connie had the chance to take evasive action he’d reached out with both hands and taken a firm grip of her long black hair. Connie heard the powerfully built man shout out above the penetrating beat,

“I’m going to fuck you up real bad you white faced bitch.” He pulled her head down violently at the same time bringing up at maximum velocity a bony knee, but Connie was too quick for him, instead of trying to break his grip on her hair she instinctively crossed both her forearms in front of her exposed face.

His knees struck Connie’s forearms for what seemed to Connie like an eternity but in fact was only several seconds of intense blows. Connie didn’t struggle she just kept her balance and waited for her opportunity, her face was protected and although the blows were powerful they weren’t causing any trauma. One after the other his knees rocketed up swiftly to lose their killer striking power harmlessly on Connie’s forearms. Above the penetrating beat spewing from the subwoofer, Connie could hear her attacker puffing loudly as he consumed the last of his energy reserves, his knee blows had slowed and their power had declined to the strength of a playful slap. Like an undisciplined boxer who’d thrown countless wild punches in the first round and had forgotten to conserve his energy, to patiently wait for the appropriate opportunity to deliver the knockout blow. And now found himself in the second round with nothing left in the tank, a sitting duck struggling to fill his lungs with air let alone defend himself against a superior opponent. Connie bent her knees as she lowered her upper body while still keeping her forearms crossed in front of her face, when she felt she was in position Connie took several deep breaths before shooting upwards with the speed of a coiled King Cobra strike, the back of her bony head collided violently with her attackers nose gave out a sickening cracking noise as the bone shattered.

The sudden upward thrust caught Mr. Beckham off guard, as he’d begun to tire from the constant effort of lifting his knees up to strike thinking any minute his half naked victim would collapse with a mangled face, but instead out of nowhere a powerful blow had struck him on the nose giving him an instant blood nose along with excruciating pain as his vision blurred the tears ran from his eyes uncontrollably. Before he had time to comprehend what had happened Connie had quickly changed her feet position to a fighting stance with the right foot at the back and the knees slightly bent, both fists tightly clenched. Connie pulled back her right arm to a full stretch before bringing the clenched fists forward and at the same time rotating her shoulders to increase the velocity and power of her bony fist. It struck Mr. Beckham on the side of his jawline, he didn’t see it coming and as he attempted to protect his face by bringing his arms up Connie delivered a barrage of left jabs and several more bone cracking right hooks. Mr. Beckham fell to his knees in a dazed state, his white Number One T-shirt now resembled an amateur artist’s first attempt at psychedelic painting, but who could only afford one colour, blood red.

Connie stood there bare chested with her white face sucking deeply on the night air. The pain had gone from her bloodied elbows and her back, she released slowly her clenched fists. Mr. Beckham groaned loudly as he hit the bitumen. Connie wondered as she walked back to her motel room as she heard the police siren in the distance, was how would he explain being beaten up by a girl. A grin came across Connie’s face, it’s not every day you run into a retired mixed martial arts cage fighter, the only thing now on Connie’s mind was a quick shower to clean her wounds before she commenced the long trip home.

“You’re hurting my fucking wrists you fucking pig dog, and get me the fuck off this carpet it stinks like shit, are you listening to me pig dog?”

“Just remain quiet please and stop wriggling around that’s why the handcuffs are biting into your wrists, and my name is Constable Quinlan, stop calling me dog.”

“Fuck you bacon dog!”

Constable Quinlan ignored the last comment from the agitated drug affected, heavily tattooed young woman as she lay face down with her hands cuffed behind her back in several pools of vomit. With bright blue latex gloves on Quinlan carefully examined the plastic bags full of white powder and crystal substances placing them carefully into a cardboard box before counting and neatly stacking the large quantity of banknotes, mainly fifties before placing them into a separate box. So far he reached two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, he’d never handled that much cash in his life as he wondered whether the Hardwood police safe would be big enough. Another young constable was searching under the bed and around the bedside tables, cautiously moving them away from the wall as he held a small torch in his blue latex gloved hand at the same time moving his head around checking thoroughly for any suspicious looking items.

“My wrists are fucking burning, you wait bacon dog my boo will beat you for this.” Screamed the tattooed young woman.

“Won’t you boo?”

“Hey babe, I got my fucking hands tied at the moment, I’m in no position to beat random shit. Love you my queen.”

“I’ve got something here?” The young constable shouted out as he held the double bed mattress up and twisted his body so that he could get a better look.

“I’ve got a hand gun and, you’ve got to be kidding! It looks like a grenade.”

“It’s a fucking hand grenade all right.” Said Constable Quinlan as he stood beside the young constable holding up the mattress.

“Okay Mr. Beckham is this your grenade? And don’t bullshit me if it’s yours we’ll know soon enough, your prints will be all over it. So tell me the truth, is it your fucking grenade?”

“Okay snoop dog you got me on the grenade, and it’s real so don’t pull the pin, but the drugs and the cash ain’t mine, I’ve never seen those drugs before, they must belong to one of those local jokers who just showed up. You just can’t trust people anymore.”

“Don’t bullshit me Beckham there is enough drugs here to put you way for twenty years, your prints will be all over them because I don’t think you’re smart enough to wear gloves.”

“Take it easy snoop dog, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Fuck my nose is killing me, I’m telling you those drugs ain’t mine, me and my Babe were just chilling when all these people started show up, making a real nuisance of themselves. I tried to keep them out but there was just too many of them, and then this bitch shows up. She wants to fight because she’s painted her face like Braveheart, you know like Mel, with his blue face. Except this bitch has got a white face. Maybe it’s an Australian thing, I don’t know. I tried to negotiate with her but she wouldn’t listen to reason, and for no good reason she smacks me right on the nose. Look at it, it’s broken real bad, I’ve been disfigured. She hit me with an iron bar or maybe a baseball bat.” Mr. Beckham snorted loudly back through his nose several times in an attempt to clear the congealed blood that was clogging his nasal passages. Then without warning he spat onto the dirty carpet a big bloody pool of saliva. Constable Quinlan looked away in disgust as his stomach turn.

“I’m in a shit load of pain here. And then you guys come screaming in and everybody ran off and left me to take all the blame. I’m an innocent man, I’m the victim here. Those local jokers gatecrashed my room, beat me up, and in the process ruined my new Number One T-shirt. They violated my personal privacy, me and my Babe were in fear for our lives.”

“If those drugs aren’t yours then why do you need to carry a grenade?”

“It’s for my personal protection, that’s all. There’s a lot of criminals out there that might try and rob me. I’m a very rich guy you know, I’ve got to be vigilant with my personal safety.”

“And what sort of business are you in Mr. Beckham?” Asked the constable.

“I buy and sell stuff,” Mr. Beckham paused briefly as he twisted his head around in an attempt to ease the discomfort he was feeling. His broken nose had stopped bleeding but the throbbing pain had increased and was now almost unbearable. Laying face down with his hands cuffed securely behind his back was only adding to the discomfort.

“I’m an on-tray-per-newa.”

“A what? I think you mean, entrepreneur.”

“That’s what I said, as well as a negotiator, and sometimes I do mediation type work, I give advice to certain individuals or companies that have forgotten their priorities. I’m in demand all over the place, business is booming.”

“Are you sure it’s a real grenade, I mean how do you know?”

“I hope so, because it cost me a lot of cash. If it’s not I’ll be very disappointed with the person who sold it to me.”

“So Mr. Beckham, someone tries to rob you you’ll threaten to pull the pin, and then what? You blow yourself up along with them, that sounds like a pretty fucking stupid idea. Has anybody ever told you you’re a complete idiot?”

“Some have, but not many. Those that have, have realised their error in their judgement and after a brief getting to know me period have deeply regretted their error. I am a very nice person ask anybody, asked by babe, you know I spoiler her rotten, I just can’t help myself.”

“Yes, I bet you can’t.” Said Constable Quinlan as he looked down at the cuffed tattooed lady in the short white dress which had now ridden up to expose two perfectly shaped white cheeks attached to slender long tattooed legs.

Sergeant Ebden was annoyed at being woken in the early hours of the morning from his sleep, it felt like he’d only just dropped off when his mobile phone started to ring. Briefly he was confused where he was but then he remembered he was sleeping in the spare room as his wife had kicked him out of the master bedroom after complaining hysterically that his snoring was keeping her awake. He shook his head as he remembered the shouting match before he reluctantly took his pillow and his mobile phone and headed for the spare room. As he’d made himself comfortable on the single narrow bed he could hear his wife snoring loudly. And now to be woken by Constable Quinlan from the night shift, there must be something bad going on. He dreaded to think what had happen, it must be something pretty serious for Constable Quinlan who by all accounts is a competent officer to consider wake his boss in the early hours of the morning.

A bad road accident more than likely, the thought of picking up mangled body parts of deceased drivers this early in the morning made his stomach churn, or even a raging house fire threatening to consume adjoining properties requiring urgent evacuation of the neighbouring residents. Young and old people, some grumpy others frightened, wrenched from their slumber dressed only in their pyjamas clutching tightly their domestic pet as they asked a million questions. Sergeant Ebden just wanted a few more hours sleep before he had to face the world gone mad. All these thoughts rushed through his mind as he fumbled to press the answer button on his phone, swearing under his breath he questioned why some engineering genius in the design department of the mobile phone company had decided to make the answer button so bloody small.

“What is it Constable Quinlan?” Sighed Sergeant Ebden.

“Morning Sarge, thought I better ring. We’ve got a problem down here which I thought you might like to be briefed on.”

“What’s so important Constable that you need to wake me at this time of the morning.”

“Yeah, sorry about that Sarge. But we received an angry phone complaint from a customer complaining that certain individuals at the premises of the Union Inn were selling drugs.”

“Surely Constable you don’t need me to hold your hand while you arrest these individuals?” Sighed Sergeant Ebden.

“No, that’s right Sarge. We showed up down here a few of us from the night shift expecting to do a quick check and arrest one or two drug pushers. But when we arrived at the premises we were confronted with some sort of crazy drug fuel antics going on, we had naked men and women chasing each other around the car park, it was the most weirdest thing I’ve seen for a while Sarge.”

“I’m sure it was Constable, get on with it.”

“One of the motel room had its window smashed, there’s glass everywhere inside all over people, some were unconscious others laying on the floor being violently sick and a couple just completely out of control screaming and yelling and wanting to fight everyone. Most of them completely naked, the ambulance crews are sorting through them right now. It doesn’t look good Sarge, there might be a few who don’t make it. We found enough drugs to open a pharmacy and enough cash to buy a house with, I’ve never seen anything like it Sarge.”

“Okay Constable things got out of control a bit, that’s sad, but we can’t hold people’s hands. They have to take some responsibility for what they put into their bodies. As far as property damage goes let what’s his name, Wendell sorted out.”

“That’s the thing Sarge, we found Wendell’s clothing and his wallet in the car park. We searched his premises thoroughly, we couldn’t find him at first, we eventually located him inside one of the motel rooms in the shower recess buck naked. Looks like he’s had some sort of breakdown, he wasn’t making any sense, kept shouting out like he was in fear of something, or somebody, the pretzels are fresh! The pretzels are fresh! Over and over he shouted. In the end the paramedics gave him a shot of Narcan before they took him away. They reckon he’ll be lucky to pull through, his heart rate off the scale and he was shaking uncontrollably. It was quite frightening Sarge.”

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that. But Jesus Constable you could’ve waited till the morning to tell me that.” Yawned Sergeant Ebden.

“Sarge, I think Wendell has participated in a golden shower.”

“For the love of sanity.” Shouted Sergeant Ebden.

“Keep that to yourself Constable, if Wendell is on his death bed then that will be the last thing he’ll want circulating around town. And I’m not going to ask you why you’re such an expert on these things. Is that it Constable?”

“Well not exactly Sarge, we were doing a search of the room, and an inventory of the cash and drugs when we came across under the mattress a pistol and Sarge, you’re not going to believe this.”

“Spitted out Constable I’m not getting any younger.”

“A hand grenade.”

“A what?”

“That’s right Sarge, looks like a Second World War fragmentation grenade, it’s in good condition.”

“I don’t care Constable Quinlan if it’s fucking brand-new, don’t touch it. Get on to the bomb squad and let those boys handle the grenade, have you started evacuating yet?”

“Not yet Sarge, thought I’d give you a ring first before we start, you know what the media is like. I’m surprised they’re not here already, once we start dragging people out onto the street they’re bound to show up looking for some sort of bullshit story to write. Thought you might want to be here to get the story right, the last time those bastards reported on us they fucked the story up, made us look like a bunch of amateurs.”

“I’ll be there shortly, did you find the owner of the grenade?”

“A Mr. Beckham is the owner, Beckham and his girlfriend checked in yesterday and were selling drugs during the night to the locals, although he’s denying that at the moment. Somehow things got out of hand, possibly a dodgy batch of drugs. Not sure how Wendell ended up in the middle of things. Mr. Beckham reckons the grenades pretty safe, said he’s being carrying it around for over a year now.”

“Well that’s reassuring, by the way Constable when did we start believing what drug dealers said, and when did you become such an expert on military explosives? Don’t answer that Constable get the grenade owner and every other living thing out of that run down dump.”

“Can you believe that Hardwood Mail, no report on the good work done by the local cops in keeping drugs off the street, just this rubbish. They’ve completely ignored my press release statement, I’m telling you Quinlan modern journalism just ain’t concerned with the truth, it’s just fake news, that’s all, fake news. One day we’ll have a political leader in this country that’ll have the balls to tell the media to lift their fucking game.” Both men remain quiet for some time reflecting on the article before the Sergeant started again.

“Bonnie and Clyde, they’re turning the whole thing into one big joke by glamorising the criminals, the way this reads you would think that they’re some sort of wacky celebrity couple, not hardened criminals. They’ve forgotten their duty to be purveyors of fair dinkum information. Have they forgotten that Clyde, or should I say Mr. Beckham was selling a shit load of drugs into our community, thanks to Mr. Beckham’s drugs our crime rate in Hardwood is through the roof. Aggravated robberies are up by ninety percent, aggravated assaults are up by two hundred percent, carjacking was unheard of in Hardwood a few years ago and now it happens so regularly we haven’t got enough cops to chase every car. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Drugs are destroying the moral fibre of our society, I don’t know why we bother Constable Quinlan, it’s a battle we’re fast losing.”

“You’ve got to admit Sarge it’s pretty funny, it’s not every day a drug dealer goes down on one knee and proposes to his girlfriend on the grass outside the courthouse.” Said the Constable as he gazed over the headlines in the Hardwood Mail newspaper.

“What sort of criminal carries a grenade?”

“No idea Sarge, but this one did, told me he needed it for protection.”

“I wonder if Mr. Beckham really thinks that, I mean, what do you do with a grenade? Pull the pin if someone threatens you, blow yourself up just to prove a point.”

“Who knows Sarge, maybe he just carries it because it made him feel pretty tough, you know like a regular soldier.”

“Okay, yeah I kind of get it, like one criminal has a big gun, he can say well, fuck you I’ve got a grenade in my back pocket.”

“Yeah something like that Sarge.” Laughed Constable Quinlan.

“I can’t believe the judge let him go, what does a criminal have to do these days to get locked up?” Said Sergeant Ebden in exasperation.

“I really thought the judge would’ve put him away for a couple years for carrying a live grenade, not to mention a truckload of drugs and a bag full of drug money.”

“We’re just to fucking soft on criminals Constable, but if you’re a cop and you break the law they’ll go out of their way to throw the book at you. They’ll lock you up for a long time for the smallest transgression, there’s nothing more irresistible than a bad cop for politicians to showcase to the voting public just how tough they are on crime. But they’re not fooling anybody. Take politicians entitlements, you know why Quinlan they call them entitlements?”

“No idea Sarge.”

“Because if they call them work expenses incurred in going about doing their job most would end up in jail for fraud, the charge being, unjustifiable travel expenses. They wouldn’t last the first twelve months of becoming a politician. They’re all thieving bastards.”

“We need more cops on the beat Sarge, and more jails. Trouble is the way I see it Sarge, there’s just too much money to be made in the making and the distribution of drugs. When someone like Mr. Beckham carries around enough money to buy a house, who has more money more houses and more cars than the average hard-working Joe. That tells me the system is broken badly. I can see how gullible fools let themselves get mixed up with such individuals, they just can’t resist the lure of becoming rich quick.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right Constable. Both men sat quietly for several minutes.

“I still reckon the politicians have got a lot to answer for. They won’t spend the money to solve the problem, and when they do, it’s too little too late. They’re just to slow to respond to community concerns.

“That’s right Sarge, too little too late.”

“The drug syndicates have tied up the city and their surrounding suburbs with their networks of distribution. The only place left is the regional townships. It just shows you Constable that country towns like Hardwood are not immune from the evils of the cities, in some ways we’re less prepared with our small town hospitality and our relaxed attitude of, she’ll be right mate. You know when I first moved here I never locked up my house, didn’t need too, crime was rare. And now I’m scared to leave my wife at home alone, I lock every door and window when she’s at home on her own, that’s how bad things are. I’m a cop, and I’m worried, worried for the lack of respect for individuals to go about their business without the threat of being robbed in broad daylight. I’m going home early Quinlan, I’ve had enough bullshit for one day.”

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