Inkerman Street

by Arapiles

Chapter 3

The trip seemed to take a long time, even for Sunday traffic. I looked out the window as an endless procession of flat suburban estates went past, each more nondescript than the last. It made me nostalgic seeing this landscape so emblematic of the Great Australian Dream. I knew enough to know that many of these estates contained more nightmares than dreams.

I grew up in Donvale originally, which back in my day was solidly working class and full of Greek and Italian and Yugoslavian migrants who came over after the war to find a better life. I remembered moments of simple belonging which never came in my own family. Like the old Greek lady two doors down who would feed me dolmades and spanakopita and tell me in decidedly broken English about her time on the run with ELLAS. Or the kitchens, always outside in a shed, where they would make huge lots of preserves or sauces or cook for extended families on Orthodox Easter and a lost anglo boy could hang in the background and watch and eat until his tummy burst for once.

"Christos anesti..." I muttered the words, sitting in the back seat of the police patrol car, as we sped down the Eastern Freeway.

"Alithos anesti."

It surprised the hell out of me when my cop made the correct response, and then he turned and gave me a grin.

"Yeah, been there done that. I was stationed near here in Nunawading and grew up in Balwyn. Been to plenty a Greek Orthodox Easter. Didn't know you did too Nige."

"Donvale, we probably ran into each other at Doncaster Shoppingtown as teenagers."

"Fuck, I remember the cake shop..."

I smiled finally. Hmmmm cake...

"Ferguson Plarre. My favourites were the ones filled with cream with bright green icing that looked like frogs."

"Fuck, I preferred the snot blocks..."

"Ahem! If you two elderly gentlemen could interrupt your stagger down memory lane for a moment with your zimmer frames, can you tell me where the fuck we are going?"

Kelly was driving, and she had been noticeably quiet until now. Her sudden question caught us both off guard, and Matt blinked a few times not sure what to make of it. I saw the policewoman's broad smile in the rear vision mirror, and she saw me looking and gave me a wink.

"Constable, I have had words to you in the past about respect for your superiors..."

"Sure, I will show them exactly as much as you do Sarge. I learn fast as you know..."

The cop was smiling now too, and I relaxed. C learly this was part of their dynamic, a sort of version of Morse and Lewis. I made a mental note to ask about the policewoman some time.

"Constable Czuba, we are going to Ringwood station. I need to talk to an old colleague."

That seemed to satisfy Kelly, and she grunted and resumed eating up the miles at a steady pace. I did see her look pointedly at some buttons though, and caught a mournful look from Matt.

"Problem?"

She smiled at me again, with the sort of look you give a doddering uncle who has fallen asleep in the punch.

"Nah, just wanted to use the blues and twos. Siren and lights for you lesser civilian types. Would make this go a heck of a lot faster..."

"And you know the sort of trouble that gets us in Constable."

"Oh yes Sarge, but I know you like trouble."

Matt scowled at that one and subsided into a huff reading the missing persons file. I decided to do some digging of my own.

"How did you find him?"

"Huh?"

"How did you find the file...on the boy?"

Kelly managed a bigger smile now, and this was a genuine smile of pleasure. I could tell, her whole face brightened, something I hadn't seen before. It was so incongruously cute for an officer of the law I had to stifle a chuckle lest I piss her off.

"Ahhh that was down to Honeyb...I mean Heike, the records officer. She is only an unsworn member, a civilian, but she has been working there a long time. When I was sent to work in missing persons I came to know her better, and soon I came to rely on her. She came over from Germany originally, with her family. She still loves the pastry, that's what I brought. Strudel."

"Czuba…are you from a Polish background?"

"Yes Sir…what…"

"Interesting combination...a German and a Pole then..."

I stammered to a halt, seeing the eyes swivel. I caught a look from Matt, and it was the sort of look you give someone dancing the Macarena naked in a minefield.

"You got something against that? Worried she might launch a mechanised invasion of my provinces at a moment's notice?"

"No...no...no...um...no..."

"Well, I would probably enjoy it."

I dropped into a sound cavity formed by th at response, waiting for my head to stop spinning. Instead I heard the gentle tinkle of female laughter.

"Poor Sir. You gay guys are so fucking predictable. We are an item, Sir. You know, gay but no cock. Well, unless it's strap on time, in which case...oh dear, have I made your sensitive gay soul recoil in horror?"

I was caught between a laugh and a yelp and it came out as a coughing fit. Matt rumbled protectively from the front seat.

"Constable..."

"Sooooory Sarge. You know how much lesbian invisibility shits my tail though. Sorry Sir...but yes, Heike and I are an item, and no she has no immediate plans to annexe me, though if we ever get marriage equality..."

"I'm sorry Kelly, I..."

"It's ok. People underestimate her, is the problem too. She can be hard to get used to, she is an Aspie, and it makes her difficult for some. But she is also loving, kind, and smart. She has an eidetic memory for faces, which is why she is so good in missing persons. She can match a face to a picture in ways that the computers struggle to compare with, and she got your boy's number in about five minutes flat."

I nodded, understanding how lucky we had been, and some of the import of those words.

"Kelly, I guess that's the problem for me. If she matched his arrest mugshot to the file..."

"Well, it's happened before that people have had strong resemblances to relatives. He could be a son of the missing boy...in which case, he may know what happened..."

I looked out the window as we came off the freeway and frowned. Perhaps; but the knot of uncertainty still lingered.

We pulled up to the station and got out. I felt like an extra in a cop show, with the two in their uniforms with all the hardware. Perhaps I could be detective Nige, no nonsense dispenser of justice...

"Nigel, one rule. Eyes and ears open, mouth and bum shut. Capisce?"

"Capisco."

"Not bad...now, onward."

I filed into the station behind them and was ignored by the desk officer while my man did the honours. We were shuffled into an interview room and waited a long time before a sudden knock on the door heralded the arrival o f another uniformed officer from the local station.

Eyeing him up, I found my body rigid with tension. Something was wrong, and it took me a second to realise what it was. My nose got in on the act too, flaring wide to catch the barest hint of scent. He hid it well with mouthwash, but it was still there. The stench of booze.

I had to do everything in my power then to stop the instinct to flee. My past contained more than enough examples of drunks making my life hell, not least from my dad. I had never become used to it, and I still carried a huge bias against people who couldn't control it. I had to physically clamp down on the instinct to yell at him.

He was a rather well-proportioned police officer, of perhaps mid-fifties or more. It was hard to tell, as he clearly had not had an easy time of it. His eyes were a little too bloodshot, his belly a little too round, and his walk a little too laboured. He bore the rank insignia and badge of a senior sergeant, but the manner of a defeated man. And his eyes were wary as well as bloodshot.

"Matt! Well it's been a while...how the devil are you mate?"

I could see Matt was friendly but wary. I settled in to watch and learn. This one had issues all right.

"Great to see you Brian. Yeah been a while, I have to catch you and Sally again soon..."

The man's face fell like a fallen soufflé and reddened even further. I coughed to cover up the awkward silence as Matt finally realised what had happened.

"Err...another time maybe Matt...so what can I help you with?"

"Andrew McNaughton."

The silence was deafening. I watched the clock on the wall tick past thirty seconds, and then the progress of a large droplet of sweat on the side of the Senior Sergeant's head. He remained through it all, staring into the middle distance.

"Ahhh...have to help me Matt..."

"A missing person case, 1982. Ringwood station."

"Still have to help me Matt..."

"You were the officer who took the statement from the informant. A Mrs Helen McNaughton, the boy's mother?"

He seemed to shudder a little, then broke into a smile and leaned back in his chair.

"That's a long time ago Matt, you might have to prod my memory..."

"A boy, seventeen, student at the highschool, went missing on...let me see...June 18..."

I swallowed hard and almost choked. It was the date I found him in my skip, well, Ryan's skip.

"...had been absent from home for a week it seems, mother had been receiving phonecalls from the boy daily though, and then on the 18 th they stopped. She called it in on the 20 th , no sign since, case closed..."

"Ahhh, maybe Matt, sort of familiar..."

"Seems a rather...hopeless case from the file. I remember you teaching me as a connie, you were the best Brian. So if there was something to find, you would find it. What happened?"

He managed to look somewhere around angry mixed with bored and snorted.

"Nothing to know. He left home, reasons unknown, called his mum, reasons unknown, and then vanished. We checked his known haunts, ran down everyone who knew him, nobody knew what happened or heard a thing. We stopped looking as was standard procedure and handed it over to misper for follow up."

"Anything strike you as odd?"

"The teacher...can't remember the name, seemed to know something but wouldn't say. Other than that no."

"Miss..." Matt was hunting through the file.

"Naylor." It came to me suddenly, a fragment of memory. I frowned, as did Matt. The older Senior Sergeant, Brian, suddenly looked at me, and he was startled.

"Yes. How did you know...?"

"I...um..."

"Yeah, Miss Naylor, here in the file. English teacher…any guesses?"

"She knew some things about him she didn't want to tell, I thought maybe he was into drugs, maybe pot, and she didn't want to get him in trouble. She wouldn't budge."

"Hmmm...what about the parents?"

"Solid citizen types. Clueless, as most are. Look, what's this about Matt?"

The guy was wary now and looking at all of us with a keen eye under the bloodshot. I felt it, a stream of anger now barely in check, and looked at the policewoman. She seemed to feel it too, judging by her return look at me.

"Nothing Brian, just routine. We had a lead that may have been related, from a case at Prahran. Just following up..."

"Seriously Matt, cut the crap. You are so far out of your patch it isn't funny, and if there is something here you should be handing it over to the cold case squad or local CID. So why are you on it?"

"Brian, just routine really..."

"Really? I don't buy it Matt. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to see the head of the gangs taskforce about my budget."

The interview was suddenly over it seemed, and there was no handshake on the way out. I looked at the cops, who seemed to shrug at each other, and we shuffled out again and headed for the car.

We headed into the traffic without a word, and I found I couldn't keep it up.

"Matt..."

"Huh? What Nige..."

"Matt, about your friend..."

"He isn't usually that much of a fuckwit but he must be having a bad day."

"Matt, he is an alcoholic. I could smell the gin a mile off..."

Matt seemed about to get angry with me now, but Kelly stopped him in his tracks.

"Sarge, he's right."

The cop stared out the windscreen, but his features hardened into a frown.

"Drive Constable..."

We came to an undistinguished crossroad in an undistinguished part of Ringwood. On the corner, a line of shops sprouted in ugly brown brick, with a copy centre on the very corner. I realised this was where the boy said he lived.

We looked it over, eyeing up the scene, while Matt read his file with a heavy expression before closing it with a sigh.

"Right...canvass?"

I looked lost, and Kelly took pity.

"Basic investigation. Some of these houses may be inhabited by people there at the time, or who remembered the family...we can at least find out. Then hunt down the family, the teachers, friends...but it starts here."

"Why did our friend leave home..."

"Because he got busted sucking someone off in a public toilet..."

"That's what your blondie said happened to him Nigel. I want to find out what happened to the real Andrew McNaughton."

I was about to ask more questions when I heard the radio on Matt's belt spark into angry life.

"Prahran Seven-Two come in."

"Seven two over."

"Free to speak?"

"Negative wait one."

He headed into the car, and we watched him having a conversation with his mouth set in a flat line like a post box.

"Kelly, what's going on?"

"Beats me Sir, way above my pay grade, but something is wrong. You were right about that Senior Sergeant, not uncommon amongst coppers I'm afraid, and he is hanging on by a thread. But something is definitely up..."

Matt rejoined us then, bearing a look like thunder.

"We are heading back to the station."

"What?" Kelly and I made a nice chorus, but not a happy one.

"Brian went to his Inspector. We are warned off with extreme prejudice. Back to Sodom and Gomorrah for us Constable."

The silence on the way back was as heavy as the late afternoon winter weather, which proceeded to underline the point by raining all over us just as we got to Punt Road.

I was dropped off at home, still fuming. The townhouse was empty and cold, and I found I could not settle. Instead I went for a walk, trying to burn off the anger with activity. My feet flew over the streets, and I found myself in Alma Park before I knew it.

A familiar face was lying on a bench, staring at the sky as darkness fell. He seemed unconcerned about the fact he was drenched, his hair matted against the woodwork. He just looked up at the stars coming out with his hands behind his head. I trotted over to him with frustration building in my heart.

"Who the fuck are you?"

He swivelled and sat up, looking at me while blinking away tears. I melted like a snow cone.

"Nige..."

"Who the fuck are you?"

"You know who I am Nigel."

I felt the frustration giving way to something else. My body shivered in time to his, my head rattling as much as my teeth.

"What the fuck...what the fuck are you doing in this park mate?"

"Leaving you alone Nigel."

I reached out, gripping his shoulder, and pulled him to me though he towered over me easily and I looked up at his eyes still glistening with tears and screamed.

"What the fuck is your game!?"

"Just trying to do what I came to do and fucking that up too. All I do is fuck up mate. It's all I do..."

I pulled him against me and kissed him on the lips. His pain and anguish then made me break, all I c ould do was try to staunch the wounds somehow.

"Come home."

He followed me back, still dripping with rainwater, and plodded up the stairs leaving wet footprints on the wood.

I got him into the shower, shedding damp clothes like autumn leaves, and let the hot water pouring over him revive his body if not his spirits. Questions could come, I felt, but for now he needed something more like this. Something more like me.

When I went to soap his chest he stopped me with a hand on my wrist. Instead, he pulled me to the shower wall and gave me a soaping all over, with extra attention on my rear. Then I felt his soapy fingers find my pucker and slide inside with ease.

"Old beefy got you nice and wide I see..."

"Ahhh!"

He sawed his fingers into me rougher than was comfortable, but just perfect for what I needed. I felt him pull on my hips, until I had my rump poking up and out invitingly, almost wantonly.

The touch of his head on my hole brought me back to reality a little. Soap or no, I wasn't really ready, and there was a small matter...

"Condom!"

He gave a snort and pressed against my hole, and I was about to yell when he let his cock slide up my spine, rubbing his head on my skin as he bucked his hips. Biting my lip in frustrated need, I was not waiting too long for some attention at least. He reached round to grip my cock and rubbed while his other hand returned its soapy digits to my tunnel.

"Fucking condoms...I'll give you fucking condoms..."

He drew a wild orgasm from me as the water poured over us both, the onslaught of climax almost painful. He left his fingers inside me, teasing my prostate, and rubbed his palm over my aching tip. I was still hard, and still needy.

"Now...my turn..."

Shutting off the water violently, he pulled me to the bedroom. I was dripping, barely able to stand, and a little disoriented, but I sobered up fast as I watched him lay back on the bed, still soaking wet, and lift his knees to his chest.

"Come on Nigel. Please, we don't have too long."

I found my condoms and lube, still chuckling at that.

"What, going to run off again?"

"Just fuckin g do it mate. My ass needs this."

Kneeling before him, I admired the majesty of his body. My hands traced every inch of his flesh, the long lean lines of muscle and sinew and bone, and the damp skin soft and smooth under my touch.

"Someone is going to be very lucky to have you if you let them boy."

"Whatever....just do it."

My tip found his pucker, the ridge of muscle exquisite to touch. I took my time, edging into him, watching the look on his face as he took me. I knew I was no match to his size, but I wanted him to feel it anyway.

When I was buried to the hilt I rocked gently back and forward with my hands on his length. He watched me the whole time, his expression guarded until close to the end. Eventually he lay his head back and closed his eyes, with a little pink tongue extended to sample the night. His sighs became moans became cries and he clamped his ass down so tight as he came, the liquid evidence of his pleasure everywhere to see as he painted his chest with it. I leaned forward to lick it off and kept on fucking and jacking him and he grinned back like a maniac.

"Fine Nige...good Sir…nice Sir..."

Then I bit his nipple.

"Hey! Right..."

I was suddenly and rather violently pushed off and thrown on my belly. A grinning boy looked down with malicious intent.

"Condoms?"

"On the bedside table..."

He let me lie there while he covered up, then made me watch his slow deliberate lubrication, his fingers seeming to delight in the touch of his own flesh even covered in latex.

"Waiting here boy..."

"Shhh....such a needy one..."

"Still waiting....ahhhhhhhhhhhhh..."

Lying over me, he entered easy, the head spreading me wide and the rest following like a beautiful flow of heat, even the fat base not enough to cause me pain. He kicked my knees wide, bit down on my shoulder playfully, and pulled back until his tip nuzzled my ring.

"Gonna miss this..."

"Wha..."

My question was lost in a scream as he rammed to the hilt with all the force of a teenage boy. Then my scream was lost in his mouth as he pulled mine round into a kiss and fucked me again, no less powerfully. I a ched, and I shuddered, and I pushed back to take more as he began to wildly ride my rump with a heat and rage I never knew he had.

"So tight, and so needy. You will enjoy that big cop, he will treat this ass right..."

"Yeah? Can't I have some blonde surfer boy too?...AHHH!"

He slapped my ass and gripped my head and pounded into me until it hurt, spanking me playfully on the ass on each thrust lighting twin fires in my body. It felt good too, way too good, my poor hole split wide open, my cheeks on fire, the taut skin of my depths strained to breaking point. He began to thrust faster, then deeper, then I felt his body tense and knew it was close.

"Ohhh...ohhhh...ohhh...OHHHHH!"

A last few thrusts and he lay still buried to the hilt inside me, the heat of his cum still present even through the latex. He lay there while I writhed, then he pulled me into a kneeling position in his arms, resting on his thighs, and he gripped my cock.

"Can't leave you there can we Nige."

"No...oh...oh....ohhhhh..."

It was my turn to lose control. His hand felt beautiful on my length, and he bucked his hips just enough to tease my hole with his head. I came, falling back into his arms, but he wasn't satisfied. One hand twisted a nipple hard enough to draw blood, the other kept on working my cock. I was begging him to stop by the time I shot my third load of the night and lost all feeling in my arms and legs. I toppled onto the bed then, and he followed, holding me in his arms in a wet exhausted pile.

I should not have been able to fall asleep like that but I did, too satisfied and too tired to care. He was still there when I woke, feeling wet clammy and cold, and I headed to the bathroom to dry off and the cupboard to get fresh sheets.

He was awake by the time I returned, reaching for his clothes.

"No. Please, Andy. No."

He was crying again, I saw. I went to him and licked the tears from his eyes, feeling him shaking against my chest.

"Please don't go..."

The sofa in the living room folded out into a makeshift bed, and I brought fresh bedclothes down and lay there in his arms talking abo ut my life, about David, about my job which I hated, about the street, about nothing and everything, and even about an old Greek lady who fed me dolmades and spanakopita and made me feel home when nothing made me feel home. He held me all the time, though about dawn he began to shake, and I went to get him something for the headache and pulled him under the bedclothes and we watched the dawn coming through the windows and the birds going about their feathered business in the trees.

I had fallen asleep without realising it and woke to find the boy still in my arms, and visitors in the lounge. One policeman, and one policewoman.

Matt looked very unhappy.

"Matt..."

"Don't. Just...don't."

"Matt..."

The boy woke with a start, and tried to sit up, then stopped half way and stared at the cop.

"What is your game kid?"

Matt spat it, the venom clear in his voice. I tried to conciliate.

"Matt, please, he doesn't deserve this..."

"How do you know what he deserves Nigel? You know nothing about him at all. But I know he knows too much about stuff he shouldn't, and that makes him a suspect to my mind. What about it boy?"

The boy was remarkably composed, given he was naked in bed with me, and facing my lover who was clearly pissed off and a fair bit broader than him. Kelly just stood to the side trying not to look.

"Nigel, it's ok. He is right."

"Yes, tell us boy. Who are you?"

"Andy McNaughton, I told you."

"No. You. Are. NOT!"

The cop strode forward like a colossus and now stood face to face with the boy. I tried to pull them apart, my own tears starting to flow.

"Matt, stop this..."

"Nigel, leave this to me. So boy, what is your game here?"

"Are you going to arrest me officer?"

"Don't think I couldn't. I could make up plenty of charges that would stick."

"I'm sure of it. But are you going to?"

"We have been out to Ringwood. And we are going back today. We are going to speak to everyone associated with the real Andrew McNaughton, and we are going to find out what your angle is boy. And then I am going to personally enjoy watching you go down."

The boy nodded sadly and finished d ressing, turning only once to look at me. He hefted his backpack over his shoulder, and his eyes were wide and full of hurt, and the tears fell freely now.

"Tell Cam...tell Cameron..."

"What? Who?" I was confused now. I had never heard him mention a Cameron before.

The boy shook his head.

"Nothing. Don't bother."

He turned and trudged down the stairs, and I watched him go without a word.

After I showered and dressed, I found Kelly making toast in my kitchen while Matt stomped around sneering at the furniture. She handed me a plate with vegemite toast and I found myself eating in spite of myself.

"What are we doing, leave aside the boy?"

"We are going back to Ringwood Nigel." The cop rumbled. "Oh, I know we aren't supposed to but I am going anyway, and Kelly agreed to go with me. We aren't official, off the clock. But we are going. Are you coming with us?"

"It's Monday..."

"Call in sick. You are sick, after all, otherwise you wouldn't be fucking that boy."

I saw the hurt and the pain then and chose to ignore it. One damaged soul at a time.

"Fine Matt. Fine. Let's go."

Morning peak hour traffic is a bitch, but at least we were heading in the right direction. I was grateful the traffic wasn't too bad, as Kelly seemed keen on making things worse for some reason.

"Cute boy you got there Sir."

"Huh."

"Little young maybe, but they can be the best...little lippy too but that's hotter."

"Um...what the fuck constable?"

I was intrigued now, and the policewoman seemed about to giggle.

"Oh, I know what you think...let's just say I dabbled at times. Not love mind you, just a fuck, but that can be good. That one though, I think he would need some handcuffs, maybe a taser to the nutsack to make him pliable and then..."

"Constable!"

Matt seemed scandalised, and she gave a demure smile.

"You have your amusements Sarge, I have mine...besides, I'd let you watch."

We got to Ringwood about 9:30, a little less tense thanks to Kelly, and the first question was what to do. Matt had his mind made up though.

"The teacher, whatever was there it sounded genuine. Let's try that."

"Highschool?"

"Yeah, drive on Constable."

We arrived in time for morning recess. Watching the students running around made me feel wistful. I had been there once; but never that carefree.

"Sarge, maybe let me handle this one..." the policewoman looked about to tell him off, but polite enough not to.

I saw him grunt and nod. She seemed pleased and headed for the office with a jaunty hop. No uniform to help them today, but that would probably help here, and they had their badges when needed.

"So, you and the boy..."

His eyes were still hurt, and I kissed his nose and rested my head on his chest.

"I'm sorry Matt."

"Do you love him?"

"No, but I care about him."

The sigh was long and deep, and troubled. My heart was too, but I couldn't deal with that now. Before I could say much, the door opened and we had Kelly again.

"Righto Sarge, off we go."

He let her keep it in for a block then exploded.

"Out with it Kelly!"

She giggled.

"He only calls me that when he is stressed or impressed. I wonder which..."

"Fucking hell constable, I am so going to..."

"The much-missed Miss Naylor has retired, but she lives nearby. They would not give me her address, but after much prodding agreed to call her on my behalf. She agreed to meet, I have the address."

"Where?"

"Here Sarge..."

We had pulled up outside a neat suburban cottage, with neat rose bushes and neat lawn. And neat garden gnomes. I sighed a little.

"Maybe you had better let me take this one too?" Kelly managed to almost but not quite sound condescending.

In the end we all went in, but Kelly took the lead. We watched and tried not to hit anything in the house.

It was stuffed to the brim with trinkets, little porcelain and glass figures, doilies, dolls. It looked like someone had taken the entire contents of several teashops in mountain tourist towns and dumped them in the one house. The owner, a mild-mannered old lady, looked pleased as she viewed us from over her spectacles.

"Hmmm....do you like my collections Mister...what was it again?"

"Mister Cain, and yes, it is...impressive." I struggled to keep my tone neutral, and was rewarded fo r my efforts.

She smiled tightly and stirred her tea. We had been offered and accepted cups of English Breakfast, which had been provided with delicate ceremony along with scones and raspberry jam and cream.

"So, Miss Naylor...tell us about Andrew McNaughton."

Kelly was no nonsense but respectful, like a school mistress would expect. The lady smiled indulgently and blew on her tea.

"He was a rogue, that is for sure. Most of his teachers despaired. But not me."

"No?" it was Matt, unable to resist. He got a frown for that interruption, and a kick from his partner.

"No. I knew what the problem was."

"And?" now Kelly fell for it, but it seemed the teacher was in an indulgent frame of mind with her.

"He was gay, it was as obvious as the sun coming up, but nobody else seemed to know. Well, maybe his best friend, Cameron Donetti."

I swallowed, suddenly feeling warm.

"Cameron?"

"Yes. I felt there was something between them but could not be sure. Andrew did not open up easily, but he did to me a little. The others sent him to detention, where he worked in the school garden, I instead got him writing."

"Poetry..." I said it softly, hoping to be wrong. The lady gave a sudden start.

"Yes. However did you know?"

"Nothing...please go on..."

She looked distracted enough to put the tea down, but she went on anyway, but our host was looking at me now I saw.

"He was good, very good. A lot of love and emotion in that soul, Mister Cain. It needed a way to come out and that was what I gave him. He wrote for me, and I helped him. I was going to try to tell him I knew about his...well, about his preferences, and it was all well, but he disappeared. On the eleventh of June...a Wednesday I think. He had some sort of argument with Cameron Donetti, and it tore him up terribly. Mister Donetti had come to the school and was furious."

All our ears perked up at that. Matt cleared his throat and seemed to silently ask for approval to speak. It was amusing seeing the big buff cop so deferential.

"Ahh...what about?"

"I don't know dear, but it may have had something to do with Andrew. Mister Donett i was not an easy man, which I always attributed to his work."

"Which was?"

"Same as yours. He was the officer in charge of the police station here."

We looked at eachother then, unable to say the words, but I could see the cop's eyebrows twitch. I was about to ask him to go outside when the lady dropped another bombshell.

"You know, I still have his exercise book with all his poems. I kept it for him, telling myself I would give it to him when he returned. It was superstitious of me, I know, but I always felt he would be ok if I kept it."

She brought the old book out of a camphorwood chest in the hallway, held in a small decorated cardboard box bound with a ribbon. As I reached for it, I looked up and saw the woman's face. She was crying.

"He isn't coming back, is he..."

I took the box unable to speak, and we left her to her tea and her tears while we sat in the car to regroup.

"Donetti...he was the senior sergeant. Brian...he was Brian's senior officer..."

"Matt, what do we do..."

"Sarge!"

We looked at the policewoman, who was looking at the box.

"Sarge, this book will have his fingerprints. If he has been involved in a case since, it will be in the records, on LEAP. We can search for him."

"Fuck..."

The drive back to the city was fast, it was only a pity that we were in Matt's car and not his police cruiser. I felt this time he might have gone for the "blues and twos" after all. Instead, we made a legal but rapid trip into the carpark and killed the engine.

"Follow me."

We went in another entrance and down a different labyrinth this time. When it ended, we were before a door proclaiming the presence of the A division forensics team, and would we please wait patiently.

My man didn't do patient, and he barged through the door.

Inside, we found two tall thin forensics officers, one female looking down a microscope, one male, wielding a revolver.

"Matthew! By the pricking of my thumb, something evil this way comes...do we have a quote my dear?" The man had the most incongruous English accent, to go with a face that positively sparkled with excitement.

The female s cientist looked up from her microscope and winked at him, drawing an indulgent smile.

"'Atque inter silvas Academi quaerere verum."

We looked blankly, as the two shared a chuckle. Eventually the guy took pity.

"Search for the truth in the groves of academe. Horace, you know. No, of course you don't, the force is remarkably uncouth in these degenerate days as I keep telling the Chief Commissioner..."

"He does you know, but he does it in latin so he doesn't get fired." The woman managed to look repentant. I thought that was more than her partner would ever manage.

The lady had come over and put her arms around him and beamed into his face. The man pouted back.

"Really dear, do you think he would understand me even in English?"

"I know I don't my love, but then in bed I need no language."

"Ahh the language of love is universal my dear, a kiss, a sigh, a lick..."

"Enough!"

Matt had been left behind long ago and seemed to have reached his limit. Probably the thought of these two fucking pushed him over the edge, though Kelly seemed to be enjoying the show. She was giggling into her forearm.

"My dear fellow Matthew ...when it comes to red wine, good cigars, or sex, there is no such thing as enough!"

"I have work for you...or would you prefer to fuck right here in the lab?"

"Ahhh work..."

The scientists were all business now. I did however see the lady give her mate a pinch on the rump.

"Tell me about this book."

"Thirty years old, may have prints from several individuals, but we are looking for the one with the most prints."

"Details?"

"Teenage male, tall, big hands…"

"Ahhh right. So crude. Should be smeared all over it like cum on a picnic blanket..."

"Dear! Manners!"

"Sorry my love...so, what do you want me to do with them?"

"Run a match search, for anything since 1982."

We waited, sipping bad coffee, while the two went to work. It didn't seem to take long, and they were back with eyes twitching in excitement.

"At least three individuals. We will run them all, but one has the most prints, including a full set of left hand including thumb on the fifth page, and they are big enough and the right shape for your individual."

"Good. How long?"

"Who knows Matthew. The computer is a mysterious beast, unlike you. So very unpredictable..."

We sat in a side office looking at police magazines while the forensics officers went back to work. I wasn't expecting anything for a while, so it was a surprise when the man came into the room looking angry.

"You have been toying with me Matthew, you naughty man."

Matt swallowed and managed to look suitably penitent.

"I promise I haven't Gaius. What have you found?"

"The main set of prints. A hit, recent. Very recent. The arresting officer was your good self."

"I don't understand Gaius."

"You arrested a certain Andrew McNaughton, in Prahran, for theft, arrest number 13187623 dash 2014 on Friday. The suspect was printed and processed, and the prints match those I just took from the book you gave me. A 100% match, no possibility of error. I can show you if you like."

We looked at eachother, stunned, and I felt a chill go up my spine. Matt looked like he was about to have a seizure.

"I don't understand."

"Matthew, it is fairly straightforward, and I am even speaking English instead of Latin. You arrested someone on Friday, and they were also the person who left their prints all over this book thirty years ago according to you. Presumably that is what you expected otherwise why bring it to me?"

I leaned on Matt and felt him shaking. I was shaking worse.

"My dear fellow, are you quite well?"

"No Gaius...no..."

Standing in the car park of the police headquarters was an odd place to have a meltdown but needs must. I was not doing well, and at least partly because I was not surprised. The feeling had been growing for some time, but for Matt and Kelly the reality was proving harder to swallow.

"It must be a mistake."

My cop was still shaking his head, pacing across the concrete like a feral dog waiting to be let out to the chicken coop.

"Matt..."

"It must be a mistake."

"Sarge, you know Gaius doesn't make mistakes like that."

Kelly had her eyes down and her arms folded across her chest. I looked in her eyes an d saw the confusion, but not the anger of Matt. She was at least processing it better.

"Constable, don't give me that shit..."

"Sarge, I spoke to Heike. I asked about the match she saw, between the boy you arrested and the picture from the file. She said it wasn't a likeness, it was a dead match. She doesn't make those mistakes either."

"Why didn't you tell me this constable?"

"Because I didn't believe it myself Sarge."

"And now?"

She shook her head and looked at her hands.

"I don't fucking know."

"What about you Nigel?"

I let out a sigh and leaned on the cop car. Perhaps he would not believe me, perhaps he would not trust me, but I knew what I knew.

"Matt...since the beginning, I've had a feeling. Something was wrong, something I couldn't explain. He knew too much, too much nobody could really know except...well, except the real Andy. I know it doesn't make sense..."

"Too fucking right it doesn't. You are allowing your dick to cloud your judgement..."

"No I'm not Matt! Yes, I have feelings for the boy, but it's more than that. Something I can't explain."

The cop snorted and shook his head.

"There has to be a rational explanation for this, and I'm going to find it. We are heading back to Ringwood."

Kelly shook her head.

"Sarge, I have to appear in court this afternoon remember? The case could go on depending on the listings hearing..."

"Fine Constable, do what you have to do. I'm going to do what I have to do. Nigel, are you coming with me?"

"Where Matt?"

"I'm going back to see Brian again. That fuckwit has some explaining to do I think, and I am going to find out what he knows."

We left Kelly to get into her dress uniform for court and took Matt's car heading back to the freeway. There was no conversation on the road, and it was probably for the best. I had no idea what to say, and no idea how to avoid another argument.

When we got to the station again, the desk officer was not pleased to see us.

"Sergeant...Brian has gone home sick. I have been instructed to report your presence to the senior officer..."

"Fine, you do that mate. Tell him to get fucked, from me wi th love and kisses ok?"

He stormed out, and I followed with a slightly embarrassed wave at the desk sergeant. This would not do.

"Matt, I don't think that was too helpful."

"Fuck helpful. Fuck that boy. And fuck you Nigel..."

"Matt..."

"When this is over we are done, ok? I can't face this shit..."

My heart felt like lead as we drove through suburban Ringwood, looking for I knew not what.

"Matt, where are we going?"

"I know where Brian lives...or at least where he used to live. I'm still having that chat."

"Matt, just...back up a bit. Presume you're right, and this isn't what I think it is. Presume there is some mistake, and the boy isn't the real Andrew McNaughton. He sure as fuck knows plenty nobody else knew about the case."

"Fine, I'm prepared to believe that so far. So what?"

"Well, then assume everything he said was true, at least about the disappearance of the real Andrew McNaughton. Assume he did get busted in the public toilets, was arrested, was taken back to his parents, and was kicked out. Would your friend Brian have known about it?"

"Oh, I bet he knew about it..."

"Would there be records? Anything?"

The cop stood looking pensive, and I watched his fists curl and uncurl as he fought for space to think. Eventually he nodded.

"Fine, let's do this your way. First time for some calls."

He pulled out his phone, and I wandered away to let him talk. The sky was grey and forbidding, like a typical Melbourne winter, and I found myself remembering all the moments that led me back here and the moments from my past that came back at nights to trouble my sleep. They get in your blood like malaria, and I found to my surprise they were still there with the power to defeat even my best defences. I was shaking long before Matt returned to my side.

"Nigel..."

"Please, I'm ok."

"Nigel, I'm sorry. I was angry..."

"It's ok, really. I'm just...it's hard being back here, you know? I don't have a lot of good memories."

"How many of us do Nigel? How many of us just survived our days back then pretending to be what we weren't to survive?"

"Like Andy..."

"Yeah, but he got found o ut it seems. And his friend."

I looked at the cop, waiting.

"Gaius called while I was on. He found more matches, this time to a second set of prints. One Cameron Donetti, juvenile at the time. Same year of birth as Andrew McNaughton. He seems to have gone off the rails after 1982, drunk and disorderly, criminal damage. Must have been a real embarrassment to his father. The arrests stopped after 1986. I have his address from then, running a cross check now, but it was his father's address according to the probation records. Maybe it is still, I think we need to pay the Inspector a visit."

"Inspector?"

"Yeah, he retired a few years ago with the rank of inspector. A paragon of all the police virtues, still remembered fondly in the Division. Not by me...or several others. He got results, which endeared him to command."

"Anything else?"

"I got Heike on the case; she seemed angry I hadn't earlier. She is going to check on LEAP for arrest records for the boy from 1982, and if not there, she knows the archivist and can check the physical records from Ringwood. We will see what happened. Time to go for now."

We pulled up to a Californian bungalow in a leafy street. The front hedge was a bit out of control, and the numbers on the post box had faded almost to bare metal. It looked like the officer; damaged and holding on by a thread.

Trotting up to the door, Matt hit the buzzer. No sound came, inside or out.

"Fucking useless shit..."

He banged on the door, and eventually a lumbering set of footsteps could be heard.

"Ok, ok, keep your fucking pants on..."

The door opened to reveal the Senior Sergeant, looking like death. His eyes were even worse, he was wearing a dirty t-shirt and boxers, and his breath could make a decent flamethrower if combined with a naked flame. I recoiled a bit instinctively, but Matt just stared at him through the fly-wire door.

"Brian, we need to talk."

The man stared back, scratching his chest, as if deciding, and finally nodded. The door unlocked with a click, and we followed him into a lounge room knee deep in beer cans, empty bottles, and discarde d pizza boxes.

"Brian, how long has she been gone?"

"Six months...she walked out, saying I was too much of a loser to fix, and she never came back. Shacked up with some guy on the Gold Coast now, a banker or some shit. I got divorce papers last week."

"I'm sorry mate...really..."

The man just scowled and reached for a beer can. I moved pizza boxes off a chair and sat gingerly, and Matt took an empty spot on the couch.

"I think I can guess why you are here Matt."

The cop looked at me and shrugged, then seemed to gather himself.

"Brian, I know you were full of shit. You knew more than you said. So talk."

"Matt, you have no fucking idea...no fucking idea..."

I decided it was my turn, and I was going for broke.

"Andrew McNaughton was arrested for having sex in a public place on the 11 th of June 1982. He wasn't reported as missing until over a week later, as he had been phoning his mother from wherever he was, and by the time he was reported the trail had gone largely cold. And you know why."

Brian dropped his can of beer, staring at me, then Matt, his mouth open and tongue slightly out.

"How...how..."

I looked at Matt, and he gave me a nod. Then he turned to the officer and landed his own blow.

"Brian, we found the arrest records..." it was a gamble, I knew.

"They were supposed to have been destroyed!"

It wasn't a fair fight really. The guy was drunk, lost, and frightened, and Matt was in a determined mood. But I knew it was the only way.

Matt suddenly rose off the couch and came right up to his colleague. Brian was crying now, spittle and snot liberally coating his chest.

"What did you do Brian..."

"Nothing! I did nothing!"

"And Donetti?"

Now he looked frightened.

"Oh God...please Matt. Please!"

"Brian, this has been eating you for thirty years. I can see it written all over you, how it's eating you like a cancer. The man I knew is still there, still fighting to get out. Tell me mate...please..."

He sniffled, face pointing to the floor, and spoke in a halting voice.

"There were reports from concerned residents...I was sent to check it out. I found the boy on his knees , sucking off another guy..."

"Yes?"

"It was...it was Donetti's son, Cam. The one he as sucking off. He was a good kid, Cam, I'd met him at BBQ's around at the Sergeants place. A nice boy, cheeky but well behaved I thought. I was too shocked to think straight. Cam legged it, but I had the boy. I took him back to the station and Donetti was there."

"Go on..."

"Donetti begged me to destroy the records, told me he would fix it. He took the boy back to his parents' place, told me after it was sorted."

"Then?"

"No...no...I can't..."

"Brian, you don't have a choice."

Matt looked implacable, and Brian just as resolute.

"I don't give a fuck Matt."

"Fine, I'm going to see Donetti, and end this shit once and for all."

Now the man looked terrified.

"Matt! Please!"

"Fuck you Brian...I can't help you anymore."

We trudged out of the house, and Matt slammed the door behind him. I watched his back, the way his shoulders bunched. He was on a mission, though where it would end I had no idea.

The drive was not long, about ten minutes. I wondered if the guy would raise the alarm, and when we pulled up to the large brick veneer house it seemed like nobody was home. Maybe he had done a runner?

It was then we heard noise from the garage. Wandering down the road slightly, we could see the garage door, with light coming out the cracks. It was set down the hill slightly, lower than the main house and under part of it, and it appeared someone was inside. There was a door beside it, and we walked up to it and knocked.

After a little while it opened to reveal a tall man with grey hair, green eyes, and a scowl.

"Yes?"

"Inspector Donetti..."

"I remember you. Renshaw? Donald…Donaldson? Constable...Nunawading?"

"Yes Sarge. Donaldson. Matt Donaldson"

"Well, come in Matt...always ready to have a beer with a fellow officer."

We shuffled into the garage and I looked around. It was arranged neatly, with a drill press, tools, equipment of all sorts and a nice-looking boat. Donetti was clearly one of these guys good with his hands, and I envied him a little. I hadn't had a dad willing to teach me these t hings, and I always felt a little inferior for not knowing how to handle a drill or a saw.

The Inspector pulled up a chair next to a workbench and motioned to two more for us to sit. There was a small bar fridge next to the chair and he reached in and pulled out a couple and threw them across. Matt took his and opened it, I looked at mine like it was a grenade.

"So...who are you mate?"

He was looking at me, and his eyes were sharp. I swallowed, remembering that this was not an elderly man but a former senior police officer used to dealing with suspects. I was being interviewed whether I knew it or not.

"I'm a friend of Matt's from Prahran."

"Ahhh land of the faggots. So, what are you both out here for?"

I looked at Matt, who took a long draw on his beer then put it down and smiled.

"Andrew McNaughton."

The man's eyes narrowed.

"What?"

"You know who I am talking about Sarge. And you know why. Brian spilled the beans."

The eyes narrowed to slits.

"Keep talking..."

"I know about your son. And I know about the boy."

The Inspector let out a long sigh and reached for a pack of cigarettes. He took his time lighting up and then sucked in a big lungfull before letting it out in a great puff of smoke.

"That fucking useless shit. Weak as piss..."

"So Jack...what are you going to do?" Matt was trying very hard to stay in control, but I could see his left foot tapping. He was on the brink.

"Do? What the fuck do you expect me to do..."

"Jack! Sarge!"

We turned to see a new figure in the doorway. Brian was there, unsteady on his feet, and his eyes were wild.

The Inspector turned to him and snarled.

"You useless piece of shit Brian! I covered for you for years while you fucked up the joint..."

"Jack, please, it's over can't you see it?"

"It's over when I fucking say it is."

Suddenly the Inspector was very calm, and very quiet, just puffing quietly on his cigarette. He was also holding an efficient looking pistol in his right hand.

We sat or stood, a tableau of shock, while the man eyed us all in turn.

"What a bunch of useless namby pamby pricks you all are."

"So, you killed him." It was a statement full of wonder and shock from my man. I wasn't prepared for the response though. The Inspector laughed.

"Me? Fuck no...I just cleaned up the trash."

I turned to Brian, who seemed to have turned to stone. He shook his head.

"No...not me either..."

"So, who?"

The Inspector shook his head, and it was left to Brian to let it out.

"We got a call, a week after the arrest. From the boy's father..."

"Craig McNaughton?"

"Yeah, solid guy. I played football with him. The boy had come back for some reason, and Craig had lost his shit. Hit the useless fuck and he fell and smacked his head on some brickwork by the fireplace in his loungeroom. The boy was dead and he was freaking out. I went around with officer useless here and we cleaned up."

"Cleaned up?" Matt was keeping his voice neutral in the face of the pistol, but I could tell what it was costing him. His voice was flat.

"Yeah, cleaned up. Haven't you ever made problems go away Matt?"

"No...no I haven't..."

"Fucking useless shits all of you. It was a bugger, but as a solution it suited me. The boy was a fuck up and deserved what he got."

I saw the eyebrows begin to wobble, and knew we were in for a rocky time.

"Deserved? Deserved?"

The Inspector was standing now, pacing a little, stabbing with his cigarette at the air and his eyes were wild.

"Yes, fucking deserved! He was a perve, a filthy fucking queer, and he was trying to corrupt my son! He got what he fucking deserved!"

"It was manslaughter Jack!"

"It was a fucking accident!" the man spat, face a mask of incredulity.

"It was manslaughter, pure and simple. You should have arrested the cunt!"

"Arrested him? For accidentally killing a filthy fucking queer?"

Matt was on his feet now, facing down the old man. His eyes told me he wasn't backing down, and this was not going to end well.

"Yes! You should have fucking arrested him, for killing his own son for fuck sake! He wasn't a filthy fucking queer, he was a lost and frightened boy you were supposed to be protecting!"

"You have been in Prahran too long Donaldson, made you soft..."

"Maybe I'm a filthy fuc king queer too. And maybe I think you are the scum of the earth Donetti..."

To distract myself from the impending disaster in front of me, I had been casting my eye over the garage, cataloguing the various things I could vaguely know but not use. Eventually my eye came to a hatch in the wall, leading further under the house. And then the penny dropped.

"Holy shit..."

I stood, walking very slowly towards the small door. I reached for the latch and gripped the steel with shaking hand.

People have bad things in places like that sometimes.

"Where are you going mate?"

"That's where you put him, didn't you?"

I turned to look at them, the Inspector angry, Matt shocked.

"The fuck..."

"Yeah, that's where you put him after you 'cleaned up'. You buried him under your house, with his boyfriend living above totally unaware, and nobody in his life but his killer knowing what had become of him. And you left him there to rot."

The gun was turned on me now, and the aim was steady.

"Step back mate or I will fucking shoot you where you stand."

Unfortunately for some reason, I was steady too now. I knew I had to see this through, for him, and for me.

"Shoot me then, but you will have to shoot all of us...and there are others on the case. People know, back at A Division. You aren't getting out of this."

"Jack, he's right. Please, we have to do the right thing. It's not too late!"

Brian had a sudden burst of courage, and began to walk towards the Inspector.

"I should have done this a long time ago you useless cunt..."

The gun moved, swiftly and without hesitation. A shot rang out, and the Senior Sergeant went down, clutching his belly with a groan. The gun returned, and it was pointing between us, me and Matt. The man was agitated now, but his eyes were still like steel.

"So, who is next I wonder..."

"Armed police! Put down the weapon and put your arms in the air!"

The voice was loud, a scream almost in the echoing quiet of the garage after the shot. We looked, as one, to the doorway past the prone form of the groaning Brian.

Standing in the entrance was a policewoman in full dress unif orm, and she had a service revolver out, pointing at the Inspector.

We all waited for what seemed an eternity in a heartbeat. The gun wavered, and I saw the man's eye twitch.

"Fucking chicks..."

He swung towards the entrance, his pistol following. I heard shots ring out as I dived for the floor and all I could think of was a boy in my bed shaking in the pre-dawn dark.

"I'm sorry Andy..."

But no more shots came.


I leaned against the car and vomited profusely into the grass at my feet. For some reason the world wouldn't stop moving, even after my stomach was empty.

Matt came over and rested a hand on my head and stroked gently, nothing much, just a gesture but it meant the world to me. I looked up at him and smiled but spoiled it a little by promptly throwing up again all over his trousers.

"Nice Nigel..."

"Sorry Matt."

"No, don't worry. Its normal, adrenaline kicks in and once the fight is over, its shock and chucking until your body gets back to normal. You will be fine just give it time."

"Will I?"

We both looked up then as two plain clothes cops walked past with Kelly. She was looking remarkably calm, but her eyes betrayed her inner turmoil. She eyed us both up with mixed emotions warring across her face.

"Kelly..."

Matt reached out and caught her hand, and she stopped while the other officers looked very pissed off. Matt wasn't for protocol right now though.

"Sarge?"

"Thanks Kelly...for everything."

She managed a smile then and her face perked up a little.

"See Sarge, you can call me Kelly after all."

"Only when you do something good Constable...how did you know?"

"I got a call from Heike, and then I went to Gaius. He told me what he found, and what he told you. I knew you would head here next, and I thought you might end up like this somehow. Always were barging in like a bull in a china shop Sarge."

Her smile was sad, but defiant. And she got a respectful nod for her troubles.

She was ushered away then, but not before a parting sally.

"Oh Sarge...try doing something this stupid again and my next shot will take out your kneecap."

"Wouldn't have it any ot her way Kelly."

The ambulances had gone already, taking the two to hospital, thankfully in separate ambulances. I didn't want to think what might happen if they were loaded into the same one. Brian had looked in bad shape, but Donetti still looked capable of murder even with two bullets in his shoulder and an armed guard.

"Matt...what happens now?"

He leaned on the car too and finally seemed to let the fatigue and worry have its moment. His face looked pained, and his eyes scrunched tight.

"I don't know Nigel. We have something to go on with those two I guess. Brian looked ready to confess all, if he makes it. And there is some evidence and all but..."

"But?"

"I have a lot of explaining to do. About how I got the leads, how we worked it out. I still don't really know, do I. None of it makes any sense."

"It does, if you think about it but..."

"But what Nigel? Are you telling me you have been fucking a ghost these past days? Is that what happened? How precisely do you want me to explain that to internal affairs?"

"Gentlemen..."

We looked up to see a tall man clad in a white paper suit. Underneath he appeared to be dressed in an evening suit.

"Gaius?"

He managed a terse smile, and then ran a gloved hand over his hair.

"Gentlemen, I assumed you would want to know."

"Yes. Thanks Gaius. Well?"

"As you suspected, we found remains buried in a shallow grave under the house. Male, probably late teens judging by the growth plates. The body is essentially completely decomposed so cause of death is hard but there is a large depressed fracture at the rear of the skull that could provide cause of death. He had light coloured hair, some has been preserved, and I have taken all I can for DNA analysis. He was wearing jeans and some sort of synthetic material top. We found something else; I need you to see if you can identify anything."

We followed him back towards the house, past the throngs of police, under the harsh light of mobile incident vans. Back inside the garage, with its blood pools still visible from where the two lay, to see the little doorway open with light streaming out. I could see another figure in a white paper inside. The man followed our gaze.

"The only good thing about this job; if I get a sudden call out, so does my wife. Avoids discomforting conversations about why I am missing our anniversary dinner."

Matt suddenly let out a half laugh half cry and leaned on the forensics officer as if he might fall, a real prospect given their size disparity. I decided I needed to intervene and pulled him against me though I was not that much bigger than the forensic scientist. It pulled Matt back into grips with himself though, and he managed to stand upright again. It moved me and surprised me; I hadn't thought he gave a fuck, but I knew it was partly my guilt showing through.

"I guess I owe you another bottle of the Hill of Grace Gaius."

The man smiled. "No need Matthew. I really hated the restaurant we were going to anyway. Arrogant French waiters are expected in Paris. In Melbourne, it's just a caricature. Besides, she looked delicious in that cocktail dress, and I am going to enjoy seeing it under the protective suit all night. We are likely to be some time; now, before I forget. We found this."

With one gloved hand he picked up a familiar item; a small unassuming backpack, though this one was covered in dirt. Beside it were several items in plastic bags.

"Do you recognise any of this?"

I saw the jacket, worn and missing sections, the scattered fragments of paper from a porno mag long decomposed. It brought a smile to my face for reasons I couldn't quite place, perhaps thoughts of a wild youth full of life that tried to hold the horror at bay for a moment. Then an identifiable article, a leather wallet with faded stitching spelling out Andy. I reached for it and ran a fingertip over the stitching through the bag.

Matt's voice was husky.

"Yeah. It's his."

"Any idea where it was made?"

"I think you are standing in it. Gaius...can you please do me a favour?"

"Anything Matthew, you know that."

"Take care of the boy for us. Please."

He nodded, suddenly quiet, and put a mask back over his face. As he disappeared back under the hous e, the two of us turned and headed back into the evening and the questions we somehow knew we had to find answers for.

When we got back to my place it was almost midnight, and neither of us was speaking much. We took a shower together, each washing the other's skin until the stench of death and decay that clung to us at least metaphorically had been washed clean and we were as raw in the skin as we were in our hearts. We climbed into bed and lay there looking up at the ceiling, holding on like drowning sailors, and listened to the swish of the trees against the window and the sound of people and the passage of cars along the street as another night enfolded Inkerman Street in its bosom and concealed the lost and the weary from the gaze of the upwardly mobile.

But still sleep would not come.

I turned to face my man, nose to nose, nudging his nose with mine, and then leaned in for a tentative kiss that turned deep and hungry before we were ready for it.

We rubbed together, skin on skin, chest on chest, and groin to groin. We both hardened somehow, despite the pain and the sorrow and the fatigue, life finding a way amidst the darkness. When he lay me down and lifted my legs over his shoulders I was crying and yet happier in some bizarre way than ever before. He was crying too, and yet we knew we needed this more than oxygen.

It was fast and hungry like the kiss. He entered me, and I forgot to demand he wear protection. Part of me no longer cared, part of me trusted him. I knew I also wanted an excuse; tonight I needed to feel, something good and wonderful and true. I needed him, the touch of his skin, and the feel of his essence inside me. After a wild few minutes with his fat length pounding away inside, I got what I needed, and he let out a deep moan and collapsed in my arms with his heat spreading inside me like a balm for all wounds.

Wrapped in his arms he found my length with his fist and brought me along after, kissing all the time, the ardent fire of his kiss drawing blood when he bit roughly into my lip. The tingle of pain somehow didn't matter, and was quic kly subsumed by other feelings, powerful and pleasured, as my orgasm overtook my soul and flooded the space between our bodies and our hearts. In the lingering beat of my pulse I heart the rhythm of a benediction; 'if I bleed then I'm alive!', and saw the truth in his face, and in the mirrors of his eyes.

We fell asleep just as the rain came to wash away the grime of the day, splattering the window and driving away the birds who had just begun their morning chorus.

I woke to find an empty bed, and a divot where a cop had been. It made me smile a little sadly, remembering the boy, but the cop had better manners. At least he left a note. He had to go in to work, more interviews, more follow up, and I may be needed today. So, don't go into work. As if I had any intention.

Instead I pottered around the flat until I could take it no more. Sometime around four in the afternoon, as the clouds parted to reveal a Melbourne winter day in all its benign majesty, I headed out and stopped by Woodfrog for late coffee before heading to the beach and the boardwalk and a myriad of memories while the breeze blew off the bay and chilled my head. I wrapped myself in a coat and fought it back the best I could.

"Thought I would find you here mate."

The voice sent my head buzzing. I heard him sit heavily beside me, sniffling at little in the wind, and then felt a touch on my shoulder.

"Say, you wouldn't be able to share the coffee with me would you?"

Finally, I turned. There was the boy, his eyes sad, but his mouth smiling anyway, with his hair blowing in the wind and flapping down his back, and his gaze turning expectantly to my takeaway cup. I handed it to him and turned back to the ocean while he gulped down my coffee and the tears began to flow down my cheek like the overnight rain.

"I know what you are now Andy."

He seemed to sigh.

"Well, I wish you would explain it to me then mate, it's a fucking mystery."

"You know it too. I know you do."

The sigh was longer this time.

"I know."

I turned again, and he had his head down between his knees, huddled against the wind. I reached over a nd touched him, running my hands over his chest, his head, through his hair, over his thighs. He felt so real.

"Careful mate, any further into my groin there and I will need a happy ending."

"You are so solid, like real flesh."

"I am, as far as I can tell mate. We don't wear white sheets and go around walking through walls and fucking moaning 'ooooooo' like in the fucking movies."

"It's not fair. It's not fair!"

"Mate, nothing about it is fair. But it is what it is."

"Why did you come here?"

He lifted his head and looked out to sea with dark eyes. The words seemed to come with difficulty.

"I loved Cam, and I knew he loved me too, but he wasn't really ready for it. Neither of us were. We knew it was wrong, or at least it was for us, but we knew how we felt. Then his dad found a love letter I wrote for him, the stupid shit left it in his pocket, and the shit hit the fan. We were made to confess it all, to both our parents, and then both our dads gave us a beating. But I knew I couldn't do without him, even if I got hit every day for the rest of my life."

"I was supposed to be taken out of school, sent to a boarding school in Geelong, a long way away from Cam. I wanted one last night with him, one last farewell to ease the hurts. I wanted to kiss away everything his dad said to him."

"The toilets..."

"Yeah, we used to play footy on the oval there. It was one of our favourite places, where we could be us. I got him there and we kissed and I wanted something more, something to remember. He was so scared, and so needy. I kissed until he let me go down on him. He tasted so beautiful too, like honey. Then the copper found us and I was fucked."

"I know. I met the cop. He is in the Monash medical centre now after a bullet to the guts. Fitting I guess."

"It wasn't his fault really. He took me in, and I was so terrified. When I saw Cam's dad, I thought he would beat the shit out of me right there. Instead he took me home for dad to do it. He made me scream again but I ran before he could do any worse, but I knew I couldn't come back."

"So why did you?"

"I went first into town . For a kid from Ringwood, it still felt like an adventure. I ended up coming down the highway and got on a number 8 tram. The conductor let me pass for a while, but eventually kicked me off at Fawkner Park. I spent my first night there and had my first sex there. I was hungry and had no money, but a guy there offered me ten dollars for a blowjob. It was over quick, and I didn't feel too bad, and I got a burger and fries and felt ok. But there were too many homeless guys in that park and one of them stole my money. I ran and ended up at Alma park, where you found me on Sunday, then a guy there told me about Inkerman Street."

"It must have been a dump back then."

He snorted and gave me a look.

"See, that's what all you white shoe types think. Yeah it was full of deros and pros and shit, but it was also home you know? It worked, in its own way, and it looked after guys like me. It doesn't do that anymore. Nowhere does. You see them all the time now, like open wounds on the city, because all the old places are gone, developed into oblivion so some shit like you can make another million."

"We aren't all like that..."

"Your David was. It was there that I found him; for those first few days, I learned how to live on the streets with the only skills I had. And he was one of my first clients, and the first guy to fuck my ass."

I looked at him now, suddenly understanding. I wrapped my arms around the shaking boy and pressed my nose to his cheek.

"I'm sorry."

"Nah, its ok mate. He was gentle, you know? We did it in the back of his car, a big Merc, and he was gentle. He even brought me off. He was kind."

"You were lucky boy. He wasn't as gentle with me my first time."

"Well, that's probably because you like it a bit rough mate. I found that out myself too."

I chuckled against him, our shared laughter washing away some of the pain for a moment. He rubbed my head and I nuzzled against him.

"So why did you go back?"

"I rang mum, every day. I knew she would be worried sick, even though she didn't have the balls to tell dad to back off. So, I rang her and told her I was ok, livin g with mates I couldn't tell her who though. I think she even believed me. But I was so cold at night, you know? And I knew I couldn't keep it up. I had this dream you see, I would get enough to buy two tickets to Sydney by train, and me and Cam would leg it. I had the money, thanks to your David, but I wanted my backpack, with my jacket and my wallet. It was special you see."

"Ahhh..."

"I went home one night, close to dawn. I got the backpack, nobody the wiser. But when I came downstairs again, dad was there. He had been drinking, and he blew up. I felt the blow, then I fell, and then I knew no more until I found myself walking in like a fog that never ended. And I knew what had happened, but it seemed I was lost forever."

"So how did you get here?"

"I still don't understand it. I knew that sometimes, if you had unfinished business, you could come until it was done. That was the rumour at least. And after a while I found your David again, and he knew who I was. He was as lost as me, and he wanted to come, but he knew he couldn't. So, he made me a deal. If I got to come back, I had to do him a favour, and see you. And in exchange I could have his watch."

That made me laugh, shaking my head in wonder.

"He said I could have the watch...I didn't realise which 'he' you were talking about."

"Yeah, pity he couldn't have told the cops off. So, I had to leave it. But yeah, he thought if I took it, it might break you out of it. He saw you wasting away over the years and it did his head in."

"So, what were you supposed to do?"

"I had to make you remember what it was like to feel alive again. I guess I managed it but falling for me wasn't part of the plan. I screwed that bit up, but it's not my fault. You were an awfully easy lay mate…though it wasn't strictly fair. David told me a lot about you."

"Granted. And I knew somehow, that you knew me better than you should. And I suppose it worked...I do feel it again..."

He looked wistfully at me and nodded.

"Yeah I can see it. Mate, there is time enough to feel dead when you are like me. David will still be waiting. Trust me, thi s is better. I know it."

He was crying too now, and I had no words for him, all I could do was hold him tight and listen to the ocean. Eventually I had to ask though.

"What's next?"

"Well, the main reason I had to come is done now."

"We found your body Andy, you can rest easy now. And the guys who were involved will be brought to justice."

He smiled at me weakly and patted my head.

"That wasn't the reason mate."

"Then why...?"

"Cam. I watched him, like David watched you, and I watched him die a little bit each day. I couldn't bear it any more mate, and somehow I managed to win the right to come back. But not for justice, for him. I wanted him to know I didn't leave him, that I loved him right to the end, and it wasn't his fault. That's why I came, you were just a side project of your David's. But when I got here, I found drawn to you more and more, and found it harder and harder to do what I was supposed to. I wondered if it would hurt him more than not knowing to see me like this. Took you and your cop to get the job done."

"What do you mean?"

"Your cop did it for me, just this afternoon. He did a good job too, the cunt. Because now it's time."

"I don't understand." I thought I did though, and I didn't like the answer.

"It's time to go Nige. I am not allowed to stick around. I have to leave."

"No!" I wrapped my arms around him, crying like an infant, and he stroked my head as if I was the one in peril.

"I know mate, and believe me I'm shat off, but it's the rules. I have to go."

"You can't! I need to ask you so much more!"

"Then ask."

But with the moment here, I found I couldn't. Instead I huddled in the boy's arms as we looked over the waves and followed the gulls as they searched for dinner. The lights started to come into force, on boats and jetties and on the boardwalk, and a few hardy souls walked along as if the world weren't a fucked-up place full of hurt. I hated them a little in that moment.

"What do you want me to tell him Nige?"

Through tears I managed it, just.

"Tell him I love him."

"He knows."

"Tell him I miss him."

"He knows that too."

"Tell him...t ell him I'll be ok."

And I found to my shock I believed it.

He gripped my shoulder and squeezed.

"Will I see you ever again Andy?"

He let out a laugh.

"Yes mate, one day. But don't hurry ok? I don't want to see you for a long time, you and beefy have some living to do. Promise?"

"I promise."

"I left something for you, from David. You will see, around August. Hope you like it mate."

I huddled into my coat a bit, and reached for him again to say thank you, to find an absence more profound than the divot in my bed in the morning. There was nothing, and nobody, except a discarded cup and a watch, shimmering under the lamplight as night came to the city.

"Hey..."

Looking up suddenly I saw Matt. He was looking sombre, and a little uncertain, which was probably not helped when I sprang to my feet and burst into tears in his arms.

"Hey..."

We sat in the same spot as I had with the boy, watching night over the bay. The Spirit of Tasmania was lit up like a Christmas tree, getting ready for its crossing to Devonport, and container ships and smaller boats cruised across the water. The lights looked like jewels on the ocean, and I almost thought I could reach out for them but knew I could not.

"So...I saw some folks today Nigel."

"Yeah..."

"I saw the boy's boyfriend, Cameron Donetti. He was kind of a mess."

I smiled at him, confusing the cop, but I didn't care.

"Yeah, I know Matt. He is better for knowing though."

"Ahhh maybe. I couldn't give him back the wallet, it's still evidence, but he will get it eventually. Only thing he has left but it's something."

"It's all he needed. That and knowing."

"I saw the boy's parents too. The mother is a mess, the father has Alzheimers. He barely knew what day it was."

"How was the mother?"

"How do you think? How do you tell someone their partner killed their son thirty years ago and never told her? That she could have prevented it maybe, but she didn't?"

"I don't know. I only know you could do better than me."

"I suck at it. At least seeing the two assholes charged was worth it. Bedside hearings, accessory after the fact and attempting to pervert the course of justice, plus attempted murder for Donetti. Don't know how we make it stick, but I will enjoy trying."

"What about you Matt?"

He sat down next to me and let out a sigh staring out at the Spirit moored to our left.

"I don't know Nigel. I think my career is fucked, but I don't care too much. I've been passed over for promotion so many times I think I've given up. What about you?"

"Same. I really am not much good at property development, David was the brains. Work has been trying to shitcan me for ages, and I think I gave them enough ammunition with all this."

"You know Nige...I've got some land in Tasmania, bought it for nothing years ago. It's worth a bit now, and we could have a farm and raise all sorts of stuff there. If you were willing to give me...I mean it, a go?"

I kissed his cheek, looking at the boat too. A ghost of a smile covered my muzzle.

"Do you think we could have horses? I always wanted one."

That got a snort from the cop, and a slap on my ass. Still, he seemed to soften.

"Yeah, maybe. Tell me...where is blondie?"

"He had to go."

"Go as in...?"

He looked at me, asking with his eyes. My tears told him what he had to know. He pulled me into his arms then and we kissed, under the twinkling lights with the stars above us to mark the occasion. And perhaps one boy and one man, who hopefully would approve.

"Sounds like it could be good Matt. Where do I sign?"


Epilogue.

Winter headed for spring, and the sale of my townhouse passed without incident. It was part of the gift David had left me, and it netted more than enough to do what we intended alongside Matt's savings.

The case had entered the news with a splash, formenting comment, controversy and froth and bubble from the twitterati. It was as well that they knew less than half the truth, for what the great unwashed would have made of it didn't bear thinking about.

It ignited a debate about gay youth, and the consensus seemed to be that things were so much better now in this new enlightened age. I knew it was not so clear cut, but I could not be bothered to fight the fight. It was too much to just live myself and get through the hundred and one little disappointments of living the reality of being gay. As I said to Matt that night, we were still the problem, even in death.

It was felt that the two cops would receive a long sentence, and this would somehow make up for how much society had failed the Andy's of this world. And the Cameron's.

I saw him at the funeral, when they finally laid the boy to rest. Andy was seen off by a pair of forensics officers dressed as elegantly as they had for an Anniversary dinner on a cold night they ended up missing, a policewoman with Polish blood in her veins and a records officer from Germany holding hands, a retired teacher who cried several decades worth of tears, a soon to be ex cop and an ex property developer, and a smattering of those who knew him in a better life. He went to his delayed grave with the wallet on his chest, but the final talisman had a reprieve when his love Cameron wanted to keep it, and the book of poems went to him and he read again the words his love had written for him in his youth. He also went with an expensive old watch in his coffin. I felt I owed the debt my David had taken on, and somehow I knew he was right. Letting go of that watch was the step I needed to let go of him. Cameron was a broken man, but somehow he was healing too. I saw that when he embraced Andy's mother, the two locked in the same emotion thirty-two years late.

Matt had taken up residence with me, and together we prepared for our new life down South. In truth I would not miss this place much. The boy was right, the street had changed into something I no longer recognised, even though I had had a hand in making it like this. The shining facades and the forest of hipsters felt like so many other places in the city, it could be a street in any one of a dozen suburbs. Few of those who cruised down the pavement on a Sunday afternoon looking for brunch and a place to be seen would know what had happened here, back in a time when life was both harder and more true.

Walking with my man after the auction, we stumbled into Alma park, and I saw a small crowd gathered around a garden bed arguing. It looked intriguing, and we were drawn to it like moths to a candle. An earnest lady was engaged in heated conversation with a council worker, and the crowd was enjoying the show.

"What's going on here mate?"

Matt sill felt like a policeman, and he had the instincts of one. He wanted to calm the scene and get everyone about their business. The harassed worker with the shovel read the signs and was suddenly at ease.

"Look mate, it's just my job see..."

"What is?"

"I have to prepare that garden bed, and that isn't supposed to be there!"

I looked at where he was pointing, and my breath caught in my throat. There in a large circular garden bed a whole lot of daffodils had sprung from the earth, forming a perfect heart shape in yellow and white and green. The crowd seemed to think it belonged there.

"I know what they are saying, but we didn't plant it. It's supposed to be covered in clivias now, and I'm supposed to do it. They won't let me!"

"How odd..."

Matt pondered this miracle, but I knew what it was, and I couldn't help laughing as I wrapped him in my arms and thought of a mischievous boy who terrorised his teachers and got detention working in the school gardens as his punishment. He was pretty good too, it seemed, and his timing was impeccable.

"Matt...I think I know who did this."

He stiffened and looked at me incredulous at first then with a dawning smile.

"We can't let them dig it up then."

I looked back at the garden and shrugged.

"They are daffodils Matt. They will flower like this for a brief while then die off. They won't last much longer anyway."

"Still..."

I pulled him against me and kissed his neck.

"We've seen it. That's the most important. Besides, didn't you tell me that was how we were too. We were made stronger, so we would always survive and bounce back anyway. And beauty and love finds a way, even the council can't destroy that. We remember it."

We walked back arm in arm along Inkerman street, past the townhouses and the few remaining old terraces, past the homeless and the hipsters and the druggies and the bankers and ignored them all, each holding a daffodil salvaged from the garden bed. And if a man and a boy were looking down on us, I hoped they didn't mind waiting a little longer. I had unfinished business too, and I didn't like to be rushed.

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