Dome of Death

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 12


Seven minutes later, Rory and Lida walked purposefully around to the front of the gallery and the main entrance, while we wandered aimlessly around the other end to the door of the upstairs flat and tried our key. It refused to turn. The locks had been changed! But we had to get upstairs before Lida and MacFife! We raced back to the back door and tried the key there. No luck! Disaster!

Jon turned the handle and the door opened. We peered cautiously along the passageway to the gallery. How could we get upstairs without being seen? We could hear the girl shoving things around in the office, so we slipped into the workroom - a large space used for packing and preparing works for exhibition. I closed the door and turned on the lights. The room was bare of everything except a pile of sacks and a few large boards. Whatever MacFife intended to do with Max's gallery it wasn't exhibiting paintings.

'Look at this!' Jon had turned over a board. 'The bastard's selling! This valuable property to be auctioned…'

I turned off the light and inched open the door. Voices – male and female - arguing. We had to get upstairs, but how? We crept along the passageway, nearly crapping ourselves when Lida let go with an hysterical shriek. 'But I know he is there! I saw him arrive! I must see him! It could be a matter of life and death! It is about Mrs Culworth!'

The young woman's heels clunked up the stairs. Lida continued loud sobbing. MacFife's irritable descent was followed by the young woman's clattering heels.

'I'll take it from here, Mary-Louise,' he snapped. His tone wasn't any friendlier when he addressed Lida. 'Now, madam. What's the trouble?'

By now genuinely hysterical, Lida blurted her story. As Rory had predicted, MacFife said he too was worried and had already contacted the police. He was sympathetic, offered to ring for a taxi, and promised to contact Lida as soon as he heard anything. Rory made noises to the effect that it was good enough for him and he was happy to leave it to MacFife. Lida broke down, sobbing that she desperately wanted to see her mother's flat. If she didn't see proof of her existence, she would go mad! She might find some clue MacFife had missed, and she wanted to see if the brooch she had been promised was there, or if her mother had taken it with her. Perhaps she had told someone of its value and had been robbed and left for dead! She became incoherent. MacFife made increasingly impatient noises.

Eventually, supported by rumbles from Rory, Lida pleaded that if she could just see the flat, she would be satisfied and trust Mr MacFife with all further inquiries about the disappearance. Rory muttered belligerently about seeing no reason for not showing his wife her mother's flat.

MacFife was silent for several seconds, then said, 'Very well. But your husband stays here.' He called Marie-Louise, who clattered across from the other end of the gallery. 'Show this gentleman the view from the roof.' He then ushered Lida upstairs.

We crept into the gallery as they exited, and followed Lida's hysterical wailing to my old bedroom. MacFife stood with his back to us just inside the door. Lida was facing us, thrusting a suitcase at MacFife; insisting he force it open. Cursing all stupid, interfering, illegitimate women, he bent over it.

Jon slugged him on the back of the skull with a sandbag. I caught him. Jon wound packing tape around his head and over his mouth; I taped his arms to his body and immobilised his legs. After removing his wallet and key ring, we slid a sack over his head and shoulders, and another over feet and legs, wrapped him in CC's floral bedspread and wrapped the whole thing in metres more tape. Then Lida scouted ahead as we manhandled him down the stairs to the back door.

Rory's voice boomed from the roof. I shot back to the office, grabbed a piece of gallery notepaper and scribbled; Mr. MacFife remembered he had something urgent to do with estate agents… He'll be away for a few days. Marie-Louise must lock the gallery and take the rest of the week off. I handed it to Lida together with six fifty-dollar notes from MacFife's wallet.

She was watching me, eyes wide, face a blank mask of panic. 'I can't! I can't do any more. I'll never remember what you tell me!'

'Lida, sweetheart. You've been wonderful. Go halfway up the stairs and call Rory, keep them standing on the stairs out of sight of the front car park for as long as possible, and tell the girl that MacFife had to leave suddenly. You wrote down his message so you wouldn't forget it, and he asked you to give her the money. When you hear MacFife's car drive away, but not before, walk calmly out of this place and take Rory home.'

She stared at me, uncomprehending. Jon slipped an arm round her waist, plonked a kiss on her cheek and patted her bottom. 'Off you go, Lida the Wonder Woman. See you soon.'

That seemed to wake her. With a shake of shoulders and head, she stepped back into the gallery, climbed to the bend in the stairs and called. As soon as we heard Rory and the high heels begin their descent we raced with our burden across to the cliffs. There was no one around so we rolled him over the edge; too bad if he bruised. I clambered down after him while Jon raced for MacFife's car and drove away.

Things were going too well. Probably the ute's wheels would have sunk into the sand and I'd be stuck. They hadn't. MacFife was solid, but not as heavy as Scumble to heave into the back, and although it had seemed like hours, it was only sixteen minutes since we first entered the gallery. Ten minutes later I pulled up beside Jon on the almost empty top floor of the car-park building above the swamp.

Jon checked our prisoner. 'I suppose we'd better let him breathe.' He cut a slit through the bedspread at the head end, exposed the sack, felt for the nose, slit the fabric open, and left it at that. MacFife was breathing, making angry noises and wriggling. Good. I wanted him to be aware of what was happening.

'What now?'

'We wait until dark.'


'Somewhere a small truck won't look suspicious parked for nine hours.'

'I slept under a bridge not far from here for a few days. Noisy as hell, but invisible from the road.'

'Sounds perfect.'

After piling our luggage around and over MacFife in the back of the ute, we left the Porsche in the car park and drove to Jon's spot, locked up, then wandered around, marvelling at the speed of clean up and the financial acumen of souvenir shop and fast-food outlet entrepreneurs taking advantage of the boom in macabre tourism.

Things were markedly better than the last time we'd been there. Dead bodies were no longer left behind by the tide, the smell of sewerage was barely noticeable, and a warm northerly wind and brilliant sunshine lent an almost festive air. We bought new jeans and T-shirts at a street market, then took a room in a motel where we showered, changed, rested and telephoned Mad, who was pleased to hear we were safe and all was going according to plan. She had recovered somewhat from the house search, but was still nervous. I also rang Hank. He and Celia were refreshed and ready to return. We didn't tell them we'd captured Macfife – the fewer people who knew that the safer for us.

To celebrate the successful abduction we ordered very tough steaks, soggy chips and limp greens at a very expensive restaurant. The chef redeemed himself, however, with the best whipped-cream-encased chocolate confection I had ever tasted.

By seven o'clock we were parked opposite the house. A late worker pulled out of the handyman's yard, locked the gates and drove away. The garden centre was dark and empty. A couple of cars sped past. We drove without lights down to the cottage, killed the engine and waited. Something moved on the verandah. We froze. A figure came down the steps and strolled over to my window. I wound it down, brain empty. White teeth grinned.

'Lida thought you might need a hand.'

'You beaut! But that's the third time in as many days you've nearly given us heart attacks.'

'Just keeping you on your toes. And I've thought of a modification.'


'The cage.'

Jon drove the ute away while Rory and I lugged MacFife into the house and dumped him in the cage. Rory cut the electricity cable between the cage and the hole in the floor and inserted a circuit breaker while I removed the bedspread and sacks. MacFife lay still, eyes following us. Rory then held MacFife in a headlock while I cut the tape from his wrists and ankles, and told him to undress. He'd shat and pissed himself, seemed exhausted, and put up no resistance. Rory stood guard while I gathered up his soiled clothes, closed the cage and circuit breaker, then went out and turned on the power.

Jon had been away for a long time and I was just getting worried when he arrived, out of breath from running. He'd picked up something for supper on the way. He stared expressionlessly at MacFife. 'Fuck he stinks.' He went out, returned with a bucket and hurled water through the cage. MacFife gasped with shock, struggled to his feet and hurled himself at the wire. Rory opened the circuit breaker and lashed out with his boot. MacFife sagged to the floor, whimpering.

'You're a lucky man. If I hadn't turned the power off you'd be cooked meat. I'm turning it on now. If you touch the cage you'll receive two hundred and forty volts, AC, right through your body. Whatever part of you is touching the floor will cook. Your heart will jump around a fair bit, and you might suffer a seizure. Do you understand?'

MacFife didn't respond.

'Your guest is recalcitrant, Peter. Another bucket of water?'

I fetched one and threw it over him. He was shivering violently, but caught some on his hands, rubbed them over his face and tore at his gag.

'Thirsty, eh?" Jon fetched another bucketful. 'But… how do we…?'

'This is my second excellent idea.' Rory produced a metal pipe with a thick rubber handle. A three-metre, insulated wire had been soldered to the pipe near the handle. An insulated 'alligator' clip at the end of the wire was clipped on to the cage and the handle passed to Jon. From his pocket, Rory drew a pair of heavy-duty rubber gloves and gave them to me. 'Peter, open the flap. Jon, if MacFife comes near, prick him with the end of the pipe.'

'Hang on, we'd better tie a string to the bucket so we can get it back – plastic's an insulator.' I knotted a length of cord to the handle, opened the flap, placed the bucket inside and closed it again. MacFife fell on his knees, still tearing at his gag. The tape was tough, but he managed to tear a small hole. He bent over and sucked noisily. When he'd finished he splashed water over his loins and between his legs in an effort to clean himself. He wasn't about to drop dead. We let him finish, then removed the bucket.

'Well, lads, I'll leave you to it.' Rory grinned, tapped us both lightly on the shoulders and was gone.

Suddenly I felt insecure. It wouldn't be long before land agents or someone else reported MacFife's absence; and we wouldn't be able to remain at the cottage forever.

'Hungry?' Jon rummaged in his bag and brought out the best fish and chips I have ever smelled and a large bottle of cola.

'My favourite food. How'd you guess?'

'Didn't. It's mine too.'

'Another proof, if one were needed, of the cosmic rightness of our alliance.'

'Whatever you say, boss. Does he get any?' A flick of the head towards MacFife.

'It'd be a waste. He'll only shit himself again.'

After our meal I tossed MacFife one of the serrated plastic knives that had come with the fish. He was getting very cold and finding it difficult to move. It took a while before he could pick it up and start sawing at the tape round his head. When it began to fray, he clawed at it, tearing off pieces of lip. Blood streamed over his chin.

'Lick it up, MacFife. It's the only food you'll be getting,' Jon had a callous side to his nature.

He licked, then held the knife between his toes and tried to saw at the ropes round his wrists. The flimsy thing snapped. So far he hadn't spoken. We'd decided to soften him up before explaining his position, so told him to pop the pieces of knife through the diamond netting. It took several tries, he was frightened of electrocuting himself. After one last check that everything was functioning properly, we switched off the light, rolled out our sleeping bags in the kitchen to avoid MacFife's stink, and settled down to fitful sleep.

A scream, followed by full-throated howling set us racing into the larger room, electric prod at the ready. MacFife was kneeling, nursing his penis between his hands and moaning as though it'd been cut off.

Jon laughed. 'Know what he's done? He's pissed and hit the wire. I did it once on an electric fence. Gives a hell of a jolt. Feels as though someone's ripped the thing out by its roots. Race out to the road and see if you can hear him. It's as quiet as it's going to get so if you can't hear him now there'll be no worry in daytime. And the longer he raves the hoarser he'll be tomorrow.'

It was very cold outside after the warmth of the sleeping bag and I wished I'd put on some clothes. But you take greater care not to be seen if you're naked. A car sped past, followed by a motorbike. From the direction of the city I could hear the thump of a rock beat. The fish processing plant up the road emitted a persistent hum from its refrigeration plant. Behind the timber yard a loose bit of metal flapped in the wind. The grasses on the drive rustled as a startled bandicoot shot through. An owl hooted and that was about it.

Then I heard it. A wail - soft but chilling. I had to listen carefully. The boarded-up windows and hundred-metre drive had done the trick. No one would pay the slightest attention in daytime. They'd just think it was a miserable dog. Which in a way it was. With road noise, radios and the business of life, even if he screamed his lungs to shreds no one would hear. When I got back I was so cold I squeezed into Jon's bag.

'I've been wondering,' he said quietly, 'why we're keeping him in that cage. It'd be a hell of a lot easier to simply lock him in a cupboard like he did with Patrick.'

'He didn't care if Patrick lived or died. I've no intention of becoming a murderer. This way we can leave him all day and not worry about his circulation.'

'We could have found a large cupboard.'

'Not easy to interrogate someone from outside a cupboard.'


'And think of the psychology.'

'How do you mean?'

'MacFife, the supreme example of manhood, naked like an animal in a cage. Think what that's doing to his self-esteem.'

'I don't care what it does as long as he confesses.'

'He will, and he's inaudible from the road.'

'That's a relief.'

'And it satisfies some deep-seated need of my own.'

'Mmm, kinky.'

I don't know when MacFife gave up howling, but when we looked in at six-thirty he was huddled in the middle of his cage, shivering so much the windows rattled.

'Do some push-ups and squats, stupid,' I said, 'unless you want to catch pneumonia.'

He rolled over like an obedient puppy and did a few push-ups before collapsing. We ignored him and ate a hearty breakfast of bread, salami and tomatoes, washed down with warm coffee from the thermos. MacFife did squats with his back to us. We threw another bucket of water over him and the floor, then passed another full one through the flap. The stink was horrible. He'd pissed and defecated again during the night. He drank, then washed himself carefully. After breakfast we stood on either side of his cage and watched in silence. It didn't take long.

'What do you want?' His voice was hoarse.

'Where's Glaze?'

He was clearly astonished. 'Glaze? What do you want him for?'

'That's our business.'

'But…' He checked himself and changed tack. 'How'd you escape?'

'From where?'

'After… after that night upstairs in the gallery.'

'What the fuck are you on about? I didn't escape from anywhere.'

'But… those two were going to…'

'What? Get rid of me?'

He nodded.

'Jeeze MacFife, you're as green as you look. When I promised them a truckload of high quality grass, they let me go.'

'You mean…?'

'They did the dirty on you, old man.'

'Then… why do you want him?'

'Because he pinched my Mercedes, and was unnecessarily diligent with the whip. The cuts turned septic and it was touch and go for a while!'

'But… you took him to hospital…'

'And told the cops he'd murdered Scumble! That was going to be my payback. I wanted him to suffer, not die. You ruined my revenge by taking him away.'


'You're all fucking buts, like a dirty ashtray. Just tell us where you're hiding Glaze and we'll let you go.'

'But… I thought he and Scumble tried to kill… him?' He nodded towards Jon.

I pulled a face of total incomprehension. 'Get real, MacFife. After having their fun with Frances, Scumble and Glaze drove me up to my place to pick up the stuff, but that fat idiot arrived on blazing saddles and threatened to shoot me. So they did me a favour and got rid of him. If you're into mad and dangerous bastards, that's one!' I turned to Jon. 'They didn't do you any damage, did they?' Jon shook his head and shrugged. I turned back to MacFife with a grin. 'Those two have been conning you. Poor Gregor! You thought you had a couple of trustworthy heavies to do your dirty work!'

He growled something incomprehensible.

'The only clever thing you did was get Glaze to shoot Scumble. But you were a bit late. He'd already spilled the beans about your dirty tricks onto videotape. So unless you tell us where we can find your remaining unreliable henchman, we'll take the tape to the cops.'

MacFife tried to look cunning but he was fraying at the edges. 'If I tell you, you'll let me go?'

'Didn't I say so?'

'And give me the tape?'

'Why not?'

'But… I thought you'd be out to get me.'

'You? What the fuck for? You're nothing. Your two dumb heavies have more charm.'

'But… I thought you were upset about Max and Frances?'

'Get real! Max was totally up his own arse. He had it coming, trying to mix it with the big boys; and as for Frances! That two-bit trollop had lived about thirty years too long already. You did the world a favour with those two. Like you did with that maggoty old baggage, CC.'

'So that woman wasn't her daughter?'

'What do you reckon?'

'And she hadn't been blabbing?'


'And you aren't after me?'

'You deaf or something? I want my Mercedes back, and revenge for an unnecessarily vicious whipping. You might have intended harm, Gregor, but you haven't done me any – except for pinning Frances's murder on us. But I'm sure you'll discover you made a mistake about that.'

MacFife's face cleared. This was something he could understand. He could buy his release. 'Yeah, yeah. Sure thing. I'll tell the cops I made a mistake. I'll tell them it was Glaze.' His voice was hoarse and the shivers made him difficult to understand, but one thing was clear, he was desperate to believe. 'So it wasn't you who let that fat guy go?'

'I don't know what you're talking about.'

Cold, hunger and fear conspired to anaesthetise common sense, or perhaps for too long he'd been able to make things happen simply by wishing. Whatever, he believed my story and couldn't wait to dob in his no longer faithful hound.

'If I tell you where Glaze is, and accuse him of Frances's murder, you'll let me go?'

'Didn't I say so?'

Shuddering with relief, he gave us an address. We thanked him, tossed the remains of our breakfast and half a loaf of bread onto the floor, removed the bucket, reminded him of the dangers of coming too close to the cage, stuffed his filthy clothes in a plastic rubbish bag, and turned to go.

'Let me out!'

'When we've got Glaze.'

'People will be looking for me.'

'Who would look for an unlovely, unshaven, stinking scumbag like you?'

His hoarse screams didn't travel beyond the side fence. We slithered under and crawled on our bellies through long grass until we were far enough away from the cottage not to attract attention.

The lock on the wood-panelled door of apartment 3B opened silently with the bronze master key on MacFife's key ring. We entered, closed the door quietly and walked softly through to the main room. Glaze was dozing on a divan in front of a large window with a view up the coast to Fraser Island. Each breath was accompanied by a slight whimper, and a trickle of saliva ran from the corner of his mouth. Despite a thick shirt and tracksuit trousers he was shivering, and pain-lines creased a face that looked much sicker than it should have, considering it was over six days since Jon had blown a hole through his shoulder. Obviously, whatever treatment he was receiving for his wound wasn't working. A handgun lay on a low table within easy reach. Jon pocketed the weapon and I tapped Bob where it would hurt.

His shriek was gratifying. 'What're you doing here?'

'We were worried about you.'

'What do you want?'

'To help you escape.'

'From what?'

'MacFife wants you dead.'


'He's seen the tapes and knows you double-crossed him.'

'Where is he?'

'I've no idea.'

'Then how do you know what he thinks?'

'Intelligent guessing.'

'How'd you find me?'

'Rang the gallery and asked. Marie-Louise is such a helpful young woman. Who else lives here?'


Jon placed a thumb over the wounded shoulder. 'Answer the nice young man.'

'His girls. They've all got separate units, so it's not a brothel.'

'Where's my car?'

'In the basement car park.'


He nodded towards the kitchen. We left him and made a quick tour of the unit, gun at the ready, not that either of us had a clue how to use it. The keys were on the bench. Jon was looking at the pistol.

'I reckon this is the twin of the one that nicked you. Let's disable it before someone else gets hurt.'


In a drawer under the sink bench he found a set of round-handled wooden spoons. Snapping off a handle with a diameter slightly larger than the gun barrel, he tapered one end, removed the silencer, shoved the handle into the barrel and tapped it against the floor to ram it home. After snapping off the excess, he replaced the silencer. 'That'll give someone a fright.'

We left the weapon on the dining room table and returned to our host.

'Where does MacFife live?'


Jon's thumb pressed down.

Glaze screamed and sweat ran. 'He's got a place up the hill.'

'Walking distance?'


'Lead the way.'

He staggered to his feet, turned pale green and sagged back onto the divan. I put his shoes on while Jon fetched a jacket, and we supported him between us as we slowly walked a couple of hundred metres further up the hill to a high, white-stuccoed wall. To confuse curious neighbours I pressed the buzzer and pretended to speak into the security microphone while slipping the nickel-plated key from MacFife's ring into the lock of the heavy wooden door.

Terracotta paving led through a low-maintenance garden of native plants to the front door of a two-storeyed concrete box stuccoed to match the enclosing walls. The path continued around the house to a star-shaped swimming pool, a Jacuzzi and a pergola with an even better north-facing view than the one from Glaze's apartment. The same key gave entry to the back door. A smaller, iridescent blue key disconnected the alarm.

The lounge, which occupied the entire rear of the house, was blessed with six-metre high windows offering a view across Laguna Bay. Impossible to heat in winter and a hot-house in summer. Bright yellow walls bore two ridiculously large, psychedelic abstractions. Scattered, brightly patterned rugs supported gleaming chrome and leather armchairs and matching coffee tables. Kitchen and dining areas continued the extravagance. A chrome-plated staircase with transparent steps, probably made from the same stuff as Max's dome, led to a mezzanine gallery containing doors to three bedrooms and bathrooms all designed to impress. Despite myself, I was impressed.

Jon's face crinkled into a question. 'Why would anyone live in a warehouse like this? With all his money, why didn't he build something like your place? The man's mad.'

If I had ever wondered what I saw in the guy, I wondered no more. 'I suppose everyone tells you you've excellent taste?'

He was genuinely perplexed. 'No. I want my home to be cosy. This is as bad as the tent place.' He shook his head and turned to a sweating, mumbling, yellow-tinged Glaze. 'What's the matter?'

'If MacFife finds us here he'll kill us.'

'I know.'

'Then why…?'

'Where's the safe?'

'In his office, but I don't know the combination – I swear I don't.'

The office adjoined the second bedroom. On Glaze's instructions we rolled back the leather armchair and lifted the carpet to expose a circular metal lid about forty centimetres in diameter, containing a digital combination lock. I checked the desk drawers, cupboards, bookshelf - nothing useful. Jon flicked through MacFife's wallet and spread the contents over the floor.

'I went through this yesterday and noticed something that made no sense, but now I wonder. What d'you reckon?' He opened the wallet wide and placed it beside the collection of cards and cash.

'Can't see anything.'

'Look carefully.'

I picked it up and couldn't resist stroking the soft, hand-tooled leather, embossed with tiny gold fleur-de-lis. Inside was the conventional layout, a zipped pocket for notes, another open pocket, and two smaller pockets each side of the fold for credit cards. Jon pointed to a spot, and then I realised what he meant. Small dots had been marked with ballpoint on the edges of all six pockets. Seven on the zip pocket, one on the next, three on the outer left, eight on the inner left, five on the inner right and two on the outer right pocket. I punched seven, one, three, eight, five, and two, on the combination.

'That's not it.'

'Reverse order?'



'No go.'

'Write the numbers down in the same order as you tried first, that's the most logical.'

I did, and stared at them without any blinding light of comprehension. It was Glaze who suggested it might be the numerical equivalent of the first letters of each number S, the first letter of seven, is the nineteenth letter of the alphabet, so nineteen, O is the fifteenth giving us fifteen, then twenty, five, six, and another twenty. That made ten numbers. No response from the lock.

'Does MacFife have his fortune told?' Jon asked.

Glaze's mouth dropped open. 'How'd you know? He goes to a tarot woman once a month.'

'It figures. Overconfident bastards like him usually imagine they've got the protection of supernatural forces. He's probably used cabbalistic numbers.

'What do you mean?'

'Add numbers greater than nine together until you get a single digit. Take the first number. Nineteen. One and nine makes ten, one plus zero is one, so the combination's, one, six, two, five, six, two. Try it.'

I did, and nothing happened.

'It's probably his pin number and nothing to do with this thing.' Jon looked deflated. 'Anyone got a stick of dynamite? A pneumatic drill?'

I kept staring at our calculations. The idea of letters as numbers seemed right; but what letters? Then it struck me. 'What's your code with MacFife?' I snapped at Glaze.

He stared blankly.

'When you phone him, what do you say?'

'Oh that. How's your mother.'

'And he answers?'

'Mother's well.'

'Yeah, I thought so. Let's take a look at mother. M's thirteen, O's fifteen, T's twenty, H is eight, E's five and R's eighteen. Convert to single digits and what do we have?'

'Four, Six, two, eight, five, nine. Here, let me.' Jon squatted over the lock and pressed the numbers. 'Bingo!' The lid opened easily. Inside was a wire mesh cylinder jammed with what looked like school exercise books. He dumped the contents on the floor. Under the books, a wad of used hundred-dollar notes, passport, and eleven small packets of white powder. Cocaine, according to Glaze.

He wanted to snort a line, reckoned he needed it. Perhaps he did but he wasn't getting any. His promises that we'd discover heaven if we joined him, had as little effect on Jon as on me. I've a horror of drugs, all drugs. I need to be fully in control of my wits at all times. I don't even like drinking a beer if strangers are present.

Ignoring Glaze's whimpers we flicked through the eighteen soft-covered ledger books, the sort you can buy at any stationers. Notes, letters, newspaper clippings and memos were stapled to a few pages, but mostly it was simply neat, double entry accounting with occasional hand-written notes. It meant nothing to us, so I shoved everything in my pack, replaced the empty cylinder, closed the safe and put back carpet and chair.

Glaze was slumped against the desk, eyes closed, saliva trickling from the corner of his mouth. We slipped his shirt from his shoulder and took off the blood-soaked bandage. I nearly chundered. Just below the collarbone, a dark purple hole, ragged at the edges, was leaking pus. I turned him over. The exit hole was in similar condition but larger and weeping blood. All the surrounding tissue was aflame and swollen.

'Had any treatment?'

'The boss said he'd get someone, but no one's come yet.'

'What've you put on it?'

'I've bathed it in hot salty water. There's nothing else and I can't go out because the cops are looking for me.'


'Because I shot Ian and escaped from hospital.'

'How'd you manage that?'

'When MacFife took off he waited a couple of blocks away, then followed you to the hospital. It was so busy in Emergency no one noticed him take me out.'

'You're gullible, Glaze.'

'What do you mean?'

'Your charming boss wasn't hanging around to rescue you, he wanted to make sure you were dead. You weren't, so he brought you here. He has no more intention of repairing your shoulder than he has of making you his heir.'

'You're lying!'

'And when you die, he'll dump you beside the river.'

'He wouldn't.'


'That'd be murder. Gregor keeps his hands clean'

'You escaped from hospital alone, and died alone while hiding from the law. I'll bet he's told the cops he doesn't know where you are.'

'Yeah. He rang from here. I thought he was doing it to protect me.'

'Poor old Bob.'

'What's going to happen to me?'

'You're going to die.

'I know. I can feel it.' He was crying.

'What's your life worth?'

'Anything – I'll do anything to stop the pain and get back at that bastard.'

'A proper confession?'

'You've already got one.'

'In front of the cops.'

That stopped him. He grew paler, if that was possible. Jon placed his hand at the edge of the swelling and squeezed lightly.

Glaze screamed, then whimpered, 'Anything! Just stop the pain!'

It was nine-thirty. I called Matthew. He was cagey. When he'd told his wife about the shoot-out, she'd told him to have nothing more to do with us. However, he didn't hang up so I explained we'd be going to a police station this time, and offered him thrice his usual hourly rate. He hesitated, as would any sensible young man with a mortgage, three kids under five, a ridiculously expensive car, and a non-working wife.

'OK,' he muttered nervously, 'I'll make the appointment and call you back… but I wouldn't do it for anyone else.'

I told him I loved him and blew a kiss down the line.

He giggled.

Jon had carried Glaze downstairs. 'He weighs nothing. I reckon he's done for.'

The phone rang. Matthew had arranged for the police to interview Glaze at eleven o'clock, so we had to get our skates on! Lugging a half-dead body out the gate and hoisting him into the back of the ute might have raised a few local eyebrows, so I changed into a pair of MacFife's trousers and a blazer, wandered down the hill to Glaze's place, drove the ute back to the car park and swapped it for the Porsche, which carried me rather more firmly than I'd expected, back to MacFife's villa.

The remote door-control in the glove box opened the garage doors. Glaze was comfortable enough in the front, but it was a bit of a squeeze for Jon in the back. I dropped him in town to wait for Matthew, then drove till I found a chemist's for painkillers, disinfectant and dressings.

Glaze's voice was faint. 'Am I going to die?'

'Of course! We all are. Now, be brave.'

He swallowed three tablets and was brave while I disinfected his wounds, scraped away rot and applied a dressing.

Jon and Matthew were composing Glaze's confession when I pulled up. Glaze took Jon's place beside Matthew, Jon and I squeezed in the back.

'How long have we got?'

'Five minutes.'

'Will Glaze speak?'

'No. I'll read it to them, they'll type it out, ask Glaze if he agrees, he'll sign it, and that's it. ' He passed the statement across. 'Have we left anything out?'

It was beautifully simple. After declaring he had been abducted by MacFife from hospital, held prisoner and denied medical treatment, Glaze admitted to being present on the roof of the gallery when, acting on MacFife's instructions, Scumble had pushed Max to his death. He also expressed regret at not stopping Scumble from snapping Frances's neck and throwing her down the stairs – again on MacFife's instructions. Concerning his own injuries and the death of Scumble, he stated that MacFife had had an argument with Scumble, who drew his gun. Glaze stepped in front of MacFife, copping the bullet in his shoulder, but managed to drop Scumble - in self-defence.

There was no mention of CC, Patrick, Jon or me. Patrick wouldn't want his adventure known, and if anyone asked questions about CC, the cops could mount their own investigation. All we wanted was to prove our innocence of Frances' murder. This would do it. The police didn't want us on any other counts - we hoped.


Matthew grinned proudly and Jon produced takeaway sandwiches and coffees. Glaze managed a few mouthfuls. Sweat was dripping from him as Matthew helped him from the car and across the road to the Police Station. After what seemed like years, but was about three-quarters of an hour, Matthew came out, got into his car and drove away. We caught up with him at the old show-grounds.

The cops had been totally professional, ready with tape recorder and video in an interview room. Matthew had read out the statement and, while it was being typed, arrangements were made for hospitalisation. As soon as the statements were ready Glaze had signed them and was whisked away.

'They asked how I'd become involved, and Glaze mumbled something about being sick of running away, and using the yellow pages to find a JP. Then they asked him where MacFife was.'


'He had no idea.'

'Excellent. Do you think they believed him?'

'No idea. You know the cops. Never give anything away. With those faces they should all be poker champs.'

I handed Matthew ten of MacFife's hundred-dollar notes, and the eighteen ledger books. 'For your next thousand dollars, see if you can make sense of these. They were locked in his safe. We're looking for proof of illegal activities, drug dealing, prostitution rackets – that sort of thing. We must have it sorted before letting him go.'

Mathew grinned. 'I'll start immediately.'

'And when will you know if they're any use?'

'I'll ring you.' He waved and drove away.

Anticlimax. We were almost there. All we had to do now was make sure MacFife wasn't in a position to convince the cops that Glaze had been lying. That depended on Matthew and the ledgers. There was nothing to do but wait, and I've never been good at that. As long as I'm doing something – anything, I can function. But waiting, depending on someone else – I'm always sure they don't care enough to do their best. Half the things I buy have something missing, fall to bits, or don't work. I twice used tradesmen when building my cottage. The bloke who poured the concrete slab put the shower next to the bed and forgot to put in drains for the sink. The electrician forgot to earth the place. I was lucky the inspector checked. And how about the planet? As that funny guy said on TV the other night, if Earth was a rental property we'd never get our bond back.

It was too early to go back to the old house, but even if it wasn't, I couldn't bear the sight of MacFife. We'd dumped his soiled clothes, so we had to get replacements for when we let him loose, and as Jon pointed out, if his car was seen driving into his garage and the lights came on at night, he'd have a tough time convincing anyone he'd been held prisoner. I looked nothing like him, but the car windows were tinted and I wore his driving cap that I'd found on the back seat. With Jon concealed under the dash, I drove noisily up to his house, the way he used to arrive to pick up Frances, lifted a polite finger to an elderly man who nodded vaguely at the car, opened the garage doors and drove in, gunning the engine before killing it.

I appreciated the house more the second time round. The pool was deep and clear, the spa hot, and the view across Laguna Bay and up the Cooloola coast, stunning. We stripped and soaked in the spa, moaning at the luxury of slow immersion into hot water. It was the first time I'd relaxed for what seemed like a lifetime. After a dip in the cold pool we warmed ourselves again in the spa before letting ourselves into the house.

The interior, although as hugely ostentatious as before, began to suggest ways in which it could be rendered less impersonal. We trailed water up the stairs in search of towels, then, warm and dry, checked out MacFife's boudoir. His bed was unmade and smelled unclean, so we settled for the equally comfortable guestroom and relieved all the tensions the spa hadn't reached. Afterwards, for the first time since the nightmare began, we speculated seriously about our future. It became dark. We turned on plenty of lights, made ourselves a snack from the pathetic contents of the kitchen, selected a change of clothes from our host's elegant wardrobe, and reluctantly prepared to leave.

'Imagine living here alone. It'd be bloody depressing.

'He must have friends who ring him - and visit.'

'You're a genius.'

'What do you mean?'

'Check the answering machine.'

There were three messages from a pleasant-sounding woman who called herself Ishbel, asking Gregor to telephone. She sounded worried by the third call, made that afternoon. Half a dozen other people had called, but none had left messages.

'It's not all over,' Jon muttered, 'the cops'll want to see us.'


'We'll have to go to court.'

'We'll need a lawyer.'

'Unless they drop the charges.'


'How long since you rang Hank and Celia?'

'A couple of days.'

'Give them a ring.'


'Do it.'

Celia answered. Hank was out. They were happy, bored and ready to return. Her squeal of delight at our progress was gratifying. 'You might need a lawyer. If so, Hank wants to act for you until it gets difficult, then he'll appoint someone top notch. Our shout.'

'What can I say?'

'You can say yes. And now things are practically settled we'll come home. Call the minute you need us.'

'Yes, ma'am!'

'Oh dear. Am I sounding officious?'

'You, Celia? Heaven forbid.'

Loaded with soap, towels, blankets and replacement clothes for our prisoner, we drove down the hill to Glaze's apartment. Jon waited until I appeared in the Mercedes, and I trailed him back to the car park, where he swapped the Porsche for the ute. I parked and deadlocked my precious wagon on a lighted street several blocks from the old house, then, as there was no moon, walked ahead to guide Jon as he backed the hundred metres without lights up to the house. Inside it was so quiet I was sure MacFife had escaped. I turned on the light. Blue with cold, our prisoner huddled, whimpering in the middle of the cage. I opened the flap and pushed in a bucket of water, a couple of hamburgers and a plastic cup of coffee. He didn't move.

'Come on, Gregor. Supper time.'

Still no movement.

'He's not dead – he's shivering.'

'Stroke? Heart attack?'

'I'm going in. Hold the flap for me.'

'Jon squatted beside the shivering bundle of flesh, held the coffee under his nose and said, with more sympathy that I'd have managed, 'Come on, drink this. It'll do you good.'

With a howl, MacFife flung the coffee in Jon's face, leaped to his feet, grasped his persecutor round the throat and thrust him against the cage. I saw the spark leap across to Jon's bare arm before I could throw the switch. MacFife leaped into the air with a howl of anguish, hair, arms, legs rigid with shock, before collapsing in a heap. A faint smell of burning on the air.

I raced into the cage. Jon was massaging his neck and breathing raggedly. I felt for MacFife's pulse. Faint. Turned him over. Not breathing. Diaphragm in spasm. I thumped him on the chest, more from anger than hope it would do any good, then shoved my mouth over his and blew. Jon fetched a couple of blankets to wrap around him, then massaged his arms and legs to boost the circulation. It didn't take long. A minute at the most before he was gulping air and crying about pain in his foot. A blackened patch under the ball of his left foot was going to hurt for a while. I hoped it would hurt as much as the cut on my ankle.

Jon's neck looked unpleasant, bruising around three nail punctures oozing droplets of blood. I splashed disinfectant. A reddening spot on his arm showed where the spark had jumped. It was lucky the fuse at the roadside hadn't blown. The escape bid had exhausted MacFife's reserves and he lay onto the floor, sobbing.

He'd only been captive two days and one night, and had had sufficient water and a little food. He was just another pathetic wanker hiding behind a loud mouth. Like a frightened rat, he drank, devoured a hamburger, threw it up again over the floor, drank my coffee, and kept the second hamburger down where it would do some good. After licking the last crumbs from his lips he asked almost politely, 'Did you find Glaze?'

'Sort of.'

'What do you mean?'

'Nice apartment.'

'Yeah. But…'

'Nice girls. How're you managing them without CC?'

'They're nothing to do with me!'

'She asked after you.'

'Who did?'

'A good-looking chick bidding fond farewell to an old bloke. She was suspicious, so I told her you'd sent us to look over the empty flat. She asked if it was true that the old baggage was dead. I told her I was CC's replacement.'

He was silent for a full minute, digesting the indigestible, then asked quietly, 'What did you mean when you said, sort of.'

'Sort of what?'

'You sort of found Glaze.'

'Oh that. The place stunk as badly as this after you'd shat yourself yesterday. The stupid bugger had slit his wrists. Blood everywhere. You'll have to get a new carpet. We felt a bit disappointed at missing out on sweet revenge, but that's life.'

'And death,' added Jon morosely.

'Did you tell anyone?'


'About the dead body?' MacFife was sweating visibly.

'Should we have?'


'There's no need to shout. Of course we didn't tell anyone. We're wanted for Frances murder, remember? With our luck they'd pin Glaze's suicide on us as well if we told them. No. That's your little problem old man.'

'Are you still…'

'Still what?'

'Letting me go?'

'Don't know. You see, we reckon it was your fault he topped himself. We looked at his shoulder and it was fucking disgusting. The bugger was rotting away. You didn't look after your mate very well, did you?'

'He wasn't my mate.'

'No. I doubt you've got any. But you can see that this changes things a bit. The cops might think it's a bit too convenient if we lay the blame for Frances's murder on a dead man. We'll sleep on it and let you know tomorrow. By the way, Ishbel rang. I answered the phone and told her you were in an awkward position and unavailable. When she asked who I was, I said I was your lover. She hung up on me.'

It was nine o'clock. Neither of us felt like spending another night there, so we emptied the house of all evidence of our stay, leaving nothing except MacFife in his cage and his clothes in the kitchen. Tomorrow we'd sweep, clean and check again for anything incriminating. We removed his blanket, threw another bucket of water over the floor to ensure its continuing conductivity, turned out the light and left. Jon poked his head back through the doorway.

'By the way, better not dance around, the cage is only loosely stapled to the ceiling and if it falls you'll be grilled and it'll take weeks to get the stink out of the place. G'night.'

By the time we'd packed gear in both the ute and Mercedes, there wasn't enough room to sleep, so we drove to the parking building, clambered into the Porsche, and ten minutes later strutted in to the reception area of an up-market motel. Jon slung his arm around my neck while I, pretending a sore throat and wearing MacFife's cap and sunglasses, signed in under his name. I insisted on paying in advance, in case we decided to leave early, added fifty dollars to cover anything we might take from the fridge, told the young man he could keep any change, and offered MacFife's passport, open at his name, as proof of identity.

He took a quick look, closed it and handed it back. 'Identification's not necessary, Mr MacFife. I hope you both have a very pleasant evening.' His conspiratorial smile included Jon, who winked lewdly.

'We will,' I grunted, tipping him another fifty bucks.

And it was a pleasant evening, after which we slept the sleep only granted to pure and innocent souls.

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