Dome of Death

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 13

All's Well That Ends…

Sunlight poured through slatted blinds, slicing Jon into dozens of perfect strips of golden flesh. A rattling trolley was followed by a knock on the door.


'Ten minutes,' I called.

The noise trundled away.

We showered, dressed, and were in the Porsche with thirty seconds to spare. The day was perfect. Clear blue skies, wind-free, warm, sunny and invigorating. The last day of winter had to be spent out of doors. We drove north of the river. A delicatessen provided breakfast and lunch, which we carried wrapped in towels through the dunes to a long strip of deserted beach pounded by tremendous surf.

After ham rolls, tomatoes and papaya, we chased each other in and out of surging water, stomped on stranded bluebottle jellyfish to make them pop, turned cartwheels and behaved like kids. We were the only people on the beach. The only fools hurling themselves against mountainous breakers that dashed us, twisted and bruised onto the sandy bottom. The only people alive on the planet it seemed. Panting, exhilarated, exhausted, we flopped onto our towels and soaked up the sun.

'Where is everyone?'

'At work. Shopping. Watching TV.'

'I don't believe it! It's the last day of August, there's a warm northerly breeze, clear sky. It's twenty-eight degrees. Perfect! Thousands of people have fled southern winters, sold everything and come to coastal Queensland for sunshine, fresh air and beaches. Where are they?'

'Seeking happiness in air-conditioned cars; wandering footsore in air-conditioned shopping malls; shoving coins into pokies in air-conditioned RSL gaming rooms; seeking nirvana in the fumes, noise and confusion of civilisation.'

'When they could be on an uncivilised beach as perfect as heaven.'

We gave up thinking about it and enjoyed the moment - until mid-day. Why no news from Matthew? My stomach began to knot. The cage was, in fact, securely fixed to the ceiling, but could MacFife escape? We were leaving him alone too long without water and food. I started to panic. Where was Matthew? Why didn't he ring? The phone worked. There was good reception. We decided to wait till one o'clock. At one, we decided to wait until two. At five past two, a trill.



'Where are you?'

I told him.

'I live a kilometre away. Be with you in five minutes.'

Six minutes later he appeared over the sand hills in baggy knee-length shorts, T-shirt and sandals, dragging a pair of laughing toddlers. A cuddly wife trailed behind carrying a baby. He peeled off his rucksack, removed a blanket, spread it, and introduced his wife as Jackie. She looked embarrassed, didn't offer her hand, turned away and mumbled she'd take the children down to the water.

'Don't go in the water, kids,' he shouted to their retreating backs, before plonking himself down and bursting into laughter.

Jackie and the children stopped, turned and waved.

We all waved back, Matthew still laughing.

'Should we have put our clothes on?'

He shook his head, then laughed again.

'Jackie looked shocked.'

'Doubt it. She thinks you're crooks, that's all. No, that's not the joke.'

'What is it then?'

'Big Mac.'

'The hamburger?'


'I don't know what you're talking about.' I was getting irritable.

'When I had my first Big Mac,' Matthew said with a laugh, "I felt cheated. It was small! Not big!'


'The same goes for yours.'

Jon and I stared at each other. Matthew was obviously bonkers.

'MacFife!' he shouted. He's not Mr Big, he's not even Mr Small. He's Mr Nothing! Mr Nasty Nothing!'

'Matthew, we're a bit slow. Explain in simple English.'

After a couple of deep breaths to quell his laughter, he spelled it out. The ledgers, with their newspaper clippings, notes and additions, were a type of diary, a record of MacFife's life since his marriage at the age of thirty-three. The first entry read: Married Elizabeth, 10.45 am., and in the column labelled, Credit, was neatly written in black ballpoint: $500,000.00.

What followed was a detailed account of his personal and financial affairs over the following eighteen years. One ledger per year. Elizabeth's dowry paid the deposit on a block of flats. Five years later she died and his assets grew to include a house, three blocks of land and a term deposit of three hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. A year later, after buying, selling, investing, speculating, a great deal of travel, entertaining and living the life of a playboy – affirmed by the occasional newspaper clipping, his fortune at the age of forty-four amounted to five-thousand dollars.

A second marriage, to Brenda, boosted his coffers by eight hundred thousand, seven hundred and eighty dollars. Apparently now wary of real estate, he used this capital as surety to purchase a fast-food franchise, a car-hire business, the rights to a canal-boat tourist venture, and a block of land in the hills. Brenda didn't last as long as Elizabeth. Her cremation was at eleven fifteen in the morning, three days before his forty-seventh birthday. It was only just in time. Most of the ventures had either collapsed, or were on the point of doing so.

Brenda's insurance and a small legacy provided enough capital to tempt him back into the property market. A run of lucky buys and quick sales as the Sunshine Coast continued to boom, brought in more than enough to sustain his preferred life-style for the next three years, until a risky speculation on helicopter tourism crashed, literally, taking most of his profits and a fair bit of capital. After the third accident he couldn't even give the business away.

On his fiftieth birthday he owned an architect-designed canvas house (newspaper clipping) in the hills, a block of flats in Noosa that were only tenanted half the year, a Porsche, and an unquenched desire for the 'high life'.

The seventeenth ledger becomes more circumspect, less of an occasional diary. Letters rather than names are used to refer to people and things. The eight apartments begin to show a regular return, and then a healthy profit. The tent house begins to show a small regular income. The initials CC, BG and IS, make their appearance. He borrows heavily to buy the house further up Noosa Hill, takes several trips to Thailand and The Philippines, and continues to spend. Red ink reappears.

The eighteenth ledger starts, like the others, on his birthday. Regular payments soon appear to CC, IS and BG. A few weeks later, after yet more red ink, a newspaper clipping about Max's death. Two and a half weeks before the final entry, he wrote: Married F.

The ledger remains in the red for over a week, until, under a clipping of Frances death, the list of his assets grows by two houses, the gallery, a portfolio of shares, several bonds, debentures and term deposits, and a healthy injection of cash.

I stared at Matthew in disbelief.

'There has to be a separate set of accounts. For the businesses at least.'

'And where does he keep his drug money?' Jon too was incredulous.

'Each separate business would have had its own, properly kept set of accounts, audited by an accountant, but this is his personal, overall picture.' Matthew pointed to the first page of the last ledger. 'See there? That's a list of his bank accounts together with telephone access codes. I've checked them all. Recorded in these ledgers is the sum total of his assets. There's nothing else, I'm prepared to bet on it.'

'Maybe he had an accountant?'

'I said that.'

'I mean for his drugs.'

'No one hires an accountant to keep records of drug money. And why would he? He's obviously learned bookkeeping. These are textbook perfect. Accurately recorded, totally secure, no copies, not on a computer where they are open to anyone who cares to hack in.'

'But what about that stash of cocaine?'

'Twelve packets?'

'Eleven. But… How'd you know?'

Matthew flicked to an entry seven weeks previously. '12C and that rather large sum of money in expenses. He's bought small quantities like that twice before over the last three years. Doesn't seem to sell any though. At least there's no credit labelled C.'

'He hands it out at parties to impress.'


'Did he make money from the parties?'

'Not separately listed.'

'Any entries against that place in the hills?'

Matthew flicked through the credit entries against tent. 'A small profit. What was the business?'

'Live, hard-core porn shows – that sort of thing.'

'Then I'd say he was in it more for the thrill than the money.'

'But what was all that fuss about ArtWorks?'

'ArtWorks?' he shook his head. 'There's no mention of any ArtWorks. I'd have noticed.'

I told him about the crappy "original paintings" scheme he had for the gallery.

'Sounds as though he may have intended to get into dealing.'

'Or,' put in Jon thoughtfully, 'It was simply a very clever scam to hook Frances. The thought of getting into the 'big league' would make the greedy bitch agree to the murder of Max and marrying Gregor.'

That thought silenced us.

'So he's not a drug baron?' I asked.

'No. He's just a vicious gigolo who married short-lived rich women to finance his playboy lifestyle.'

'Then,' Jon said thoughtfully. 'He hasn't hordes of heavies waiting in the wings to rescue him. With Glaze and Scumble out of action, he's on his own.'

'Looks like it.'

'Then we can safely let him go.'

They looked at me.

'There's no way I want to be charged with deprivation of liberty. After Glaze's confession, the police will be looking for MacFife. They've no idea we've got him, so if we're careful when we let him go he won't be able to lead the cops to the old house to find evidence to convict us. His car's been seen driving into his garage, and he apparently stayed at a motel last night, so it's going to be difficult to convince the cops he's been held prisoner. Hank will accuse MacFife of the murder of his son and daughter-in-law, produce Glaze's confession and these ledgers as evidence, and…'

'And MacFife will go to jail for a thousand years.'

'And you'll be accused of burglary.'

'What do you mean?'

'Information obtained illegally is not admissible in court.'

'Shit, Matthew. We can't return these, he'll destroy them.'

'So what?'

'What do you mean?'

'You don't need them.' Matthew sounded certain. 'You have Glaze's confession incriminating MacFife.'

'We've used a fair bit of his money.'

'He'll be so relieved to have escaped, he won't notice – for a while.'

'So, we put it all back?'

'I would.' Matthew brought out a thick envelope. 'But in case you forget any important details, I've photocopied the useful bits.'

'I love you!' Jon threw Matthew onto his back and kissed him. Mathew pushed him off and sat up, red in the face. 'Crazy idiot,' he spluttered, but didn't wipe his mouth.

I put ten of MacFife's hundred-dollar notes into his rucksack and offered to kiss him too.

'He blushed, looked over my shoulder to his approaching wife and whispered, 'Jackie might misunderstand if she sees me being kissed by a naked man.'

'Will it be OK if I get dressed?'

He grinned and busied himself putting his papers away.

The northerly breeze had become a cool westerly wind. There would be a frost that night away from the coast. Jackie arrived and the kids were starting to whine.

'Gotta go.' Matthew jumped up.

He shook both our hands. 'The most interesting week of my life. Call me whenever you need me.' He turned, plucked the baby from Jackie's arms, kissed it and wrapped an arm around his wife, who stared at us nervously.

'Why haven't you got any clothes on?' demanded the eldest child, a boy of about four.

'It's more comfortable like this.'

He nodded sagely.

'Would you like to come for a meal?' Jackie blurted, face dissolving into a raspberry-coloured blush.

'This evening?'


'Excellent. We just have to shoot up to Noosa to deliver these things first.'

'That'll give me time to feed the children.' She blushed again, glanced almost cheekily at my groin, and I discovered I liked her. 'It won't be anything special, not what you're used to.'

'We're used to bread, cheese, pies and chips - so I hope it's not what we're used to.'

Matthew grinned and gave directions.

A certainty that we'd overlooked something niggled all the way back, but it wasn't until the bottom of MacFife's street that I realised what it was. 'Stop!' I yelled. 'Turn and drive quietly away.'

'We're getting careless.' Jon said quietly.

I was sweating. MacFife's place was certainly being watched. I kept checking behind. We were driving his car! There'd be a call out for it. Side roads, back streets and sudden dashes got us to the car park where we swapped the Porsche for the ute, leaving MacFife's ledgers, cocaine, passport and, after removing a generous allowance for our own expenses, a still fairly substantial amount of cash in the envelope under the seat.

Jittery with relief we drove back over the river to Matthew's tidy little brick and tile, three-bedroom home in a neat subdivision inhabited by hundreds of other neat little families with their two and a half children, dog, and mortgage.

Cold meat with hot potatoes, and commercial mayonnaise dolloped over three-day-old lettuce and cold canned peas and beetroot was better, slightly, than our recent fare, however, Jackie did make a mean, Cointreau-fortified chocolate mousse with lashings of whipped cream. We promised to invite them to our place - when and if everything got sorted.

After excusing ourselves somewhat earlier than she expected, we arrived back at the old house at eight o'clock. MacFife was bluely cold, ferret eyes red with fever. I turned off the power and placed a blanket and a bucket of water in front of him. He fell forward, grabbed it to him and drank thirstily, then cocooned himself and shivered. Nearly twenty-four hours without water had been cruel. He nibbled at the pie we'd bought on the way home, but wasn't really interested.

We placed his shoes, trousers, shirt and jacket on a clean, dry bit of floor and told him to come out and dress. He stared at us vaguely. I went in and lifted him to his feet. He sank back as though his legs wouldn't hold him. Jon helped carry him out of the cage and rub the blood back into his legs. He whimpered at the pins and needles, and his heel looked sore.

Leaving him to dress himself, we dismantled the cage, stowed it in the ute, returned the meter board to it's original condition, unscrewed the front door, unscrewed the blackouts over the windows, dumped them on top of everything else in the ute, swept up, and were ready to go. Once the floor had dried and become covered in dust and rat shit, no one would guess the old house had had visitors. MacFife was watching vacantly. There wasn't much left of the arrogant bastard.

'Where are we?' His voice a whisper.

'Caloundra.' It was about the same distance as we were from the car park, but in the opposite direction. 'Want a lift? Or would you prefer to walk?'

He stared in incomprehension.

After one last check that we'd left nothing behind, I blindfolded him, tied his arms behind him and led him to the ute. He sat docilely between us. Jon drove, and on the way we explained that Scumble had told us the combination of his safe. We'd looked through it and helped ourselves to a bit of cash, but everything else was in the envelope under the seat of his car. He didn't react. Jon stopped a block away from the car park. The Porsche may have been found by the cops.

I untied his arms and blindfold. 'What did I just tell you, Gregor?' I was sounding like an infant teacher.

He stared at me, frowning. Slowly his face cleared and sharpened as he sensed freedom. 'How did Scumble know the combination?'

'No idea.'

'And you took nothing but cash?'

'And the clothes we're wearing.'

'And everything's under the seat?'


'If it's not, you'll pay.'

'Right. But first you'll tell the cops it was Scumble and Glaze who killed Frances?'

'He stared as though he'd forgotten who Frances was, then nodded impatiently. 'Sure. Sure.' Clearly, he had no intention of keeping his promise.

'Your car's on the top floor of the car park along there. Here are the keys.'

He accepted them silently.

'Can you drive?'

He nodded.

'Can you find your way home?'

He nodded again.

'Right then. It's been fun. Must do it again some time.'

We let him out and drove quietly away to pick up the Mercedes.

'Do you know the way to Hank and Celia's, or do you want to follow me?'

'Up to the Bruce Highway, and then north?'


'That is north.'

'I know. I meant that's right – correct.'


'Idiot. Get in behind.'

I telephoned ahead and Hank had the gate open, the outside light on and the garage doors up. It was nearly eleven o'clock. We hugged Hank, kissed Celia, shared a hot shower and sipped hot chocolate, wrapped in the warmth of the house and their affection. It was an odd sensation; no longer on the run. None of us felt like talking. Mainly smiles and little questions about whether the chocolate was too hot, if we'd need an extra blanket because it was already freezing outside, how many pillows we wanted and what we'd like for breakfast. Tomorrow there'd be time and clearer heads.

My sleep was dreamless, but Jon tossed around and woke, sweating and crying. I stroked him and he calmed but had no idea what he'd been dreaming.

Sunday the first of September dawned cold and clear. By eight o'clock we were pushing chairs back from the breakfast table on the verandah and removing our shirts. We'd finished dramatising an expurgated version of the events of the last two weeks, and already it was sounding like fantasy. Abductions, rescues, murder, shootings, kidnapping – more like a crime thriller than real life.

'We told Maureen everything, and that you're sure Max and Frances were murdered.


'She refused to believe it. Said you were simply trying to worm your way out of it. Then, as we were driving out the gate two days ago, she stopped us and said, "I was wrong. Max should have stayed with Peter and not gone off with that dreadful woman. Wish him all the best, please." She'd been discussing it with her husband, a remarkably sensible, if somewhat boring man.'

'Good for her. And Patrick?'

'Patrick still blames you for everything,' Celia said wryly.

'How is he?'

'Recovered from the physical trauma, but I doubt he'll get over the psychological.'

'Does he know about Max's death?'

'We thought he had enough to worry about,' Hank said quietly. 'When he's ready, we'll tell him. It'll make what they did to him more comprehensible.'

Celia sighed softly and asked, 'What happens now, Hank?'

'We keep things simple. As the boys' lawyer, I'll telephone the police and ask if there are any charges outstanding against them. If there are I'll get the best barrister I can find to defend you both. Then I'll accuse MacFife and Glaze of the murders. If, as I suspect, you two are no longer wanted, then I suggest you make yourselves scarce until nearer the trial – if there is one.'

'Let's ring now.'

'It's Sunday, but… why not?' He looked up a number, telephoned, asked the question, was transferred, asked again, made an appointment for the following morning and switched off with a frown. 'No one seems to know anything. Because of the floods and associated disaster, most of the hundred and fifty-seven suspicious and unexplained deaths that have been reported since the deluge have been transferred to Brisbane.'

Jon draped an arm across Hank's shoulders. 'Hank, you're the greatest.'

The old man smiled, pleased at the easy familiarity.

I tried to feel happy, and did feel a relief – of sorts – but not the release I'd hoped for.

'Well, if the cops aren't after us, we'll shoot up to Rory's and unload his gear. Your ute's been fantastic. The ideal gangster's vehicle and excellent for abductions.'

The laughter was forced.

'Then we'll call in and check my place before returning.'

'In time for dinner?'

'Of course.'

'And you'll stay tonight?'


It was only a slight deviation to call on the Alconas. I needed to see them. Jeff was outside the gate talking animatedly to a young fellow astride a pushbike. His face lit up when I said casually, 'Everything's cleared up. Parents in?'

'Yeah, they're inside.' He looked from friend to house and back, unwilling to leave his friend. 'Peter, Jon, this is Evan.'

We shook Evan's thin, hard hand.

'Are you staying?'

'No, we've borrowed Hank Fierney's ute to take this junk home.'

That gave me a tickle in the chest, Jon calling my place home. Brian answered the door in a pair of shorts, and dragged us through to the living room where there were hugs all round at our good news and I began to unwind. It was over. There'd be no more life and death situations. We could get back to living.

Everyone threw on shirts and shorts and came outside to see us off.

'Can we come up with you?' Jeff was nervous.

'Pile on in,' laughed Jon, 'The more the merrier.'

Half an hour later, somewhat crumpled, we bounced down Rory's drive. After unloading and accepting a celebratory coffee and cake, we drove back over the rise and down my drive. The air was still warm, humid and heavy.

'Can we swim in the dam?' Evan was excited.

'Race you,' Jon shouted, throwing off everything and racing down. Evan glanced at us to check our reaction, then followed suit, white buttocks glowing in contrast to brown legs and back.

'Evan's nice.'


'Better than the South American.'

'Much. Peter…?'

'Yes, of course you can.'


'Take Evan and a rug down through the trees to the left of the dam where there is a totally private spot where you will never be disturbed.'

He blushed.

'He's good looking.'

'Yeah.' Jeff's hands were shaking. 'What if he doesn't want to…?'

'He does.'

'How do you know?'

'I've a third eye.'

I took a blanket from the ute and thrust it at him. 'Now get your gear off, have a splash in the dam and lead Evan down the garden path.'

I let myself into the cottage and stopped in awe. My last view of the place had been of a stinking, water-sodden, burned out interior, and my brain was expecting it to be the same. Instead, the place was clean and dry, the roof repaired, rafters painted, and it smelled clean, fresh and ready to be lived in. I turned in time to hug a dripping Jon.


'It was a pleasure.'

I toured the room admiring all he'd done, ending up at the unmade bed. He pressed me onto it. After weeks of thinking, planning and treading carefully, it was a relief to feel an uncomplicated surge of lust.

Primal passions were about to peak when the door flew open and a hoarse voice shouted, 'You utter bastards! You filthy fucking faggot bastards. He isn't dead! You said he was dead and all I had to do was blame him! But he's not dead and he's put me in the shit with the cops and it's all your fault! You… You…' incoherent with rage, MacFife pointed a handgun at us. I froze.

Jon raised himself on one elbow, stared at MacFife and said calmly. 'Don't be ridiculous, Gregor. If the cops were after you, they'd have got you by now. You're imagining things.'

'Like fuck! I went to Glaze's place and he wasn't there! None of the girls have seen you! I phoned a mate in the force and he warned me not to go home!' MacFife was hysterical with fury. 'You've set me up! Well it's the last bloody thing you two are ever going to do!' His finger tightened on the trigger.

'I'd be careful if I were you, Gregor MacFife. Things have a way of backfiring on you lately.' Jon's voice was deadly calm.

'Not this time they won't. Dead men can't testify in court and you're both dead!' He pulled the trigger.

A muffled pop and puff of smoke. His eyes grew wider than I'd ever have thought possible and he flung the pistol from him, screaming in pain. The explosion, instead of being converted into motion, had turned into enough heat to cook his hand. A bit of flesh had been flung away with the gun.

Jon heaved a sigh. 'Sorry mate, you got the wooden spoon.'

We extricated ourselves from each other and threw a blanket over the stricken MacFife, immobilised him with twine, gagged his screams, and for the second time in four days bundled him into the back of the ute, tossing his still hot gun in with him. We were getting disturbingly good at that sort of thing.

'Where's his car? We should have heard him drive up.'

'Probably left it out at the road so he could sneak up.'

I stared in disbelief at Jon. 'Look at you! Fear must be a turn on.'

'Who's frightened? It's success that's exciting. Now, where were we before that runt interrupted us?'

We raced back to the cottage.

Jeff and Evan plonked themselves on the bed, waking us from a doze. Jeff was nervous, Evan frowning.

'Evan doesn't believe you're gay.'

It was too absurd. We were entwined, naked on the bed. 'Why not, Evan?'

'You're so… so normal.'

'So are you.'

'Yeah… but…'

'Gay is normal,' Jon said airily, 'for some of us. Forget the propaganda; be honest with those who matter to you, and life can be fun. Right, Peter?'

I suppressed a laugh. 'Right.'

Evan frowned and stared at me. 'You two are lovers?'


'And you've just been having sex?'


'And you don't feel guilty?'

'For what?'

'And you don't think Jeff and I are disgusting for doing… you know?'

'If you didn't enjoy it, it was disgusting. If you did, it wasn't. As simple as that. Was it fun?'

Jeff grinned. 'Yeah! I didn't even notice the mossies.'

A slow grin split Evan's face. He grabbed Jeff and kissed him roughly before turning back to us. 'Did you see that? I kissed a man!' He raced outside, turned a couple of cartwheels, raced back in, kissed Jon, me, Jeff again, then threw himself onto the chair, grinning.

We grinned back.

'Can we come again?'

'As often as you like.'


Jeff was standing completely still, eyes closed.

'You OK, Jeff?'

'Don't dare move in case I wake up.'

'Pity, because we've got to go.'

'We can sit in the back on the way home, give you guys more room.'

'There's still some shitty junk in there. The front's fine.'

As we drove out the gate Evan pointed to the right. 'There's a car over there - a Porsche.'

'Probably bush-walkers. It's State forest on that side of the road.'

'Next time we come, we'll explore. What do you reckon, Jeff?'

Jeff grinned.

After dropping the boys off, we headed for town.

'I'm nervous.'

'Me too.'

The officer in charge looked up wearily.

'A man tried to shoot us, but the gun blew up in his hand.'

She raised her eyes in disbelief.

'His name is Gregor MacFife.'

The young woman frowned, trying to place the name.

'We overpowered him, and shoved him in the back of the ute. He's in need of medical attention.'

That made her sit up. She pressed a buzzer, two constables checked, and in a small interview room we answered three thousand questions, signed statements, and were only a few minutes late for dinner.

One year and seventeen days later, MacFife and Glaze were serving combined sentences of sixty-four years. Max's Will had been annulled due to Frances's collusion in her husband's death, and his entire estate given to his parents, Hank and Celia, who gave the Art Gallery to Peter, and divided the rest of Max's assets equally between him and their two remaining children.

Thanks for reading Dome of Death. If you enjoyed it, please recommend it to other readers, and if the urge to communicate overtakes you: please email me at:

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