Frankie Fey

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 3


Fifteen years later, thirty-year-old Virtue was more attractive than ever. Although still not the sharpest knife in the drawer, she became an excellent cook, a competent hostess and therefore a possession of which her husband could be proud and his friends envious. A natural organiser, she kept the house immaculate yet pleasant. Delighted that she was not required to go to work, she used her free time to keep fit, involve herself in 'good deeds' and enjoy the life of a social butterfly.

The successful seduction of her brother, followed by that of Simon, led naturally enough to the seduction of scores of equally lusty men of whom her husband chose to remain ignorant, - the gasman being but the latest.

Simon also chose to appear ignorant of the ups and downs of his son's educational career. Never doubting the lad was his, he often wondered guiltily if the fault lay in his lack of interest and empathy. He'd always imagined he would feel a bond with a child, and that his son would at least look a bit like him. Instead he was lean and chirpy, constantly active, asking questions, trying to do new things. And nor did he resemble any member of the Goldmein family who all tended to be short and wide with pudding faces, rather than tall and spare with sharp, inquisitive expressions. Clearly he was lacking the parental gene as well as empathy, and therefore it made sense to let his wife take responsibility for the noisy, curious, interfering, arrogant, know-it-all young whelp.

Any concerns Virtue had about Simon's reaction to Frankie's latest expulsion, evaporated when he arrived home slightly tipsy, stood in the middle of the lounge and stated flatly, 'We're ruined,' before flopping into an armchair.

It took some probing but eventually the facts emerged. The fine old freehold building that had been home to Goldmein Jewellers and Watch Makers for eighty years, was sold. The decline in business had been gradual but unstoppable. Two years earlier, the legal firm in one of the upstairs suites had been absorbed into a larger organisation, as had the dentist who had occupied the other rooms for umpteen years. Since their departure the entire top floor had remained vacant. A similar fate had befallen the Gentleman's Clothing Store in the ground floor twin of the Jewellery shop. Unable to compete with cheap shoes and garments imported from low wage countries, the staff had joined the ranks of unemployed, and the once elegant menswear shop lay empty.

Goldmein Jewellers had fared no better. Despite possessing all the technical skills of his forebears, Simon's beautiful hand-crafted jewellery and elegant clocks and watches couldn't compete with the flood of cheap body ornaments and digital timepieces from slave economies taking advantage of global free trade permitted by a government that considered the protection of their own countrymen's jobs and businesses of zero importance. With no rents coming in and profits evaporating he had been forced to borrow to maintain not only the building, but also the expensive habits of a spendthrift wife. Adding insult to injury, when multinational financial institutions commandeered all trade in precious metals, his small but previously lucrative trade in gold fell even deeper into debt. Unable to confess his failure to his wife he had continued to borrow, even against the lovely old house that had been bequeathed to him by his parents.

Because of its position, the commercial property was very valuable and two months earlier an attractive offer had been made that would cover all his losses. Eager to escape his spiralling debt crisis, Simon wanted to accept, but the bank manager assured him he would be foolish to sell during a real estate downturn. Trusting him, Simon had rejected the offer.

This very morning, however, the bank had foreclosed on the mortgage and Simon lost everything. He had signed over the deeds to both his commercial and residential properties an hour before arriving home. Permitted to take nothing from the shop, his sole assets in the world were his clothes, his car, and a portable butane-gas forge and leather bag of jewellery-making tools that he kept in the boot. They had three weeks to vacate their house and find somewhere to live.

Two days of shock were followed by revolt and anger against those who had encouraged Simon to continue borrowing when it must have been obvious his situation was hopeless. His greatest hatred was directed towards the bank manager who had advised against selling. In vain did his wife tell him it was Ok, she would find work. He didn't believe her. Frankie declared that Simon should have refused to honour the debt because, logically, the lender must share the risk of any venture in which he invests; if it fails then he must share the loss. To lend money foolishly should exact a penalty, but as it doesn't, it would be immoral for Simon to pay it, because that would only encourage further immorality.

For the first time in fifteen years Simon looked on his son with something akin to affection. He smiled and stroked his cheek. Thank you, Frankie. You have made me feel much better. The feeling lasted until the following morning when they discovered the bank was selling the properties for many more millions of dollars than Simon's debt. Virtue wondered if her husband was having a heart attack. Veins and arteries dilated, his head thrashed wildly, his eyes popped, he foamed at the mouth and uttered whimpers of anguished rage which set his brain whirling and his teeth grinding.

'Yes!' he growled, lips retracted in a horrifying snarl that made Frankie want to laugh. 'Yes. Yes. Yes!' That fucking arseholed shit faced bastard is going to pay! I've been a doormat too long! Revenge! Retribution and fuck the lot of them!'

Virtue gazed on him with a combination of curiosity and admiration, never having heard him raise his voice, let alone swear. She placed a cold palm on his forehead, wondering if he was about to suffer a terminal cardiac infarct, and trying not to hope that he was—his life insurance was up to date and very substantial. 'Are you alright, Simon?' It was difficult to tell if she hoped he was or wasn't.

He swung round to face her. 'Will you help me make him pay?'

'Of course. Whatever you suggest, Simon.' Virtue's eyes lit at the hope of recovering her lost wealth and life.

Frankie, who had listened to the words not the emotion, pulled a wry face. His mother was deluded and so was Simon, but rather than point this out he decided it would be interesting to see how far his fifty year-old father was prepared to go.

For the next two days while Virtue pondered what to take, how to pack, where they'd be going… and solving none of those problems, Simon and Frankie sat in the car and watched the bank manager's house, noting his comings and goings. Such was Simon's anguish he didn't question Frankie's absence from school. That evening he outlined his plan. They'd abduct the bank manager when he was out exercising his dog in the evening. Frankie would pretend to have fallen and twisted his ankle in front of a vacant block. When the manager stopped to assist, Simon and Virtue would drop a sack over his head and bundle him into the boot of the car, transporting him to an abandoned warehouse on the edge of town where they would torture him until he agreed to stop the deal.

'And when he does, what're you going to do then?' Frankie asked innocently.

'We'll worry about that after he's signed the papers,' Simon responded with venom.

The first part went according to plan, but the second didn't. After shoving the wriggling, swearing manager into the boot of the car, Simon and Virtue were so nervous they leaped in and drove off leaving Frankie behind—for which he was very grateful. During the journey, the manager thrashed around and kicked the valve of the butane cylinder, causing it to leak its odourless gas, which asphyxiated him before seeping into the interior where it affected Simon's concentration, causing him to veer wildly from side to side of the road. Virtue, who was in no better state than her husband, grabbed the steering wheel in an attempt to avoid a collision with a bridge. She over compensated and the car grazed the concrete wall sending out sparks that ignited the gas. A fireball erupted in an explosion that was heard a kilometre away.

Having no money and no mobile phone because he didn't want to be constantly available to anyone, least of all his mother, Frankie decided to walk to the only relative he liked, Uncle Ingenio who lived with his partner in a dilapidated old house in the upper reaches of the Yarra River. They'd been meaning to refurbish the place since moving there, but never got around to it. It was comfortable enough, didn't leak too badly, and most of the floorboards were sound. The doors and windows that didn't open were ones they'd probably never have used anyway, and while a spate of burglaries had targeted several elegant houses in the neighbourhood, no self-respecting thief would bother with such a wreck of a place. The best thing about the property, according to Ingenio and Constantine, was the garden; half an acre of wilderness bursting with native trees and flowering shrubs, scores of different birds, lizards, snakes, the occasional kangaroo rat, bandicoots, and, Constantine always insisted, a wombat. A somewhat eccentric but productive vegetable garden kept muscles busy and bowels healthy, and a dozen hens provided eggs a-plenty.

Ingenio had been employed by the Department for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research to develop individualised learning programmes for state schools, until the government decided to balance their budget by pulling the plug on both educational research and funding for state schools, entrusting the education of future citizens to whoever was prepared to buy the infrastructure. The Government's philosophy of education, if you could call it that, was that if would-be educators wanted to make a profit, they would have to maintain high standards to attract clients who would then pay according to results. The predictable result, of course, was a lowering of standards to enable every child and his dog to pass every test. With perfect success rates, fees increased and profits poured into the coffers of the savvy entrepreneurs. The children of parents who couldn't afford the cost of even a basic education, provided cheap child labour that was finally starting to make Australian exports competitive in a global marketplace.

Ingenio was woken at dawn by a loud hammering on the door. At first not recognising his exhausted nephew who had trudged the thirty uphill kilometres throughout the night, he hoisted him into the air in delight, gave him a mighty kiss on the forehead, and a hug that squeezed the last centilitres of air from his lungs. When Frankie recovered enough to explain his presence, he was taken to the kitchen, fed on soup, toast, hot sweet cocoa and three fried eggs. Constantine joined in the feast and echoed Ingenio's incredulity at Virtue and her sad husband's predicament and crazy solution.

'They'll go to prison for ever,' Constantine, who was a Legal Aid lawyer, declared with a shake of his head.

'At least they'll be living rent free,' Frankie said with a giggle. 'They've no money, nothing. They're desperate.'

Ingenio turned on the wireless in case the missing bank manager was already on the news. What they heard silenced all tendency to laugh.

'They're dead.' Virtue's brother said thoughtfully. 'They were two of the most stupid people I've ever known, but I loved my sister and…' he sniffed away a tear. 'This is terrible!' He turned to Frankie and swallowed. 'Are you going to be Ok?'

Frankie frowned. 'Of course. Why not? If the fireball and explosion were as large as reported, then it sounds as if it was instant, so surely they're better off dead than rotting away in jail. It would have totally destroyed Virtue; she always thought she was too good to do anything except play the lady of leisure.'

'And there'll probably be a hefty life insurance payout,' pragmatist Constantine added cheerfully. 'What'll you do with it?'

'Can I stay with you two? Then we can use the money to do some of those renovations you're always on about.'

Ingenio was looking at his lover and nephew in astonishment. 'I've always known you were a cold-hearted fish, Con, but Frankie! Where's your empathy, your family feeling? Aren't you sad at losing your parents?'

'I'd be sadder if I had to go on living with them as paupers. Come on, Inge, admit it, they're better off dead than alive.'

'Ingenio waggled his head and frowned. 'What about the bank manager?'

'He cheated Dad out of everything, so deserved what he got.'

'And his family?'

'If he treated them the same way he treated Dad, and he probably did because people's character is pretty constant, then they're probably pleased to be shot of him. And I'll bet his insurance policy will be ginormous; that'll help them cope.'

'Meanwhile, the cops will be looking for you,' Constantine said. 'Did anyone except those three know you were with them?'


'Then it must never be mentioned. The story is that they dropped you off here on their way to waylay the bank manager, and that was the last you saw of them. You'd better be suitably distraught—can you manage that?'

'No problem.'

'Good. As for where you'll stay,' Constantine turned to Ingenio. 'What does the grief-stricken Uncle say?'

'He's staying with us.'


Frankie succumbed to a rare dose of boyish delight, leaped into his uncle's arms and kissed him, paid Constantine the same compliment, then invited them to another round of buttered toast and mango jam.

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