Frankie Fey

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 11


Tiredness evaporated as they sat around the kitchen table in Snake's tidy little flat behind the garage, drinking tea, eating toast and cheese and fruit, talking, drawing maps and diagrams, and coming up with a plan for the worst case scenario, hoping it wouldn't come to that. Not foolproof, but no one could think of anything better. To avoid using his mobile phone or landline in case it was tapped, Snake drove five kilometres to a public phone box to ring Tony.

Ingenio insisted he would pretend to be Frankie, for which his son was secretly grateful. It was decided that he would pretend he had driven up alone from Melbourne, so they busied themselves hiding everything that might indicate the presence of two others, carrying all their stuff and a video camera and blankets up into the shallow crawlspace between the timbered ceiling of the garage and its tiled roof. From below it looked as if there wouldn't be enough room for a human to squeeze in.

It was going to be hot, lying silently while secretly filming the meeting, but they didn't take up any water so there'd be no temptation to move and knock something and reveal themselves. When all was arranged, they stretched out on the grass in the shade drinking little so they wouldn't need to pee, eating sandwiches, and vainly trying to relax.

On his return, Snake left both gates open and when the laser bleeped just after eleven o'clock, they knew Tony's car had passed through, giving them time to get to their places. By the time the BMW pulled up beside Ingenio's vehicle in the parking area in front of the garage, Constantine and Frankie were lying on the boards of the crawlspace above, and the ladder was back on the floor, concealed under a pile of sacks.

Ingenio stood in the garage entrance watching Snake greet Carracci and Jerry, chatting and laughing. A cold wave washed through him. Could he trust Snake? Had he in fact been preparing a trap? Con and Frankie were already trapped in the crawlspace and he was defenceless. Deep breaths did little to calm his heartbeat.

Apparently satisfied, the two guests sauntered across, laughing at something Snake had said, and introduced themselves to Ingenio. Chatting amicably they followed Snake into the cool interior. Ingenio said he hoped they wouldn't be long as he'd only come for a quick look, to get an idea what it was worth before going to Estate Agents and putting it on the market. He was on his own because his wife wasn't interested in the place and was taking the kids to Saturday sports. He hadn't decided where he'd stay the night. Probably halfway home.

Ingenio learned that Mr. Carracci was a respectable developer with many important business connections and friends in the government. Snake offered cans of beer, then closed the garage doors to keep the place cool, and stood in front of them sipping at his can, relaxed but obviously on his guard.

What are you prepared to offer for the property, Mr. Carracci? Ingenio asked innocently, sipping at his beer. Jerry laughed loudly and Tony sniggered. 'More than you expect, Mr. Fey.'

After tossing their empties into a corner they peered suspiciously up and around the empty space. Deciding they were alone, they put their case.

'Snake has informed you that I'm Mr. LaDjess's only surviving relative and should have inherited this place. But the old man was completely gaga and didn't know what he was doing, selling the place to you, so you are going to sign the title over to me.' Without waiting for a response, he opened a briefcase and placed two documents on the workbench. 'These are duplicates of a transfer of this property to me, filled out and just needing your signature on both. You will sign them now. Snake and Jerry will witness them, and you will then return to Melbourne. Is that clear?'

Ingenio glanced at the documents, then looked up, clearly confused. 'There's no mention of how much you are going to pay me, Mr. Carracci.'

'That's because you are making a gift of the place as compensation for the emotional hurt I've suffered from being disinherited.'

Ingenio shook his head in denial and confusion. 'I understand your disappointment at not being bequeathed this place, Mr. Carracci, but I acquired this property legally, so I will not be giving it to you.'

If he was disappointed, Mr. Carracci's smug smile concealed it. 'And I say you will.'

'And if I don't?'

'You will not be returning to Melbourne.' The voice was matter of fact and relaxed.

'Are you threatening me?'


'But then you won't have my signature.'

'Signatures can be copied, and friends in Lands Transfer Offices don't question official documentation unless asked to.'

'Ingenio turned angrily to Snake. 'You told me Mr. Carracci wanted to buy the place! You lied!'

Snake's laugh was evil. 'Fuck you educated pricks are stupid. You were going to just dump me on the street, but Tony's a gentleman; he's going to look after me, so shut the fuck up and sign the bloody thing.'

Ingenio's desperation was only partially an act. 'But… but surely you wouldn't murder me just to get a block of land. And the police are smart, they'd soon work out who'd done it.'

'They would come to the conclusion that a city boy had gone for a walk, fell down a cliff, of which there are many around here, and broken his back. Unfortunately, he didn't die immediately, he lay in quadriplegic agony for several days before dying of thirst and exposure and being eaten by ants, bandicoots, and other vermin. Changed your mind?'

'No! You wouldn't!'

Jerry grabbed Ingenio's arms, dragging them up behind his back causing him to grunt from pain, and rammed a bony knee into the centre of his back.

Mr. Carracci proffered a pen. 'Will you sign?'


'Get on with it, Carracci,' Snake snarled. 'The stupid fuck's not going to sign anything.'

Carracci nodded. 'You're right, Snake. Ok Jerry, snap to it.' He giggled inanely. 'But maim, not kill. We're not murderers. '

Just as Jerry was on the point of ramming his knee into his victim's spine, Ingenio screamed and dropped his head onto his chest. Two sharp cracks set a flock of kookaburras screeching in maniacal laughter outside as Jerry, followed by Carracci, dropped to the floor where they twitched for a few seconds before lying still, blood trickling from holes in their heads.

Snake blew across the barrel of his revolver like a cowboy in an old western movie, and replaced the gun in his pocket with a self-satisfied grin.

'Fuck you're a good shot!' Frankie shouted. 'But Ingenio! Is he all right? Get us down!'

Snake replaced the ladder and went to look at Ingenio who was writhing in pain. Constantine and Frankie raced across.

'Are you Ok? Ingenio! Speak to me! Is your back broken?' Constantine and Frankie were both on the verge of tears.

Ingenio looked up and grinned. 'I reckon I'm as good an actor as my son.'

'You utter bastard. That's the last time I worry about you.'

'Inge! If you do that again I'll kill you properly!'

Ingenio wrapped his arms around Con, kissed him and let himself be dragged upright. 'Sorry, I couldn't resist. At least I now know you'd care if I karked it.'

'Arrogant turd. I wasn't worried about that, I was imagining all the fuss I'd have to go though if we had three bodies to dispose of.' He looked up at Snake who was shaking his head in amusement. 'What're you laughing at?'

'Two crazy queers.'

'Where did you learn to shoot like that? It was fantastic. Straight from the hip! Perfect. And where'd you get a revolver?'

'It fell of the back of a truck. Thanks for the compliments on my aim—that's from years of practice exterminating hares and wild dogs.'

'Prospero was right, you're the best vermin exterminator ever, thanks, Snake.' Frankie looked as if he was going to be sick. At first he'd been excited, then fearful, then relieved, but suddenly it hit him. Two men who'd been alive only minutes before were now dead, and he and the others had done it. He turned very pale and began to shake. Snake grabbed him before he fell and carried him out into the sunshine followed by the others who weren't looking much better.

Snake looked at them critically. 'Frankie's okay. It's a normal reaction from a sensitive kid. Stress takes more out of you than exercise. Rub some blood into his limbs while I make us a cup of tea. It's just on midday so we have to get moving. It's almost certain Tony has arranged to call someone once this is over, so we can't hang around. Okay?'

'Yeah, sure. Don't worry about us.' Trying not to think about what they were doing and what they had just done, they removed both dead men's outer garments, and Ingenio and Con put them on, Ingenio in Jerry's and Con in Tony's. He had to pad himself a bit to take up the slack in the trousers, but ended up with a bum quite as flabby as Tony's. With Jerry's cap pulled down, Ingenio looked like him from behind. There was a hat in the BMW that fitted Con, and after a quick check they went over the plan one more time while they drank tea.

'Ok,' Snake said seriously. 'We have to get this right. It's broad daylight so it needs bravado, not nervous caution. Act confident and you'll be believed.' He spread a map on the table. They gathered around and gave it their full, nervous attention. 'This is the pub I go to now and again. I've never been there on a Saturday afternoon, it's too crowded with idiot karaoke wannabes. But few strangers go, so you'll be noticed. That means you don't have to do anything special. Buy a drink, pay for it, tip the barman, sit at the bar, or a table if there's no space at the bar, as close to the exit opposite the main entrance as possible, call each other Tony and Jerry a couple of times loud enough to be heard, and try not to leave readable fingerprints on the glasses, by smudging them each time you put them down.

'After a few minutes, start an argument. Intense but as if you're trying to conceal it. Then play it by ear. It might go something like this… Ingenio, will call Con a lying bastard. Con will tell him to shut the fuck up. Ingenio will get up and stand over Tony—not enough aggro to get someone to try and break it up though. Tony will shove him away and leave, closely followed by Con muttering that he'll make the fucking bastard pay. As soon as you're outside, you'll chase each other down this street here,' he pointed at the map, 'and I'll be waiting here,' he pointed, 'with the engine running. It's a very quiet service lane. There's no commerce on weekends so it's unlikely you'll be seen. But check anyway, then get in and make yourselves invisible under the rugs. It doesn't matter if someone recognises my vehicle because I'm a regular in town.'

'Yeah,' Con said uncertainly. 'It's clear enough. Don't worry, we'll be fine.'

'It's you that's worrying, Con. Don't. It's a cake-walk as long as you keep the argument low key so no one feels obliged to intervene or follow you. All we want is for a few guys to remember that two blokes called Tony and Jerry had an argument and took off down the street. Oh, and don't look up when you enter the pub, there are cameras at the entrance. Not sure if there are any inside or the exit, so keep your heads down as much as possible.'

'No worries,' Ingenio said more cheerfully than he felt. 'We'll be okay.'

A few minutes later, wearing rubber gloves and trying not to smudge existing fingerprints on the steering wheel and dashboard, Con and Ingenio drove Tony's BMW down to the pub, parked a block away, got out, locked the car and removed their gloves. Stuffing them deep in their pockets they wandered into the bar, heads down as if discussing something important. It was noisy inside. Karaoke down the end opposite the bar and plenty of stools empty. They went to the far end of the bar near a door marked Exit, sat on stools, looked at the karaoke and signalled over their shoulders to the barman. No customer took any notice. They ordered beers and asked him if it was always so busy. He didn't look at them properly, just grunted something incomprehensible and returned to watch the singer, without waiting for a tip.

This wasn't the plan. They had to be noticed. After what seemed an age the singer stopped and people drifted to the bar for refills, but no one gave them a second glance so Ingenio decided to hurry things along. He fell off his stool, flinging his arms wide as if to save himself, knocking his drink onto the floor. The smashing glass drew curious looks.

'You bastard, Tony. What the fuck'd ya do that for? Could have broken my back.'

'Because you're a fuckwit, Jerry,' Con snarled. 'Get up and buy another.'

'Fuck you, Tony.' Ingenio got to his feet and lunged at Con, who threw the contents of his drink at him, then headed out the exit, snarling, 'You're a fucking loser, Jerry, go fuck yourself.' Ingenio raced after him shouting, 'I'll get you, Tony, you fat prick.'

Still shouting they disappeared into the side street, then along a service alley, at the end of which stood Snake's Suzuki with the engine running. After checking the street was empty, they leaped into the back, lay flat and covered themselves with blankets as it drove quietly away.' Snake stopped at a takeaway on the edge of town to buy a pie and a coke, chatting briefly with the owner before driving sedately home, closing both gates behind him.

Back in the kitchen, a frantic Frankie was relieved to hear the vehicle pull into the garage. He raced out and hugged all three. 'I was so frightened you'd get caught. That something would go wrong. That…' he stopped, tears streaming down his cheeks. 'I'm sorry. I was being so strong and telling myself to be brave and sensible and all that crap, determined not to go all girly, and then… I realised how much I love and need you. I...'

Ingenio hugged him and the others told him not to worry. Real men were allowed to have emotions and express them. They were proud of him; both Con and Ingenio silently wishing they too could scream and shout and cry and get rid of all the tension that had been building. Instead, sitting around the table they tried fairly successfully to make light of it, laughing about their impromptu act at the pub. After a quick snack of bread, cheese, boiled eggs, tomatoes and Snake's excellent spaghetti bolognaise, they reckoned they'd be able to last another few hours.

'I hope so, because we've a lot to do before we can relax,' Snake reminded them. 'Cleaning up and removing all evidence will take at least till six o'clock. We'll have to get a move on if we want to finish before dark.

Bellies full, they returned reluctantly to the garage where they removed all their clothes, carefully bagged everything belonging to the two dead men, and put on clean overalls provided by Snake. There wasn't much blood to remove and scrub away, but the floor had to be swept and every centimetre of the grass, driveway and garage scoured for anything the murderous pair might have dropped.

They made two very tight parcels of bodies, clothes and personal items, wrapping them in heavy-duty plastic sheets, tightly sealed with duct tape. After placing them in the back of Snake's little Suzuki 4X4, they piled in and drove up a narrow, tree-lined track behind the house. After cresting a hill the track wound down into a gulley, over a ridge and then down to the base of a tall cliff, near the centre of which was a dark hole.

'That's the cave?'


'We'll never squeeze in there!'

'Wanna bet?'

Even with two to a body it was tough work manhandling the corpses into the narrow cave. The roof was too low to stand upright. After about fifty metres the sandy floor began to rise until they were forced to crawl, then slither one after the other on their bellies, dragging and pushing the corpses between them. It was claustrophobic, despite the light from torches strapped to their foreheads, but fear of the consequences of failing to conceal the evidence conquered the fear of being trapped underground. After nearly half an hour of dragging, slithering, sweating and sliding, the roof plunged into the sandy floor. Snake directed his torch onto a horizontal gap in the rocks to the left at floor level. Constantine shone his torch in.

'It get's bigger in there, but there's no floor. It's just a black hole! We can't go in there. I can't see anything. Where does it go?'

'No idea. But whatever goes down there won't be seen for a long time.'

The plastic wrapped bundles were too large to be squeezed through the slit, which was a metre long but a bare fifteen centimetres high, so they separated the bodies from the plastic and clothing, then crushed the ribs so they could squeeze them through. After a sweaty, exhausting age the two corpses slid down into darkness, followed by their clothes and plastic wrapping. And after what seemed endless wriggling in the confined space, the men's soiled and torn overalls, shoes and gloves followed the bodies into the black hole. To make certain all had gone, they peered with their torches into the slit, but could see nothing.

Every joint and muscle aching, bare skin scratched on protruding rocks that they were certain hadn't been there on the way in, knees scuffed, feet sore and bruised, they returned to the cave entrance, carefully brushing the sand with branches as they walked backwards to remove signs of their passing. Snake had been right; it was six o'clock before they had showered, dressed what turned out to be insignificant wounds, eaten and stopped twitching from effort and nerves. They sat at the table for a full minute, staring at nothing in silence.

'How can we return to normal life after a day like today?'

'What's normal for you?' Snake asked.

They told him.

'Will you all be coming to live here?'

'Would you mind if we did?'

'I'd be disappointed if you didn't. You've made me realise I'm lonely. I thought I was fine and didn't need anyone else. Macho man and all that stoic stupidity. But spending the day with three real men who dare to be themselves and not pretend they're heroes and tough and all that macho crap, is so great, I…' he stopped and looked away, not wanting them to see how affected he was.

Frankie got quietly to his feet and stood behind Snake, placing his hands lightly on his shoulders. Snake sniffed, then placed his left hand on Frankie's right. Carefully looking into the distance he said softly. 'That's the first time for years that anyone's touched me in friendship.' He turned his head and looked up at Frankie. 'I'm very, very glad Prospero gave you this place. He was a wise man.'

'How did you come to live here?'

'Twenty years ago I was just another unemployed black waster in Sydney doing nothing in the park. Then an old bloke got out of a flash car and crossed the road as if he wanted to go for a pee in the park toilets. Two guys followed, then jumped him. Normally I wouldn't have cared, rich people get what they deserve, don't they? But I was feeling angrier than usual so sauntered over and said all casual like, Can I join in? That made them laugh and relax so I slammed pointy knuckles into the bridge of their noses. They screamed, so I kicked them in the cods. They screamed again. Then I lifted the old guy to his feet and carried him back to the car. He looked pretty sick, but thanked me and asked if I could drive because he didn't think he could. I drove him to his hotel, helped him to his suite, and he offered me the choice of a thousand bucks or a job. I chose the job and was his chauffeur for five years. Then when he moved to Melbourne, I took over here and have been more or less happy until you blokes turned up.'

'That does it,' Con said brusquely. 'I'm sick of Melbourne and all those kids getting themselves into trouble, we're coming here.'

Ingenio nodded. 'I agree. Even though we haven't even been inside the house.'

'It's not as big as it looks, so if you don't like it you can live here with me,' Snake said with a grin.

'Snake, you are a gentleman! And if we do like it, you can come and live with us.'

'You'd have a black man living in your house with you?'

'Ah, I'd forgotten you were black. I suppose it would be shaming for you to live with three trashy white queers?'

'I guess I could stoop that low.'

'I reckon you're beautiful,' Frankie said dreamily. 'I'd love to have skin like yours.'

'Until the first person who passes you in the street holds his nose and asks his mates where the stink's coming from.'

'They don't!'

'They do. But it's late and we all need sleep.'

'Do you think we ought to leave now? Not stay any longer after…'

'No way! You're all so exhausted you'd crash and then goodbye to pretending you haven't been here. No, tomorrow I'll give you a quick tour, and then you can go, okay?' Now, we sleep. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise…' he grinned in embarrassment.

'As always, you speak excellent sense oh guru.'

'Silly bugger.' But Snake was pleased. 'The couch in the sitting room opens out into a double bed, he explained quickly to avoid descending into pathos, 'it's a bit small for three. I've got a double in my room, but… we could spread a few cushions and Frankie can have my sleeping bag.'

'If you've a double bed, why can't I sleep with you?'

Snake shrugged.

'Because, Frankie, he's worried you'll rape him. All queers are rapists and perverts, you see, and unable to resist fucking men.'

'Gosh, I'm a late developer. I've never felt like that,' Frankie sighed. 'Ok Snake, where's the sleeping bag?'

Snake was shaking in silent laughter. 'If you promise not to do naughty things to me, Frankie, then you're welcome to share my cot. I didn't suggest it because, as everyone knows, blacks eat young boys.'

'You're a cannibal?'

'Are you questioning popular wisdom?'

Ten minutes later all lights were out and four exhausted men were asleep. Con and Ingenio in each other's arms, Snake and Frankie back to back.

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