Frankie Fey

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 13


Karmai stood by the gate for a long time after Frankie and the others drove away; mind blank. Deliberately not thinking. He felt drained. What the fuck had he done? He could have earned a cool five million. He grunted a laugh, no he couldn't. As if fat Tony would have let him live. But he needn't have told Tony that Frankie had arrived. He could have said nothing. A frightened blackfella, that's what he was. Frightened of what Tony would do if he found out. But the world was a better place now wasn't it? Yeah right. Since when had he wanted to make the world a better place? It was a shit heap and always would be. And if Tony has told anyone he was coming here then I'll be the first person the cops blame when he's reported missing.

He was tired of being frightened. Exhausted by it. All his life he'd lived in fear of the bloody cops. It seemed like every time he left the house he was stopped and asked who he was, what he was doing, why he was there. He soon learned not to answer back; a smart answer always resulted in a night in the watch house and a few more cuts and bruises. He'd been hauled out of Mr. LaDjess's car several times while waiting for him; the cops assuming he'd stolen it because no one would let a blackfella sit in their expensive car, let alone drive it. That's why he bought a beat-up old Suzuki for himself. Nothing too impressive.

Karmai absently rubbed at his right knee. It still hurt two weeks after a couple of cops picked on him while he was looking in a real estate window. They'd shoved him around and said he was getting up himself looking at real houses. There was a dog kennel waiting for him at the pet shop. He'd kept his cool, but they were crowding him so he tried to push past and that's what they were waiting for. The younger one slammed him against the wall for assaulting a police officer. His knee hit a ridge, cracking the patella. They warned him not to make a complaint and drove away laughing. A doctor strapped it up and told him to just forget about it or he'd get hurt worse next time. Cops are just another gang of thugs.

But he couldn't forget. Couldn't forget anything. And later in bed sleep didn't come. He couldn't stop thinking about Frankie, Ingenio and Constantine. If only they could have stayed he'd feel safer. But it was too dangerous for them. He sighed. Until this week he'd preferred to live alone. No one to criticise him, complain or tell him he was useless. Seeing Ingenio and Con so easy with each other made him realise what he was missing. He was forty-one, single, and exhaustingly lonely.

He'd got engaged to a girl when he was twenty-six, but she wasn't very dark—could easily pass for Mediterranean or South American. Like Karmai she'd lost all 'connection' to the land and culture that some indigenous guys reckoned gave their lives meaning. She said she loved him but after the fifth time the cops had roughed him up in front of her, and when the obviously empty motel said they were full, and hearing people on the street remarking loudly that it was a shame for such a pretty girl to be with an ugly black, she gave him back the ring. Their kids would be dark skinned and it wouldn't be fair to bring them into a world of such bigotry and hatred.

Karmai had been secretly relieved. He could cope, just, with the problems on his own, but he couldn't protect a wife from what was becoming an intolerable burden. He picked up girls occasionally, but apart from sex there was never a connection. He'd never been with a man, but admitted he liked looking at fit men when he went to the beach or swimming pool. And lately it was watching the men that gave him a hard on in porn videos.

But he knew loads of guys were like that. He had mates he played footy with who always went out in pairs picking up girls and taking them back home for foursomes on the double bed. They'd invited Karmai once, but he'd been worried he couldn't perform in front of the others.

The following day was spent nervously anticipating a visit from the cops, going over and over every possible question they might ask, reminding himself that no one had visited over the weekend, repeating that 'fact' over and over so he'd not hesitate if asked. But no one came and nothing about the disappearance was mentioned on the news. He kept telling himself that no one would ever suspect him; they'd have been there by now if they did. But he didn't believe himself. Somewhere deep down he knew that trouble was brewing, and if the cops had come at that moment he'd have confessed before they even asked, just to get it over with. Fortunately, a good night's sleep left him in a saner mood and Frankie's email restored his confidence. It'd be great to have someone else here—someone Frankie and the others trusted. It was good they hadn't told him anything. Secrets are secrets only till you tell the first person.

With something good to look forward to he finally allowed himself to relax. He was off the hook. And then the front gate alarm pinged and he wanted to run, but froze. Four minutes later a cop car drove up and sounded the horn at the gate.

Karmai jogged over, opened it and followed the car to the garage where they parked but remained sitting, chatting to each other for a couple of minutes; letting him stew. Finally they heaved their fat bums out of the car and stood staring at him.

Heart pounding, face impassive, Karmai waited.

'Ok, what've you done with them?'

The direct accusation triggered a realistic jolt of surprise. 'Done with who?'

'You fuckin' know. Come on, get it over with. Own up and it'll be easier for you.'

Keeping his voice level, but not impatient, curious but not annoyed, Karmai frowned, shook his head slightly and said, 'I'm sorry, but I really have no idea who we're talking about.'

'The two blokes who visited you last Saturday.'

'No one visited me last Saturday.'

'You were seen in the town.'

'I only went to the shops.'


'I was feeling hungry so drove in and bought a pie and coke.'


'The Takeaway at the edge of town.'

'And then you ran over a couple of drunks, killed them, threw them in the back of your crappy little vehicle and dumped them in the bush.'

Karmai wiggled his head slightly and smiled as if he was the half-wit nigger boy they had several times called him.

'Where's your heap of junk?'

'In the garage.'

They flicked their heads as an order to open the doors.

After a thorough inspection of both vehicle and garage, they wandered rudely through the tool shed and then through Karmai's immaculate flat, helping themselves to fruit on the way through, tossing clothes out of drawers, knocking over ornaments and books, determined to get a reaction they could follow up. Angry when they didn't.

The fatter and uglier cop swung round and stared at him.

'Look at this place—a fuckin' pigsty. Why don't you clean it up?'

Karmai stared out the window.

Coming at him from behind, the other cop grabbed Karmai by an arm, shoved it up his back and dragged him outside, hurling him onto the gravel drive. 'Answer a policeman when he asks you a question!'

'Yes, sir.'

'Who is the owner of this place?' the apple stealer snarled.

'Frankie Fey.' Karmai answered clearly.

'Why didn't you tell us he was here last weekend?'

'Because he wasn't.'

'Then why, you snivelling arsehole, did Mr. Carracci write in his diary that he was coming up here to see him?'

'I've no idea. I'm only the caretaker.'

A boot was raised ready to stamp on Karmai's head when…

'What's going on?' The deep voice was the sort that commands respect. It was the voice Sylvan used when herding secondary school parties around the National Park, especially when there was the possibility of danger.

The two cops straightened and looked up, impressed by the rucksack-carrying, tall, solidly built, deeply tanned man striding towards them. In preparation for the long walk from the bus to the property, Sylvan was wearing his work gear but without the National Parks Logo. His bushy black beard, powerful arms, short sleeved, khaki shirt unbuttoned to expose a powerful chest, strong legs ending in woollen socks and tramping boots, were the epitome of what everyone imagined a tough and ruthless army officer on patrol would look like.

'Who are you?' the cop's voice was noticeably more respectful than previously.

'I'm Sylvan Forray. Mr Fey has given me the job of preparing the house for when he moves up.'

'He was here last weekend.'

Sylvan's brain went into overdrive. The black guy on the ground must be Karmai. Frankie said he trusted him. The ugly pair of cops who had been preparing to stomp on the poor prick, were staring at him. He was looking at Karmai, whose eyes and tiny head movement were saying, 'No'. Sylvan had no idea if Frankie and the others had been here, but clearly Karmai had denied it so he would too. The thoughts had taken a mere nanosecond. His face hadn't altered its stern expression, and he said calmly, 'No, I was with Frankie in Melbourne all weekend.'

'Doing what?'

'He was doing his homework much of the time, his uncle showed me round town while we were sorting out this job.'

'Homework? How old is he?'

'Sixteen, I think. In his last year at high school.'

'And he owns this place?'


'How the fuck did a sixteen year-old kid get a place like this?'

'I've no idea. I'm just the hired help.'

The disappointment on the two faces would have been laughable if it had been a laughing matter.

'Who are you and how did you get here?'

Sylvan told them the minimum, hoping they wouldn't get in touch with their Tasmanian counterparts.

The cops withdrew for a whispered conference. Then, ignoring Sylvan, stared down at Karmai. 'I know you're involved in this somehow,' the fat one snarled.

They got in their car, spun the wheels and tore up grass on their way to the gate.

Sylvan dropped his rucksack and raced over to Karmai who was still lying on the gravel. Seeing no obvious sign of damage he gently lifted him to his feet.

'Are you all right, man? What did those bastards do to you?'

Karmai couldn't speak. He'd been on the point of confessing when this godlike creature arrived and saved him. He gazed at Sylvan, opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came. Eyes shut, his entire body began to tremble, shudder and convulse.

Sylvan wrapped his arms around him as if to stop him shaking himself to bits, then more or less carried him inside. Not daring to let him go in case he hurt himself, they remained entwined in the middle of the kitchen, Sylvan murmuring calming sounds as Karmai slowly relaxed. His head drooped onto Sylvan's chest and they stood silently, not thinking, soothed by the physical closeness of another living being. For both, it had been far too long between hugs.

Karmai opened his eyes and whispered, 'I think the shakes have stopped. You can let me go if you want.'

'I don't want. Do you want me to?'

'No.' Then a full minute later. 'What… what do you want?'

Sylvan hesitated, thought, why the fuck not? and said, 'I want to kiss your neck.'

'Why?' Karmai's surprise was genuine.

'Because it looks so soft and silky, yet strong and…' he shrugged. 'I don't know. I'd just like to.'

'Ok, as long as you don't puncture my jugular and suck out my blood.'

Sylvan's laugh was deep and vibrated in Karmai's chest. 'That comes later.' He lowered his head and gently brushed the smooth black skin with his lips. He could feel the sudden tension; the difference between soft flesh and taut tendon. A pulse gently returned the kiss as his lips hovered lightly.

'Do you want me to stop?'

'No, but I'd like to turn around, but don't let me go.' Karmai turned until their chests were pressed together. He straightened and saw with surprise they were exactly the same height. Both men looked into each other's eyes and it didn't seem strange.

'What are you thinking?'

Karmai laughed softly. 'I thought you were reading my thoughts through my eyes. Perhaps they'll pass between our skulls.' He pressed his forehead against Sylvan's, but somehow both heads tilted slightly back and it was their lips that ended up pressed together—for a very long minute.

Sylvan was the first to pull back. His smile beatific. 'I've got a hard on.'

'Me too.'

'What can it mean?'

'In ancient Rome, wealthy women used to pay high prices to have sex with victorious gladiators while they were still covered in sweat and blood, because danger and physical combat causes such a surge of testosterone their cocks remained engorged for long enough to satisfy even the most voracious woman's sexual lusts.'

'So… it's the danger we've just averted that's the cause of me wanting to take off your clothes and lick you all over.'

'That must be it because I'm feeling the same.'

'Would it spoil the moment if I had a glass of water? I sort of dehydrated on the walk here.'

'Jeeze I'm so selfish. Of course! And you must be hungry and exhausted. All night on that bus!' He tried to push himself away but Sylvan held him close.

'You're not getting away until I know if you liked what we were doing, or were just in shock and grateful.'

Karmai thought quickly. He'd never cared if other guys were gay, but that was because he felt superior knowing he wasn't. But was he perhaps bi? He imagined never touching Sylvan again and a wave of fear washed through him and suddenly he didn't give a fuck what he was as long as Sylvan wanted to kiss and touch him. 'If we didn't do this again I think I'd want to die.'

'That's the right answer. Ok. Now, where's that water?'

After a shower in which each washed the dirt and dust off the other, Karmai made lunch while Sylvan sat and watched.

'You're so graceful it makes me feel like a lump of clay.'

'You're a handsome, tough, solid male and I'm a scrawny beanpole.'

Sylvan grinned. 'At least you're a good cook, going by the smell.'

They talked generally while they ate, about the property and what Sylvan's work might entail. Afterwards, they went for a walk up to the house, had a look through, and avoided talking about themselves or what happened with the police. Karmai couldn't shake off the feeling he'd been irredeemably violated by the cops. The psychological stench of evil made him ill. It wasn't until they'd wandered up through the trees to the first lookout and sat gazing out at the tranquil view that he was able to relax.

Sylvan gazed around in awe. 'So Frankie owns all this? I can't believe it. It's nothing like the rainforests I'm used to but it's just as beautiful. And they want me to help you take care of it. Are you sure you don't mind?'

Karmai smiled. 'Do you know how much I've longed to meet a man who loves wilderness as much as I do? It's been a gnawing rat in my belly most of my life. Everyone I know says they like nature, then go and live in the city because it's more fun, easier… all the reasons that are non reasons. And here you are.' He fell silent, staring at his feet. 'You'll tell me if I'm raving and too… I don't know, I've always been told I talk too much, get too emotional, am over the top… but,' he shrugged and turned shyly to Sylvan who was staring at him strangely. 'You think I'm mad, don't you?'

'I think you're my heart's desire, and if that's not over the top, I don't know what is.'

Karmai grinned, sat closer and wrapped his arm around Sylvan's waist. 'Why did you tell the cops you'd been with Frankie in Melbourne all weekend?'

'Because you were being badly treated by the ugly pricks, and I saw the look in your eye and slight shake of your head.'

'Do you want to know more?'

'No way! I could tell Frankie, Ingenio and Constantine were not telling me everything, but I trust them, so didn't ask. And I don't want to know anything until they tell me. I'm not a great actor and I'm pretty sure we haven't seen the last of those arseholes, so if I don't know anything I can't betray anything, Ok?'

Karmai sighed deeply. 'That's such a relief. Thanks.' He thought for a bit. 'You told the cops you'd left your job as a ranger. Why?'

Sylvan left nothing out.

'Fuck, I hope they don't tell the Tasmanian cops where you are.'

'Me too. If they do, I'll just disappear.'

'Not from me, mate. I'm not letting you out of my clutches.'

Sylvan grinned his pleasure. 'Constantine's a lawyer, he'll put things right, but I don't want to have to go through the hassles.'

'I've been locked up a dozen times. All blacks have. It's almost a rite of passage in this country, but you never get used to it. You might act hardened, but every time you're locked away for nothing a little part of you dies. It's as if the light of life dims and happiness moves further and further away.'

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