Frankie Fey

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 17


Saturday morning breakfast at "85" was an inquiet meal. Con was worried that Frankie hadn't arrived during Friday night and was ready to phone hospitals and police to see if there'd been an accident. Ingenio wasn't concerned because he had expected Frankie to wait until Saturday, to make sure he was relaxed enough to drive safely. Both he and his son were unable to enjoy anything if they were tired or stressed. Con agreed to wait till lunch time before panicking. As a sentimental welcoming gesture, at eleven o'clock they turned off the security locks of both top and bottom gates, setting them to open automatically at the approach of a car so Frankie would be able to drive straight up.

A small family-run sweet shop in the shopping centre near "85" produced the best rum and chocolate truffles in the world, Ingenio reckoned, so Frankie stopped off on the way home to buy a kilo. The car park was almost full so he had a fair walk to the shops and was squeezing between a couple of cars when he heard someone say, "La Djess". His heart skipped a beat. Prospero was the only person of that name he'd ever heard of. Pretending to be consulting a shopping list he kept his head down and manoeuvred to see who was talking. A sunburned bald head was leaning out the driver's window of a dusty Land Rover, speaking to an elderly fellow pushing a shopping trolley.

'Sorry,' the old fellow said offering his right ear, 'I'm a bit deaf, what's that you said?'

'"I'm looking for the old La Djess property, a big bush block around here, it's recently changed hands – chap called Fey has it now.'

'Yes, I know the place, it's about ten kilometres along the western road. Can't miss it. They've put bloody great gates at the roadside as if ready to repel an invasion.' He pointed the way, nodded, smiled and continued pushing his trolley.

'Thanks, mate, the bald head called, turning to confer with his passenger.

Cold invaded Frankie's chest. The head had looked mean, the voice was coarse, and a powerful urge to race home and warn the others sent him running back to his car as the Land Rover drove away. A shopper's car prevented his exit for an agonising minute, and then a family and their children slowed him down, so by the time he was on the road the Land Rover had disappeared.

In mounting fear he drove as fast as he dared, but didn't catch up until he saw the Land Rover parked opposite the entrance. Relieved that the gate was closed so they wouldn't be able to enter, he carried on past till he found a place to turn the car, then drove quietly back, hoping they'd be gone. His sigh of relief when he saw the empty road, turned to alarm when he realised the gate was slowly closing! Inge must have set it to open automatically for him and when the bald guy had pulled into the entrance so he could turn his Land Rover and go back, it'd opened! In panic he drove up to the gates, waited thirty slow seconds for them to swing open enough for his car, then drove silently up.

The four friends were enjoying a game of lawn tennis on the court Karmai had mown in front of the main house, when they heard a car coming up the drive. They dropped their rackets and wandered towards the gate to welcome the young man to whom they owed their current pleasant lives. But instead of Frankie's Volt, a Land Rover appeared, drove roughly across the grass and stopped only metres in front of them. The engine died and two men got out, gazing around in a proprietorial manner. The driver was in his thirties. Tall, wide, pale, cautious. Shaven head sunburned to an unpleasant shade of puce. Bulky muscle stretched the fabric of his suit. The passenger was approaching the end of middle age. Thin dyed hair combed over a balding pate. Shifty eyes and an avuncular smile. Bulky fat stretched the fabric of his suit.

'Sorry to interrupt your tennis,' he said without the slightest hint of sadness, waving towards the house and court as if to distract them while his driver opened the boot of the car. 'A wonderful spot you have here.'

The driver closed the boot and moved to stand beside his boss, clasping a pump-action shotgun to his chest. He didn't smile.

A chill descended on the four men. Wearing nothing but shorts they felt vulnerable and stupid, especially when they realised they wouldn't have heard Frankie's car because it was electric and silent. They'd let their guard down and these two were not friendly. Probably friends of Tony. Fuck! No one spoke for about half a minute while the driver stared rudely at each man in turn and his boss turned slowly around, peering at the surrounding forest as if to ensure they were alone. Rotation complete, he flashed a winning smile.

'I've come to thank you for getting rid of Tony,' he stated as if they'd disposed of an unwanted implement. 'I was out of the country when this place came up for sale. He knew I had my eye on it, so deserved what he got for trying to cheat me.'

'Who's Tony, and who are you?' Ingenio asked as politely as he could manage.

'I'm Owen,' he stated as if they should have known. 'Owen Lodes, and this is Happy.' He turned to his gun-toting driver. 'Short for Trigger Happy.' The laugh was humourless. 'That's not a joke by the way.'

'And Tony?'

'Ah yes. Tony. I've come to conclude the deal he was unable to pull off. But I'm not a happy man. You have caused me a great deal of trouble.'


'You are Frankie Fey, I assume?'


'Well, the police think I did away with the late Tony and his ugly sidekick, and are making my life difficult. Therefore you will sign a confession to his accidental manslaughter, and then sign over the property to me as an apology for all the angst I've suffered.'

'No I won't.'

'What do we say to that, Happy?' he asked turning to his driver.

Happy turned a sour face to his boss, shrugged and grunted.

Waiting for just such a break, Sylvan sprang, and would have felled him if he hadn't stumbled. A loud crack echoed and he crumpled; the arm that would have felled Happy held tight against his chest to stem the flow of blood.

Face impassive; not taking his eyes off the three other men, the gunman slammed the toe of his shoe into Sylvan's guts while pumping another cartridge into the chamber.

'You bastard!' Karmai shouted, moving towards his mate.

The gun barrel was levelled at his head.

'Let me help Sylvan.'

'Not till I have the confession and the property transfer,' Owen snapped.

Sensing that it might be wise not to advertise his presence, Frankie stopped just before the gate and was about to get out when he heard a loud crack. There was no wind so it wasn't a tree branch snapping. He picked up his bow, slipped the quiver over his shoulder, and with an arrow already notched crept to the gate and peered towards the garage. About fifty metres away, Sylvan was writhing on the ground. The others looked as if they didn't dare assist him. Karmai was yelling something to two men, one of whom had a shotgun. That was the crack he'd heard. Fifty metres was the limit of his accuracy, but he had a large target and it didn't matter where he hit. Leaning against the gate post for stability he released a silent dart that slammed into the shooter's back, causing him to stumble forward and fall on his face.

The other man's reflexes were good, but it still took him four seconds to extract a pistol from his breast pocket, turn, see Frankie, squat and fire a couple of shots. But four seconds was all it took for a second arrow, aimed at the man's belly, to pierce his throat instead when he squatted.

The four hostages, having heard nothing, stared in astonishment as first Happy collapsed, then Owen fell onto his back, right hand scrabbling for a stick with feathers on the end. They looked towards the gate and as one shouted, 'Frankie! You wunderkind!'

Frankie waved and returned to his car. Karmai dropped beside Sylvan and cradled his head. The other two watched as Owen found the arrow shaft, tugged at it and, because there was no barb, easily pulled it out, not realising it had been plugging a hole in his jugular. The smooth red fountain was spectacular, but didn't hold the attention of Ingenio and Con, who were watching Frankie drive towards them, arm waving out the open window. The car stopped, he got out, and was hugged while they babbled incoherently. Thus it was he who calmed them and accompanied them back to a five litre pool of coagulating blood beside a dead man, and a second body, twitching, struggling to turn onto his side, eyes wide, mouth agape and an intermittent whine coming from a hole in his punctured chest.

'Sylvan's Ok!' Karmai shouted. 'It's his arm, not his chest, I'm taking him inside for repairs.' Half carrying, half dragging, he led his lover away, leaving the three owners staring at the arrow poking out of the unhappy man's back.

'Lucky shot,' Frankie said thoughtfully. Went between the ribs. Very lucky indeed.'

'What'll we do with Happy?' Ingenio asked, placing his bare toe against a twitching shoe.

Well aware of what was going on, the hapless Happy whispered, 'Help me. I can't breathe.'

'Can't have that, Happy,' Con snapped, picking up a large rock and slamming it down on the unhappy man's head.

The twitching and laboured breathing stopped and the three men nodded satisfaction.

'What a mess!' Frankie said in disgust. 'Not the homecoming party I'd expected. You guys always have to be original.'

'Fuck I love you,' Ingenio laughed. 'Come on, let's sluice it away before it dries in the sun, or it'll take a bulldozer to get rid of.'

By the time the gates had been locked and the blood hosed into the grass and soil at the side of the driveway, Karmai returned with a somewhat pale and wobbly Sylvan, whose left arm was neatly bandaged.

'Is it serious?' Frankie asked.

'Not very,' Karmai replied. 'He was so close the shot came out in a tight bunch and only nicked his biceps. If he'd been a metre further away he'd have lost the entire muscle. It'll hurt and there'll be scarring, but it's clean and I'll put him on light kitchen duties for the next week.'

Sylvan grinned sheepishly. 'Can't think what I was doing, racing at the fellow like that. What're we going to do with them?' indicating the two corpses.

'The same as last time. It was bloody clever of you to hurt your arm, you won't be able to help with the disposal business.'

'Ah, that cave that Karmai told me about. I can drag them with one arm. However, as we don't know if there's a satellite overhead making Google Maps, I suggest we drag them into the garage immediately. It would be inconvenient to have this scene on the map when hikers zoom in looking for Blue Mountain forest trails.

When the plastic bagged bodies and the car were out of sight in the garage, Karmai made a cup of tea and they sat around the table.

'I suppose we follow the same procedure as last time?'

'You sound as if you do it regularly?'

'It's beginning to feel like it.'

'No, this time we dispose of the car immediately, the bodies can wait,' Con said sourly, handing Ingenio two Smart phones. 'You're the computer genius, who knows they're here?'

Ingenio checked. 'No incoming calls, I guess he's as careful as us about using these things in delicate situations. One message stating that he's on his way to finish T's business in the hills. Should be back in the city by five. We have to assume whoever got this message knows about this place, so I'll message them back.'

'What'll you say?'

'His message is telegraphic, so how about, "Gate locked, need back-up. Trying M Katoomba." That'll do.'

'As long as there's an M the other's know about.'

'It'll keep them guessing.'

'Yeah. Do it Inge.'

'And then we drive the car over to Katoomba and leave it.'

'What about GPS? If they check they'll know he was here.'

'So what? He says as much in the email, but the gate was locked.'

'Yeah, But the cops who will be looking for them don't know the gates were locked so they'll assume they saw us.'

They went to the garage and checked. Having the only car fitted with satellite navigation, Frankie knew what he was looking for.

'I don't think it was working as they had to ask directions. At least it's a separate unit. Just have to unbolt it.'

'Won't that be suspicious?'

'These things get stolen all the time.'

Twenty minutes later, after wiping all possible fingerprints off door handles and steering wheel, Con drove the Land Rover quietly up the hill to Katoomba, followed at a discreet distance by Inge in his Holden—a less remarkable vehicle was not to be found in the country. Two other off-road vehicles were parked at the southern end of Cliff Street, so Con squeezed the Land Rover between them, and after locking the vehicle and checking no one was close enough to notice him or see enough to recognise him again, sauntered back the way he'd come to the post office where Ingenio was waiting. Half an hour later they were home with both gates again securely locked.

Karmai had lunch ready, which they gobbled down, then stripped and donned old clothes to protect knees and shoulders, loaded the bodies and personal effects, including smashed phones, into the back of the Suzuki, and followed the same process as with Tony and Jerry. This time it didn't seem so arduous in the cave, not being so strange, and by seven o'clock they were showered and eating a welcome dinner in the main house.

All five confessed to being slightly shocked at the ease with which they'd disposed of the two men, and hoped it didn't mean they were becoming as bad as their attackers. Frankie was feeling guilty for having fired merely on suspicion of evil. After hearing the gunshot, then seeing Sylvan wounded and the others threatened by a shotgun wielding man, his rational brain had shut down, swamped by ancient evolutionary survival urges.

Constantine was wondering if he should have called an ambulance for Happy, as his wound probably wasn't terminal as long as it didn't become infected.

The others assured Frankie that they'd not have survived without signing their confession, and calmed Constantine's concerns by assuring him that Happy's life with a collapsed lung would have been horrible, so it was kinder to put him out of his misery and ensure the five good and true men didn't lose their freedom.

In a unanimous decision, Karmai, Sylvan and Ingenio declared that both Frankie and Constantine had done very well indeed, because Owen and Happy were prepared to destroy their lives in the same way Tony had been, so it was natural justice that he should receive the same treatment.

'But there's a danger of it getting out of hand, isn't there? Who's going to follow up on Owen's disappearance and try to do the same thing?'

'And the cops are going to be very suspicious if we're the centre of another disappearance.'

'Well, we can only sit it out and hope for the best and enjoy our life while we have the freedom to do it.'

'It makes it all even more precious, doesn't it?'

Frankie's next four weeks passed in a blur. Every day busy among people he loved, doing what he liked best, and it was with little enthusiasm that he thought about returning to the university.

He had discussed the suicides and his theories with Ingenio and the others, and all agreed it was crazy to treat males and females as if they were the same. Karmai and Sylvan in particular were upset, confessing that they had several times in the past thought it would be better to be dead than continue their lonely lives devoid of a special friend to confide in and trust. As for what, if anything, he should do about the problem, Don't Stick You're Neck Out Too Far, was the consensus.

'You've given a copy of your observations to the Philosophy lecturer, so now write down your arguments for changing things,' Ingenio advised, 'remembering that brevity is the soul of wit.'

Frankie nodded thoughtfully. 'Good advice. But you're obviously dying to tell me your ideas, Inge, so let's have them.'

'Am I that obvious? Okay, start with the behavioural disadvantages of sharing spaces with the opposite sex, especially the sleeping apartments, and then suggest alternative arrangements. Clothing preferences are another obvious indicator of differences, so males must feel free to wear similar clothes to females, and vice versa. Then you could suggest that as the law-makers clearly think the physical differences between penises and vulvas are not indicative of significant differences between the sexes, then it is irrational for either gender to constantly conceal them, and nudity should be considered perfectly natural and acceptable.'

'Yeah, that's good. And rationally, if both sexes are emotionally identical, then it doesn't matter if men see male counsellors, or if there are equal numbers of males and females in clubs and classes.'

'Right. And nor can it matter if males kiss and cuddle and have sex with males! Ha, that'll stump them.'

Brilliant! They'll be trapped. If they continue to insist males and females are totally equal they must agree to changes to prevent further suicides, otherwise they're accepting they are different in some cases and that means their basic premise is faulty. Thanks Inge. I must say it does make their rationalism seem a trifle irrational, doesn't it?

'Indeed it does.'

By the end of the holiday, the memory of Owen's visit had faded. There had been no attention from the police and no mention on the radio news that they tuned to for a week. Ingenio's secretive peeks into both police and media files produced no information. Perhaps Owen's enemies were pleased he'd disappeared and didn't raise the alarm for fear of setting off another police investigation into their own activities.

A timorous hope began to surface among the residents of "85" that perhaps there was no one else who wanted to take Frankie's property from him. But not daring to express that hope aloud, they carried on with their lives.

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