Frankie Fey

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 36

Biter Bit

'How on earth did the cops get evidence against criminals before the internet?' Frankie was checking through some of the previous day's printouts.

'It certainly took a lot longer and used up more manpower, and was therefore difficult to coordinate. It's amazing how well they did. It's funny and sad,' Constantine mused, watching Ingenio at work, 'that we're all so grateful that our governments provide equipment and wireless bands and allow free, instant transmission of ideas and information around the globe, not realising that the primary reason is to have instant access to every citizen's details, thoughts, plans, finances and everything else. It's Big Brother multiplied. They're never going to restrict emails or anything else because that might interfere with their surveillance. That's why I like to keep a low profile. But even that's fraught with risk. There's a giant computer doing nothing but trolling for little-used names and sending alarm signals to check up why Frankie Fey isn't a regular user of his main account. What is he hiding? Search deeper. He's obviously a terrorist!'

'Sadly, Constantine, you are not exaggerating,' Prudence agreed. 'I'm so glad Frankie taught me to be financially independent. I do not want to work for a society that is becoming ever more invasive, repressive and unequal. I'd opt out if there was anywhere to opt out to.'

'Yeah. The planet has shrunk to a single, open backyard devoid of trees but filled with pointless games.'

'Con, I need your expertise,' Ingenio interrupted. 'I'm checking court records, but which courts? And I want police charge sheets, what do I ask for?'

While the two men searched, noted, saved and compiled, Frankie took Prudence for a walk down to the swimming hole and to the boundary with the National park where he'd shot the foxes and hares. She was impressed and wished she had more of a view from her place.

'I love my house, but it's beginning to feel polluted. I might sell it once I've rid myself of the Swyndill woman, and get something a bit like this where I'm not going to be cut off every time there's a flood, especially as floods are becoming more common.'

It was too cold for a swim, so they climbed to the high lookout, which had Prudence in raptures. Ingenio and Constantine greeted them on their return with satisfied smiles.

'We've got them,' Constantine announced gleefully. 'Colleen Swyndill, who is fifty-one, used to be a home-care nurse for aged and senile men and women whose children weren't interested until they realised the money they expected to inherit was filling the pockets of a nurse who had hacked into their parents' credit card accounts. She spent eighteen months in prison and lost her entire savings due to fines and reparation.'

'The nasty old bitch!'

'She was also accused of maltreatment of her clients, although no charges were laid. Her defacto, Jeremy Harley is forty-six, has a criminal record and has served several prison sentences for accepting deposits to paint houses, then not turning up. Also for stealing cars, and posing as a meter reader to gain entry to houses to steal jewellery.'

'It's lucky I've no jewellery to speak of, and my debit card is linked to only one account. The others are all secret and require passwords and electronic tokens, which I have with me.'

'Very wise because your friend Empirika Swyndill, is twenty-seven and a clever woman. Have you made out An Enduring Power of Attorney or a Will, Prudence?'

'No. Neither. I don't trust anyone enough to give them control over my affairs. I suppose I ought to make a Will, but I'm waiting until I meet someone I want to leave my stuff too. Why?'

'Because according to the Public Trustees office, they have on file an Enduring Power of Attorney signed by Prudence Prodijee naming Empirika Swyndill as the executor of her estate should Prudence Prodijee lose her ability to conduct her affairs. They also have a copy of a legally signed Will in which the same Empirika Swyndill is named as sole beneficiary.'

'But… how? The bitch must have copied my signature! I'll bet Colomb… Colleen pretended she was me and… surely this isn't possible?'

'No government department or Internet website is safe. They are shockingly understaffed and underpaid so have to employ incompetents, and this is the result. A competent hacker could easily create a false document and insert it into the appropriate government departmental file.'

'But… but this is terrible!'

'It certainly is, because those people will benefit from your death. And if Frankie gets in the way I don't think they'd worry about eliminating him. Karmai's warning last night was apropos.'

'What about Massimo?' Frankie asked.

Martin Harley has served several short prison sentences; the first aged fourteen for causing grievous bodily harm to a young man who disturbed him stealing his cars. The others also for aggravated aggression. He is currently wanted by the Queensland Police in connection with the disappearance four weeks ago of Shareen Murdok.'

'He said she had driven him to your place, Prudence, the day they arrived, but whoever was driving took off before anyone could check if it was Shareen. It could have been one of his mates getting him away from the scene!'

'Ingenio and Constantine, I am in total awe of you both,' Prudence stated, shaking her head in disbelief. 'In a few hours you've given me cause to be very concerned, but also prepared. But how do I prepare? And for what, exactly?'

'First question, do you want the cops at your place?'

'Not if I can avoid it. I don't trust them. If even once in the last hundred years they had admitted fault or had said that what they had done was not right, then I might trust them, but they have murdered hundreds of prisoners, mostly indigenous, been totally corrupt with prostitutes, drugs, real estate, hand in glove with developers, and even when courts declare that they hadn't acted according to the rules, they deny all fault. And if compensation is offered to families torn apart by police harassment, violence and murder, they vociferously oppose paying any compensation because that might be taken as acceptance they were wrong. There may be some good cops, but their union is evil and I'll avoid them if possible.'

'Fair enough. Actually, all you have to do is threaten them with the police.'

'How? By sitting down and telling them we know all their naughtiness and we will tell the cops if they don't go?'

'Not a good idea because you'll be discovered at the bottom of your swimming hole before you got near a cop.'

'Then how?'

'I suggest we print off an official Police notice warning that they are hiding in their area. They are dangerous, so citizens should avoid all contact and report any sighting immediately to the police. Do you have a mail service?'

'No, I have a Post Office Box in the nearest suburb.'

'Could you get one of the Swyndills or Harleys to collect the mail for you?'

'Yes, Rika also uses that mailbox and takes my car every second day to check it.'

Constantine and Ingenio shared a grin. 'Then you've got them.'

The notice was printed on a perfect replica of the NSW Police Department letter heading. Even the colour of the ink was correct. The message was simple and direct.

"Notice to Residents of Molloi's Pocket and Surrounding Areas.

The New South Wales Police Force is interested in contacting the following people: Jeremy and Martin Harley, and Colleen and Empirika Swyndill, to assist them with certain matters of public interest. It is believed they drive a Faylabago campervan and are camping or renting accommodation in your area. Please contact the police if you have any information regarding their whereabouts."

Underneath was a contact name, phone number, email address, and fax details.

'How many should we print?'

'Just this one. You don't want the locals complaining because the phone and email addresses don't work. Empirika won't know that yours is the only box to receive the notice. So, off you go, place this in your mailbox as you go past, checking first that your house guests aren't nearby having come into town for a pizza or something. Then drive home and be your usual, sunny selves, all cured of your bellyache.'

'Actually, Rika would normally have collected the mail today, but unless they drove their campervan she wouldn't have been able to. Massimo told Harley she was waiting for a certain letter before they could do whatever they were planning, so that's why she's been so keen to check. I'm such a fool to trust strangers.'

'No, you're a pleasant young woman and we are very pleased to have met you at last, and equally pleased that you and Frankie have realised you're friends. Come and see us again when he returns from India. Which begs the question, Frankie. When are you going?

'As soon as we're rid of those people. What're you going to do when they've gone, Prudence?'

'There's a month-long mathematics symposium I want to attend in Melbourne. I just have time to register. That'll give me time to sort my head out.'

It was late afternoon by the time they drove around the block checking to see if any Harleys or Swyndills were shopping nearby. They weren't, so Prudence opened the box, removed all the mail, and replaced it with the notice, folded with the police logo on the outside.

They then drove to a park where Prudence tore open the letter addressed to E Swyndill. She scanned it and handed it to Frankie who read it aloud, 'Dear Miss Swyndill, this is to confirm that The Mental Disability Certificate you faxed to us allows you to use your Power of Attorney to access the accounts of Miss Prudence Prodijee, and to dispose of any assets belonging to her on condition it is to her benefit. In the event of her death, then her latest Will and Testament will be your guide. Sincerely, Tchiet, Robb and Skumm, Solicitors.

The Harley-Swyndills were sitting in the kitchen when they arrived home, barely able to conceal their disappointment that Frankie hadn't died from his bellyache. They offered a cup of tea, but didn't ask how he was or where Prudence stayed the night or how she filled in her time.

'Did you check for mail?' Rika asked abruptly.

'Oh, stupid me, I never even thought about it because I never get any. You can go tomorrow.'

'Would you mind if I went now?' Rika asked in conciliatory tones'

'Of course not! Go for it. Although I'm beginning to wonder if you're getting love letters from a secret admirer.' She laughed to show she wasn't serious, then she and Frankie went for showers while Columbine and Massimo made supper.

They had just sat down to eat when Prudence's car drove roughly in and they heard Rika enter, go to the bedroom and use the toilet before joining them, Her face determinedly serious.

What's the matter?' Harley sounded annoyed.

'I've just received a note from Ruby,' she turned to Prudence and explained, 'she's storing all our extra stuff in her garage. Well, her house has finally been sold, she's been waiting three years so we thought she would never sell, and she wants us to clear the basement as soon as possible.'

'That's ridiculous. Where's her letter,' Harley snapped.

'No need to snap! It's in my handbag in the bedroom. Come and look at it if you're so impatient.' She stamped out, followed by Harley. They returned a minute later. Harley shrugged defeat.

'Rika's right. The silly cow forgot to tell us. She's moving out in two days. If we don't get there by tomorrow the basement will be cleared. We have to go tonight.'

'What? Now?' Massimo sounded genuinely annoyed.

'Yes, now!' Harley turned to Prudence who was looking convincingly confused. 'I'm sorry, Prudence, but this is urgent. We have some very expensive equipment in that basement, so we really have to go. But as soon as we've found somewhere else to store the stuff, we'll be in contact and come back and finish our filming.'

Prudence turned to Empirika. 'Surely you don't have to go?'

'I'm afraid I do, Prudence, some of my best stuff I've been saving for an exhibition is there. But we'll be back.'

Prudence and Frankie exchanged suitably astonished looks, then cleared away the meal and did the dishes, remaining in the kitchen while the Harley-Swyndills gathered all their possessions and stuffed them haphazardly in the van.

Hearing the vehicle start up, Frankie and Prudence walked through to the front just in time to watch their visitors motor sedately down the drive.

'They didn't even have time to say goodbye, thank goodness. I couldn't have stopped myself saying something offensive.'

'I've awoken from a nightmare,' Prudence said softly. 'It was so easy! Ingenio is a total genius!'

They waited until the sound of the engine died away, then wandered through the house.

'We've been lucky,' Prudence laughed from her bedroom, 'Rika's taken that antique clock, the gilt candlestick, and my silver bracelet.'

'And you've lost a futon and just about everything from the bathroom, including the scales and mirror.'

They subsided onto seats in the courtyard in a fit of nervous giggles.

'Thank goodness! Now they're proven thieves they'll never be back.'

Frankie stayed another two nights to keep Prudence company while she organised her trip to Melbourne, and a security firm to make occasional checks of the house, then they visited the relevant Government offices to ensure the Will and Enduring Power of Attorney were nullified and expunged from all records. After assuring each other of their friendship, they promised to keep in touch and drove their separate ways; Prudence's brain immersed in higher mathematical conundrums; Frankie's envisaging enlightenment in a remote, mysterious, romantic and picturesque mountain-top Buddhist monastery.

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