Frankie Fey

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 54


First the monastery, and now this! Frankie's logical brain refused to accept the coincidence so it shut down and concentrated on escape before the fire brigade arrived, people noticed him, asked questions, then blamed him for arson and murder. Fuck!!! This was not a nice thing to have happened. Ignoring cuts and scratches, Frankie scrambled over the fence, the stream and the neighbour's fence, paused among the trees to rub off the worst of the leaves, mud, blood and other detritus, then put on shorts, shirt and sandals from his satchel. He crept closer to the neighbouring house. There was no sign of life so he risked walking boldly past the verandah, down their drive and out to the street.

But which way? What direction was he facing? Should he go left or right? He'd cycled south from the city on a busy road for about fifteen kilometres to the first beach, then another say five kilometres past the other beaches, then with Inesh about a kilometre east, away from the beach to where he was now. He looked up at the sun, drew an imaginary clock on his palm and made the twelve face the sun. As it was around four-thirty he put his finger on where the number two would be. That was near enough due south. So he faced that way and thought.

They hadn't crossed a busy road in Inesh's car, so he'd better head east to where the road his bus had driven along two days before should be, and maybe there'd be a local bus. The poorly sealed road he was standing on was heading more or less north-east. That would have to do, so he set off. It was hot, his head ached, the cut in his ribs throbbed and mosquitoes came out to play. After several bends and two intersections he arrived at a two-storeyed concrete bunker of a building plastered with large, garish advertisements in Hindi.

Upstairs seemed to be offices, but a wide doorway in the centre at street level offered a shady interior, and a giant banner across the front in violent red, purple and blue proclaimed it was the Al Ameen Super Bazar. Giant photos of a girl and boy ecstatic in delight at the idea of Lazza ice creams, argued with Fundae Carry-Homes and American Ice-cream. He was thirsty and hungry having purged himself of the dreadful lunch, so he entered the large dim supermarket throbbing with refrigeration units, selected a couple of bottles of drink and four cellophane-wrapped food items, then waited until three women in saris had been served before handing his items to the overweight man behind the counter. After scanning the purchases, the assistant said something in Hindi. Frankie smiled and nodded, handed over a note, accepted the change, smiled and nodded again, then asked if there was a bus nearby heading to the centre of the city.

The man raised his eyebrows. 'Ha! I thought you were Ahmed's boy,' he said in a fairly thick accent. 'He's just returned from Mumbai. Do you know him?'

'No, sorry. About that bus?'

'There's one every half hour. Nearest stop is Theatre Junction.'

Frankie looked suitably lost.

The man took him outside and pointed back the way Frankie had come. 'Go down there, first turn right, keep going and you'll get there. Ten minutes.'

'Thanks very much. You are very helpful.'

The man nodded and returned inside.

As soon as he found a secluded spot, Frankie drank the liquid and ate the heavily spiced savoury rolls, then, nervously expecting to be smashed into by Inesh in his wagon, he hid his long hair by concealing it in his other shirt wound around his head, hoping it would look like the turban things worn by the fishermen. After passing dozens of bungalows and a hospital, the road became increasingly commercial and he arrived at the intersection of three roads.

Opposite was a large pale blue and cerise curved building that, according to the sign in both Hindi and English, was the Sree Neelakanta Theatre. Giant posters on the wall facing the street showed large faces of angry men, a woman, and smaller scenes of chaos, suggesting it was a movie theatre, not a live entertainment centre. To the right was a large alamanda bush in full yellow flower. He felt instantly, impossibly homesick. They had one of those beside the house at "85".

Telling himself not to be stupid, he looked around for the bus stop. There were two bakeries, two restaurants, a mini supermarket, an optician and an office block but no obvious bus stop. He asked a passing teenager who pointed to a post in front of the theatre. After ten minutes he'd just decided he was in the wrong place when two young men arrived and confirmed it was where the bus into the city picked up passengers. He relaxed. And then he saw Inesh's vehicle driving slowly down the road he had recently walked. In blind panic, he squatted behind the two young men and pretended to adjust his sandal. They ignored him and Inesh's Tata continued slowly along the road to the city, Frankie's bicycle still strapped to the roof rack.

The bus was packed, which was a blessing. Jammed into the centre aisle he'd not be seen from outside. It was a hot and sweaty ride, but with all the windows open not smelly, and half an hour later it stopped at the terminal where he had arrived. What to do now? It would be dark soon. He didn't want to return to the hotel in case Inesh could somehow find he'd been there. He was still hungry. A table for one at the rear of a large popular restaurant nearby was a temporary refuge while he ate a spicy meal that made him thirsty, so he drank two bottles of water then went to the toilet and saw himself for the first time in a mirror.

What a mess. Hair like a haystack, blood, grass and soil marks on his face and neck, clothes rumpled, hands filthy, eyes staring and chin in need of a shave. In Sydney he'd have been shunned as a homeless bum. Here, people had been as polite as ever. He remembered passing a men's hairdresser, so after splashing water over his face and neck and washing his hands, he allowed himself the luxury of a shave and haircut in the style of other men his age. The result was startling. He looked neat and reliable. Pleasantly ordinary. Less conspicuous. He felt just a little bit safer. It was seven o'clock. Where to spend the night?

Nineteen hours until his flight. Hide in a park? Find a different hotel? Go to the airport to confirm his ticket? But why would he do that? He had a whole day for that tomorrow. Eight hours to sleep, nine more hours to fill. He could buy a book and read for an hour. He shrugged. The problem seemed insurmountable. At any moment Inesh could see him and kill him. He had to hide. The portico of a temple beckoned. Outside, dozens of people were milling, but inside seemed dim and safer. He went in and stood in a corner to think.

'Ok, Shiva,' he whispered, hoping whichever god the temple was dedicated to wouldn't mind, 'Tell me what to do.' As he expected, there was no little voice in his head giving instructions so he wandered out, checked the coast was clear and just started walking. Five minutes later he realised he was on the way to the airport. Impossible to miss, being illuminated like a Christmas tree with hundreds of lights draped over the scaffolding-like portico. Inside the great barrel-vaulted concourse, hundreds, if not thousands of travellers and their welcomers or farewellers were milling like colourful sheep. He found the desk for his airline and joined a queue, for once not impatient as it moved slowly forward. The man at the desk scanned the ticket, consulted a screen and frowned.

'That flight has been cancelled,' he said, peering at the screen. 'Union problems in Australia.'

'But what…'

The man held up his finger to stop the questions. 'The next flight with Business Class seats available is with Air India in three days time.'

'I can't wait that long. Is there no alternative?'

'There's a Singapore Airlines flight leaving in two hours, but there are only first Class seats available, do you wish to upgrade?'

'Yes.' Frankie handed over his Debit Card, was relieved when the purchase was approved, and clutched the boarding pass as if it was a life-raft.

'Have you no luggage?'

'No, I sent it on earlier.'

The man nodded.

Wondering why he had suddenly decided to go to the airport, would be the path to madness, Frankie decided. It was merely a coincidence. But that didn't stop him whispering thanks to Shiva.

A shower in the first class departure lounge brought him back to life. A steward found some disinfectant for his cut that was already looking infected. Tea and savouries in the lounge revived him, and two hours and twenty minutes later jet engines throbbed through the seat, he was thrust firmly back into welcoming cushions, and looked out the window with a shudder of relief as the lights of the city dropped away.

'I have escaped,' he whispered before falling asleep.

Four and a half hours later at Changi he made three circuits of the giant concourse to stretch his muscles and restore circulation. Eight hours later he looked down at Sydney through thick smoke. It was a relief to undo seat belts and leave the metal canister, despite acrid smoke that made ten o'clock in the morning seem like ochreous dusk. The sun a red ball in the sky. No one knew he had arrived and he didn't want to tell anyone. He needed time to process the last few days so he wouldn't become hysterical at the telling.

He wandered up to the observation area and watched an Air New Zealand flight land and disgorge its load. Unable to make himself leave the airport and take up his old life, he wandered down to the crowded arrivals court, watching people being met, hugging, laughing, kissing walking excitedly away. A young man remained standing alone in front of a large map of the city, peering at it through horn-rimmed glasses. A suitcase almost touching his leg. He removed his spectacles and peered even closer at some small print. Must be myopic, Frankie thought.

Like a shadow, a figure in dark clothes passed between Frankie and the young man and suddenly the bag was gone. It took precious seconds for Frankie to realise what had happened and set off in pursuit. But it was hopeless. The thief simply disappeared among the milling throng; just another passenger lugging a suitcase.

Frankie ran back to the young man who was staring around in shock. Eyes wide. Mouth open. Frankie ran up and took his arm.

'I'm sorry,' he said. 'I chased the fellow but he disappeared.'

'But what can I do?' he looked angry rather than fearful. 'Everything I own is in there.'

'Not your passport and money I hope?'

'I've still got my passport from going through customs, but most of my money was in there. I thought it'd be safe. It was practically touching my leg.'

'Tie it to yourself next time. Come on, we'll report it to the Airport Police.'

'But… who are you?' He looked suspicious.

'I didn't take your suitcase. I saw it happen and chased the guy who did, but didn't get a good look at him. Could have been male or female.

'The bastard, now I'm totally fucked.'

'Are you religious?'





'Yes. but what has all that to do with it?'

'It helps me decide what I want to do. Who's your favourite living male singer.'

'Um… hang on…' his face lit. 'Bogdan Mihai.'

'Do you think I'm handsome?'

The young man sighed. 'I don't know you well enough to have an opinion yet, but I can't help liking you.'

'Excellent. Let's go to the cops.'

The police took names and addresses—Frankie gave "85" as both their addresses, they made a note of the contents of the bag, a description and what Frankie saw. They held out no hope of finding it, but promised to let them know if it was found abandoned. That sometimes happened.

Frankie led his new acquaintance out to the main concourse and sat him on a seat.

'What are…'

'Shhh…. I'm thinking,' Frankie grinned. 'Ok, now I'm ready. 'If you told the cops the truth, your name is László Brooker, you come from New Zealand, you are twenty-two, you had nearly a thousand dollars in the bag along with your clothes and parting gifts from friends.'

'Yes. Who are you?'

'I'm Frankie Fey, Twenty, resident of the address we gave the cops. Unemployed. How'd you get the name László and that beautiful brown skin?

'My father's Maori and my mother's the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. László is her father's name.'

'Right, László, here's what I suggest. It's getting on for lunchtime, so let's go into town and find something to eat, then we'll sit in the park and tell each other what we want the other to know about ourselves, and then we'll decide what happens next.'

'But I'm expected at my aunt's place. I was going to stay there.'

'Do you like your aunt?'

'She's alright.'

'Give her a ring and tell her something's come up and you'll be late.'

László frowned. 'What exactly has come up?'

'I've decided I like you and want to get to know you.'

'That was quick.'

'He who hesitates is lost. So ring her.'


Are you telling me you don't have a little apparatus that snaps open and takes pictures and tells the world where you are and …'

'No way! Mum tried to make me have one but I knew she'd be forever checking up on me. They're invasions of privacy.'

'Careful, I'm in danger of falling in love with you.'

László grinned. 'Aunt will just have to worry until I get there.'

'If you ever do.'

'Is that a threat or a promise?'

'Yes. But first I need some money.'

Frankie took a couple of thousand dollars from an automatic teller beside one of the Bank branches then they exited the vast concourse, found a taxi, and half an hour later were deposited in the centre of Sydney, having learned that the smoke was from bush fires burning in the mountains to the north-west of the city.

After buying bread rolls, cheese, bottles of drink, two tomatoes, and two bananas, they found a shaded patch of grass under a tree in Hyde Park and tucked in. When both were satisfied, Frankie took fifteen, hundred-dollar notes from his pocket and glared at László. 'Now, I don't want a fight. I am giving you some money. If you argue, I will wrestle you to the ground and stuff the notes into your mouth until you choke.'


'Because I like wrestling.'

'Why are you lending me the money?'

'Not lending—giving. Because I didn't catch the thief and I want you to feel independent and secure and not make decisions because you think you owe me. I can afford it and will not notice its loss. Ok?'

'I feel a fraud.'

'Don't we all.'

Frankie handed László the notes.

He counted them and froze. 'There's five hundred more than was stolen!'

'Your clothes and bag need replacing. So… get comfortable and listen to a brief synopsis of my life.'

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead