by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 23

Jarek & Leon; Bindi, Irma & Violet.

Weekends with Leon were exactly as Jarek had hoped. Neither spoke unless necessary, each seemed to know intuitively when to offer assistance and when not, and neither man complained, even when hungry, dirty and exhausted. Both exhaled sighs of pleasure when they returned to base and could relax, knowing they'd pushed themselves to the limit.

On the second weekend they made the perilous, three hundred and fifty metre ascent up the escarpment to the tablelands where they spent two days and a night tramping between swamps, covered in mud to deter biting insects. Life was abundant. Leeches, spiders with super strong webs, lizards, monitors, kangaroos, wallabies, possums, fruit bats, birds, snakes—most of them deadly. Fortunately, unlike humans snakes aren't crazed predators killing everything that moves. Like most animals in their natural environment they take only what they need and, in the case of snakes, only what they can swallow. The danger lay in inadvertently stepping on a sleeping serpent. Even then it would probably only bite and not waste venom. Nonetheless, they walked with extreme care.

Deforestation had caused the swamps, and attempts to drain them had made everything worse, creating barren, infertile wastelands of inedible grass and stunted melaleucas. Jarek had planned to climb the escarpment, cross the swamps and return to the sea-level forests in one day, but when they chanced on a clear, sandy-bottomed lake surrounded by sedges and paper barks, they couldn't resist a swim. Leeches plagued them in the wet forests, here it was mosquitoes. Small tortoises and thousands of fish were untroubled by their visitors. A freshwater crocodile sunned itself on a bank, sliding silently into the water at their approach, far more afraid of them than they of it.

A temporary dam of brushwood across the delta of an inflowing stream allowed them to trap enough fish to satisfy their appetites. Then, covered with a thick layer of sedge that kept most of the mosquitoes at bay, they slept back to back, grateful for the other's warmth as it was several degrees colder at that altitude than at sea level. The descent the following morning was perilous. Steep, almost vertical sections of rock and gravel with few handholds. Several times they arrived at impassable precipices and had to retrace their steps and try another route.

Tired to the point of exhaustion, ravenous and jubilant, they wolfed down all the remaining food and slept till dawn, arriving back in town only just in time for Leon to leave for school; too late for Jarek to get back to the cabin and return in the minivan to pick up the last group. Zeno, anxiously waiting by the phone, drove the bus to Edgar's, dropped Cador off and picked up Jarek. They arrived at the high school exactly on time to greet ten nervously expectant boys.

Zeno and Cador's romance blossomed. The more they discovered about each other, the more they argued and the more they delighted in sparring with an equal. Physically they were also well matched; fit and not into organised activities despite Cador's success at cricket. Both were mental extroverts and mild exhibitionists, both knew a little about classical music and wanted to know more. Destiny had been working overtime to organise this meeting of minds and bodies.

On Wednesday in the last week of term, Violet Noble and Irma Medlar decided something had to be done about Bindi. She had been a regular at their meetings, joining in discussions about the perfidy of men, and yet there had been something not quite right about her behaviour. Not only had several women reported seeing her in the company of young men in the town, but the drawer full of condoms still rankled with Irma. After a brief discussion they decided to settle the question that evening.

After two hours cooped up in Irma's little sports car, three doors along from Bindi Hussey's house, the two women were about to give up when their prey slammed her front gate and tottered across the street only metres from the spies, who sank down in their seats. They needn't have worried; Bindi's brain was concentrated on not tripping in her ridiculously high heels. A mini skirt and a sleeveless lace top that failed to reach her navel were her only other garments. In the middle of the road she dropped her purse and bent to pick it up.

'She's not wearing a bra.'

'Nor panties.'

'She's very brave,' Violet muttered.

'She's a credit to us. Women must claim the right to dress exactly as they please without fear of predatory males.'

'She's walking, so can't be going far.'

'Just to the corner shop, I expect, for some milk. When she returns we'll join her. She must be feeling lonely, poor lamb.'

They got out of the car, stretched, and followed Bindi as far as the Footy Club. Without a backward glance the young woman entered, waved to someone and was immediately lost in the noise and crush of patrons.

Silently, the two social workers, for that was how they saw themselves, returned to Irma's car and waited.

Bindi didn't wast time. Stu, Col and Jerry were sitting in their usual spot. They seemed uninterested so she bought them a round of drinks and invited them home for some fun.

They looked at each other, shrugged, said they had nothing better to do and followed her out, waving to the team coach on the way.

'She's coming!'

'Followed by three young men.'

'Are they going to attack her?'

'No, they're laughing and talking.'

The two women lay back in their seats as their prey walked past, then after waiting a couple of minutes followed them through the gate. Instead of knocking at the front door they decided to reconnoitre, as Violet quaintly put it.

The lounge room sliders that faced a high wooden boundary fence, were open to the warm night air. Keeping to the shadows, Violet and Irma squatted among the shrubs about five metres from the open doors, leaning fairly comfortably against the fence. Almost immediately the three young men entered, followed by Bindi who immediately threw off her clothes and began tongue kissing the men while undoing shirt and trouser buttons. They looked at each other and shrugged as if wondering if it was worth staying.

'Got any booze?' the good-looking one asked.

Bindi hurried to the kitchen, leaving her three lotharios to undress. They tossed their clothes on the floor then sprawled side by side on the couch like the three monkeys, arguing about the last football match. When she returned with bottles, condoms and a hand cream dispenser on a tray, the men lazily drank beer while their hostess knelt in front, performing fellatio on each in turn. While she was occupied with the sexy hairy one, the skinny pale fellow rolled on a condom and took her roughly from behind. She laughed delightedly. Then the chunky, tough guy took his friend from behind. The sexy one then grabbed Bindi's hair and rammed her head up and down on his erection, setting the pace. Ninety seconds of thrusting and grunting in unison was all it took for the three men to more or less simultaneously orgasm.

'All for one and one for all,' the chunky one whispered as he withdrew from his mate. They stood and gave each other a high five.

'The Three Fuckateers score again,' the hairy one laughed as they tossed their condoms on the floor, dressed and made to leave the room.

'You can't just go,' Bindi whined. 'I haven't come yet!'

'Use a fucking dildo, Bindi,' the stocky one snapped, leaving her clawing irritably at enraged genitals.

Irma and Violet were too shocked to think and didn't dare move. Agonising cramps were attacking their knees and thighs by the time the young woman finally achieved some satisfaction with the neck of a beer bottle, and left the room. As they were rubbing circulation back into aching joints they heard a bath running.

'We have to confront her,' Irma said nastily. 'This is worse than Belle Paigann's sneering.'

'Confronting is scarcely enough, in my opinion,' Violet hissed. 'Such a traitorous bitch doesn't deserve to exist. She has brought shame on all womanhood. Offering herself like a whore to men unable to appreciate the magnificence of a woman. They just used her as a rag to wipe themselves on. Now her shame must be wiped out, and we, as the agents of feminine superiority are the ones to do it.'

Nervously, Irma tiptoes after her vengeful friend into the house, wondering what she had in mind. They stopped outside the bathroom door.

The taps were turned off. The silence softly broken by Bindi's grunts of pleasure as she immersed herself in hot water. The avenging angels crept into the bathroom. Violet thrust the shoulders and offending head under water while Irma lifted the legs, holding them firmly. Their victim struggled rather more than they'd expected, and it took much longer than either had imagined, but eventually the last bubble escaped from Bindi's mouth and they crept out the way they'd come and drove home, Irma hoping the splashed water hadn't ruined her new silk blouse.

The body wasn't discovered until Friday afternoon, when friends from work finally decided to see why Bindi hadn't come in to the office. By the time the police and other experts had finished with the scene, Stephen, Zeno and Cador, who's father had made no inquiries, either official or unofficial about his son's whereabouts, were two hundred kilometres south in Stephen's car—the only major possession he'd retained from his separation with Violet.

Jarek was an hour behind them in his ute, having paid a short farewell visit to Leon and Claudius. While Leon was in the kitchen making tea, Jarek gave Claudius the five hundred dollars taken from Annie, to assist with Leon's educational needs. After a friendly drink they swapped addresses and promised to keep in touch.

Walking out to the ute with Jarek, Leon confessed to feeling guilty because although sex with Hank was OK, he found him intellectually dull.

'Hang in there, Leon. A friend is a friend and worth more than gold. As you mature you'll drift apart. That's normal. You haven't declared eternal fidelity to each other. He's probably feeling something similar. So stop worrying.'

'I wish I was twenty-four now, then you'd never get away from me.'

'I wouldn't want to.'

Jarek stroked his friend affectionately on the cheek, climbed into the ute, and Leon waved till he was out of sight.

Zeno's carefully worded letter to his grandmother had resulted in personal letters to Stephen, Cador and Jarek, inviting them to stay with her at least until after New Year.

As Bindi's ex-lover, Jarek was a person of interest to the police. When he couldn't be located they tried to contact Stephen. He was also nowhere to be found. His wife's fury when she discovered her husband had slipped the noose, rendered her speechless with wrath. Even a visit to the lawyer who informed her she now owned the house outright but was not to attempt to contact her husband, did nothing to calm her outrage.

Invoking justice, decency and honour, she volunteered to the police an imaginatively embroidered account of Jarek's perfidy in dumping sweet, innocent Bindi, suggesting it was he who had murdered the girl, probably assisted by the rapist, Zeno Paigann, who was surely involved in the death of dear Adele, and whose mother was a sly, underhand cheat.

Enthusiasm undeterred by a cautious reception from the interviewing detective, Violet felt duty bound to also mention the three young footballers she had witnessed accompanying poor Bindi on the street. Just in time she stopped herself from admitting she'd seen them entering Bindi's house. That might have triggered unwanted questions.

Thanks to Violet Noble's testimony, Zeno, Stu, Jerry and Col joined Jarek as murder suspects, but there police intelligence stalled. Zeno too was nowhere to be found, and the strenuous denials of the footballers were collaborated by an elderly neighbour who had seen them leave and heard Bindi moving round the house several minutes after they had left. She hadn't been spying, of course, she just happened to be in a room whose window was only a couple of metres away over the dividing fence. Anyway, it was impossible not to know what went on in the young woman's house, she wasn't a quiet person, playing her music loud and late without regard for her neighbour and inviting young men in for orgies on a regular basis. She wasn't surprised the nice young Mr. Schwartz had left!

How did she know they were orgies?

'Well, Inspector, why else would a young woman invite three single young men into her house? You had better ask them if you're interested. But I've already told you, it wasn't them!'

The police officer praised her for her observational skills and asked if she had any idea who it might be then.

A smug smile settled and the old woman dropped her bombshell, describing the ridiculous little sports car that had been parked a few doors along from the murdered girl's house on several occasions, one of which was the night in question. Yes, she'd noted the numberplate, and there were two women in it—one in her twenties, the other elderly.

The following day the information was checked, but by the time a car was sent to Irma Medlar's house it was too late. Violet's rage at the man who had so ignominiously dumped her had reached incendiary level and without much effort she had persuaded Irma to join her in exacting retribution.

Using the duplicate keys she had illegally acquired several years previously, Violet had searched the High School records and discovered the forwarding addresses of her husband, Jarek Schwartz and Zeno Paigann. When she realised they were all going to the same place her head nearly exploded. It took Irma several minutes to calm her enough to realise it was lucky, because they could kill three birds with one trip, so to speak.

Hearts full of hot revenge; heads empty of plans, they sped south.

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