Rough Justice

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 21

Dressed in their brashest and best they dined well, if a trifle expensively considering another car was on the shopping list, at a bistro on the waterfront. By nine-thirty they had fronted up to the nightclub, forked out for membership and entrance, and ascended the two flights of stairs. The large, dim space contained glittering reflections of four mirror-balls, a small dance floor, Hard Rock music blasting from a dozen speakers, assorted tables and chairs, and a bar. A couple of hunky waiters in brief leather waist-coats, torn-off jeans and work boots were pushing tables and chairs together, lugging boxes of bottles across to the bar, washing glasses and getting things ready. The only other patrons were four respectable, business-suited types perched on bar stools.

'We're too early.' Robert gazed around in dismay. This was not his idea of a gay nightspot.

'Nope. Perfect timing. We've got an hour before it gets too packed to do anything except grope. Come on, dance!'

Bart was a natural. No matter what the music he could move to it. What Robert lacked in experience he more than compensated for in energy and grace. The place soon became crowded with patrons who were anything but homogenous. Guys in jeans and T-shirts chatted to suits and ties, corduroys and cardigans. A young couple gyrated wildly in backless leopard-skin pouches, bronzed bodies bearing testimony to either an inordinate amount of time in the gym or a handy supply of steroids. An older man in a caftan was dancing with a youth in a sailor suit and stuck-on tattoo. Several leather boys strutted their stuff, and a couple in calf-length battle-boots and not much else, writhed in a world of their own.

'This is liberated!' Robert shouted through the wall of sound. 'I love it when people wear what they want. Wait till next time.'

'What'll you wear?'

'My gold chain.'


'That's about it. Gets too sweaty dancing.'

As theatres and cinemas emptied, the club began to fill to overflowing, mainly with conventionally dressed singles, couples or groups, whose roving eyes, distracted expressions and nervous smiles broadcast their intentions. It soon wasn't much fun on the dance-floor. Pushing their way to the bar they attracted their share of gropes and strokes - the kiss of life if you're single and on the prowl, a joke if you're with your lover. By midnight they'd had enough and joined the exodus of those going on to other clubs and parties; forcing their way down the stairs against a rising tide of patrons making the same progression in reverse.

On the street, an eddying of bodies calling taxis, greeting, waving farewell, or loitering – hoping to meet the man of their dreams. Bart and Robert had just crossed the street when a surge of patrons pressed nervously back towards the entrance. 'Gay-bashers!' shouted a voice. Panic stampede back up the stairs. It wasn't cowardice. No one had a baseball bat handy and like the persecuted everywhere they had learned the life-preserving proverb: He who runs away today, lives to fight another day.

Bart grabbed Robert's sleeve, dodged between parked cars and dragged him down behind some rubbish bins in a stinking alcove. They just had time to wriggle into a position facing the street before six louts wielding short iron bars swaggered up the street.

'Kill the queers! Punch the poofs! Fuck the faggots!' they chanted softly in a deadly monotone, venting their vileness on a couple of parked cars before catching sight of two laughing men chasing each other out of a side street. Suddenly soundless, the six pounced, twisted arms up behind backs until screams reached a satisfactory level, then punched and kneed in stomach, head, and groin. One of the victims vomited, so they threw him down and kicked.

Robert's blood drained. 'Can't we do something?'

'Shut-up and keep your head down,' snapped Bart, whose concern for Robert's safety was the sole thing preventing him from launching a suicide attack on the terrorists. 'Hey! Look at that skinny one!'

It wasn't until police sirens sounded at least two long minutes later, that the assailants took off like shadows, leaving one groaning, writhing heap, and a silent bundle of agony.

'Did you see him?'


'I reckon. By Christ we're going to nail that miserable bundle of bones good and proper!' Bart was rigid with tension, his jaw so tight he could hardly get the words out. Robert was paralysed with shock. He'd only seen this sort of thing in a movie. But this was totally different. He could smell the vomit, violence and fear. Hair was still standing up on his arms and legs. A sickness gripped throat and bowels. They stayed hidden until both victims had been consigned to an ambulance.

At home they hunched over cocoa, too shocked to speak. Robert began to shake and tears poured down his cheeks. Bart squatted beside him. 'We couldn't have done anything. You were tougher than this when I got bashed.'

Robert was not to be calmed. Panic had invaded his soul. 'If this is what it's like being gay,' he sobbed, 'I don't want it any more. I can't handle it! Why can't we just love each other, live together and not be...?'

Bart stroked his cheek. 'It's not always like this.' He took both Robert's hands in his. 'Apart from tonight, the last week's been great, hasn't it?'

Robert turned incredulous eyes on him. 'How about Hyacinth? And the blokes on the bikes?'

'That didn't hurt us. Think of all the Aborigines who can never escape the abuse heaped on them everywhere they go. We can at least hide, they can't.'

'I know you're right, but… but it doesn't help. I feel sick! Anyway, I read that Aborigines hate queers too, so it serves them right.'

'Only those who want to suck up to right-wing whites.'

'I could see myself being bashed and kicked and wondered what I'd do. I tried to picture wrestling with them, and it nearly made me laugh! Wrestling's useless against those sorts! They don't follow rules. I'm going to take up Karate - learn how to disable and cripple an armed attacker by reflex.'

'Can I join you? Without the crippling?'

'You'll bloody well have to. I can't defend us both against the world… The World!' His laugh was chilling. 'Susie warned me about the world. She told me that if I couldn't accept the world as it is, I'd be doomed to unhappiness. Right then! I accept it! I'll become part of it! But look out the Lances, Nikelseers and gay-bashers of this world.' Something in the voice made Bart's heart freeze as Robert muttered, 'From now on it's an eye for an eye - and a tooth for a tooth!'

Sunday was spent in serious wrestling practice. The events of the night before had been discussed and debated, leaving them with a passionate determination to fight for their right to be themselves without harassment. By five o'clock they were parked in Jeff's drive.

'A change of plan, if you agree,' he announced, bouncing down the steps towards them. 'There are more cartons than I'd realised. They won't all fit in Sanjay's car so you'd better take the van. Do you mind?'

'That'll be better! We can sleep in the back, don't you reckon, Bart?'

'Suits me.'

'Great. Open the doors, Jeff, and we'll transfer our gear.'

Bart perched on a stool in the kitchen watching Susie prepare the meal while the other two retired to Jeff's office to sort out the paperwork. When everything was in order, Robert took a letter from his pocket and handed it across. 'What sort of person wrote this, Jeff?'

Jeff read with increasing interest and incredulity. He looked up with a puzzled frown. 'Who does he think he is? God?'

Robert laughed. 'I think so. How can you tell?'

'Apart from the substance of the text, look at the signature. It takes up four full lines vertically and slightly over half the page in width. He writes both first names out in full instead of the usual initials. That's so unusual as to make it almost a collector's item. And look at the flourishes. This isn't a signature invented when he took out his first savings account, this he composed as an adult and it's full of the presumptuous certainty of his own superiority. On its own it's almost an insult to the recipient.'

'A pretty good description. What did you think of the letter?'

'It would seem to confirm my analysis. I'm impressed, I don't think I've ever inspired such a letter.' He sounded almost jealous. 'Have your parents seen this?'

'You don't think I hide my successes from them do you?'

'I certainly hope not. Grab the glory.'

'And good advice too. Would I be able to copy his signature?'

'With practice.'

'Show me?'

They bent their heads over many pages of scrap paper.

'You're getting the idea, but you're too slow. I can detect every waver and indecision. If you have to think about it while you're writing, it will show. Having mastered the style, size, and decorative flourishes, you must now commit them not only to memory, but also to reflex.'


'Three thousand repetitions should do it.'

Robert grunted in disbelief. 'Uh? Who'd be a forger?'

'I didn't hear that. I'm assuming it is merely academic curiosity fuelling your interest.'

'Of course it is. That was a rhetorical question.'

'Naturally. By the way, I imagine you can use a word-processor like the one in the letter?'

'Of course. Why?'

'That signature must be appended to the correct type of text to convince anyone it's genuine. What's the font?'

'Times-New Roman, 12.'

'Spacing? Paragraph indent? Margin width?'

'I get you. There's a lot more to think about than I'd realised. Maybe a word-processor's not as impersonal as I've always thought.'

Bart put his head around the door. 'Susie's getting mad. Come on you two.'

The table was groaning with fat and sugar-laden food; the diet binge having played itself out as usual. They took their coffees into the lounge afterwards, where Susie played some simple-sounding Mozart sonatas on the piano.

'That was wonderful, Susie,' said Bart in genuine amazement. 'I admire musicians, especially pianists, more than any other people. As a kid I tried to learn the piano. A woman over the road said I could use hers. Unfortunately, she also had a library. A whole room full of books including every Doctor Doolittle.' He shook his head in mock sorrow. 'As a result I've memorised all the adventures of the Doctor, but remain musically illiterate.'

'Yep, she's not too bad for a Gypsy,' Jeff said proudly. 'Tell me, what's happened about your car?'

Having resolved the previous night to take firm control of their lives and not to give power to others, their account of the situation was almost light-hearted. If we don't act like victims, we will cease to be victims, they had decided, thus lifting their spirits and removing most obstacles to future happiness.

'Were you insured?'


'That's lucky. Once an insurance company got its teeth into that bit of felony your lives would be a misery. They'd be certain to start the ball rolling by accusing you of trying to write-off your own car.' Jeff looked at them thoughtfully. 'So, someone's still out to get you. A worrying thought. No joke at all. You know who, I gather?'

'Fair idea. Same bloke who tried to push me over the brink, and locked Robert in the shed and set light to it. We've no proof of course, so were keeping our eyes skinned.'

'Naturally. But surely you should go to the police?'

'With suspicions? No way. We've been over and over this and the disadvantages outweigh any possible gain. The cops are sympathetic enough, but as they made it clear to Sanjay, without something concrete from us they are powerless. We'll take extreme care and if we get any proof, then we'll do something. Meanwhile, if we're lucky he'll show his hand.'

'Dangerous tactics.'

'But you'd do the same.'

Jeff smiled and Susie looked concerned. She leaned over and took Robert's hand in hers. 'Life's not easy for you two, is it?'

They smiled thinly.

'You will let us know if we can help, won't you?'

'Sure, Susie, thanks. But no worries! We're a great team, a match for any bunch of bullying bastards.'

They went home early as Robert had to be ready to wrestle at nine o'clock the following morning.

'What were you and Jeff conspiring about?'

'Just a vague idea I had. I got him to look at Nikelseer's letter to my parents. I wanted to get his opinion of the signature. He's a bit of an expert you know. It's amazing; he gave a perfect description of the little bastard, just from that one letter. I thought we should get to know everything about the enemy as a sort of insurance in case all else fails.'

Bart looked sceptical.

'I have to feel I'm doing something. Stop worrying,' he added to Bart's narrowed eyes and pursed lips. 'I won't do anything without telling you first. Promise!'

Bart remained uneasy. This new insouciance was almost as disturbing as the previous evening's despair. Up till now, Robert's admirable common sense had been based on balance, not on see-sawing from one extreme to the other.

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