Greg Priestly slammed his fist against the steering wheel. “Why now, of all times?”
Fuming, he pulled over to the side of the road. He saw no point in driving any further. He hit the button to activate the Bluetooth connection to his phone.
“Please say a command now,” a dulcet voice announced.
“Phone Jill,” Greg said. He waited for the phone to recognise the instruction, and then for his personal assistant to answer. It was a Saturday night, so he kept his fingers crossed that she would be able to help.
“Hi, Greg. How’s the party going?”
“G’day, Jill. No ideas on the party — I’m not there yet. My stars said I was in for some bad luck, and they were right. I’m… ah… lost.”
Jill laughed. “Greg Priestley, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, who claims he’ll never get lost because he’s got a state-of-the-art GPS system, is lost? I think that’s called poetic justice.”
“Yeah, yeah, rub it in. I wouldn’t be lost if the GPS hadn’t packed it in. I was following its instructions when it suddenly died on me. Do you suppose it has something to do with this windstorm that’s going on? I’ve had to detour a couple of times because of fallen trees. It’s a good thing that I’ve got a four-wheel drive.”
“I think those systems operate from satellite signals, so they shouldn’t be affected by storms. Anyway, where are you now?”
“No idea. I was just following instructions. I don’t have the faintest clue where I am.” Greg glanced through the window and into the darkness. “Some country road. I think I can see a light from a farmhouse, but it’s a fair way back from the road. Maybe I can ask them where I am?”
Greg could practically hear Jill nodding her head. “Why don’t you do that, and then ring me back. I’ll fire up my computer so I can give you directions to the Slavoski estate, once we know where you are.”
Greg laughed. “A living, breathing GPS system? Sounds like a good idea. It’s just like a Virgo to think of something like that.”
“I’m no GPS. I’m just going to read an online map — something you’ve forgotten how to do. You did remember the present, didn’t you?”
“Of course! I hope Stan’s daughter and her fiancé like it. What are their names again?”
“Rachel and Peter. The CEO is not going to be happy when he learns you couldn’t remember their names.”
“There’s no need to bring Dad into this. Just because Stan’s one of our oldest customers, as well as being a personal friend of his, doesn’t mean I have to know everything about him. That’s what I’ve got you for — you always make sure I don’t make any major blunders.”
“Does that mean I can get a pay rise?” Jill laughed. “Now go and find out where the man who never gets lost is currently geographically misplaced.”
Greg declined to react to his PA’s bait, and ended the call. He started the engine and edged his way along, looking for the farm entrance. He found it a short distance down the road. He saw something lying on the ground, but it was only when he felt the bumps that he realised it was a farm gate. He suspected it had recently fallen over, as he couldn’t see that the owners would want to drive over it regularly.
He followed the winding track through to an old house and a large barn-like building. The light he had seen was coming from the barn, but he approached the house first. It was quickly apparent that no one lived there, as the building was derelict.
Greg then walked up to the other building. He saw some pens off to the side and could barely hear the sound of barking dogs over the noise of the wind.
He knocked on the door, but then reasoned that no one would be able to hear him, so he opened it and stepped inside.
The inside of the building was brilliantly illuminated by numerous ceiling lights. A huge hydroponics system dominated the space. As a wave of humid air swirled around him, Greg quickly closed the door to keep the warmth in.
He saw two men, one large and broad and the other more non-descript, turn towards him. Greg grinned. “G’day, I’m Greg and I’m a Gemini. Can you help me? I’m a little lost.”
“How the fuck did you get here?” The large man was scowling as he reached behind his back.
“I just followed the track.” Greg smiled broadly, trying to allay any suspicions they might have. He turned on the charm that was an important part of his successful career. “You’ve certainly got quite a setup here. Very impressive.” He glanced at the nearest plants, idly curious as to what the men were growing. He was partial to hydroponically grown tomatoes and was going to offer to buy some, if appropriate.
“You say you’re lost?” the man asked.
Greg nodded, but his mind was no longer on the conversation, as what he saw caught him by surprise. He realised he was standing in a large shed that was full of cannabis plants. He started to back away. “If you’re busy, maybe I should ask elsewhere.”
The large man brought forth a pistol from behind his back. “I don’t think so.”
Greg panicked and turned for the door.
He didn’t make it.
* * *
The older couple both gasped as the mortuary employee pulled back the white sheet. The woman turned and buried her face in the man’s chest.
“You recognise him?” Detective Zachary Black asked.
The man nodded while comforting his wife. “Yes, that’s our son.”
Stephen Priestley waited until they were no longer in the sterile surrounds before he asked the question that had been at the back of his mind since he was first alerted to the possibility that his son’s body had been found.
“What happened? He looked… bloated.”
“We found the body in Seven Mile Creek. The vehicle hasn’t been recovered, and we suspect it’s probably been broken up for parts.”
Stephen took a moment to comfort his wife. “Why don’t I look after this, Cherie? Your sister said you could spend some time with her, if that helps.”
Cherie’s pale face nodded. “Thanks.”
After organising for a policewoman to sit with Cherie until her sister arrived, Stephen returned his attention to the patient detective. “You didn’t say how he had ended up in the creek.”
Black frowned. “We began looking for him after his PA raised the alert two days ago. One of my young officers took a very simple approach to the problem. He used the same version GPS and software as your son had, started from the same location, and used the same intended destination. That route, or any reasonable variation, went nowhere near where the body was found. We cross-checked with the phone records, and we’re reasonably sure we know where he was when he called Jill Teresa, again nowhere near the body’s location.”
Detective Black took a deep breath before he added the part he had been avoiding. Despite years on the force, it wasn’t easy to give specific details to grieving family members. “He has three bullet wounds, and either of two of them would have been fatal. Your son was murdered.”
Stephen gulped. “Do you have any idea of who killed him?”
Black nodded. “We do, but we can’t prove it. There’s only circumstantial evidence, and we doubt it would be enough to convince a jury. We have reason to believe that your son stumbled onto some criminal activity. A known drug dealer has some land in the area, and we suspect that was the property your son told his PA he was going to visit, but we have no real evidence. We got a warrant and searched the place, but we found nothing conclusive.”
Stephen turned away and stared out a window. He was comfortable with the sight of the city, but he visualised the lonely country road where Greg had died. He turned back to the detective.
“Whatever it takes, whatever the cost, I want my son’s killer found and brought to justice. I’m prepared to offer a two million dollar reward, if that will help.”
Black nodded his head slowly. “It might, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
* * *
“You have to ring Gary,” Cherie said, three nights later.
Stephen grunted. “You know he’s not part of this family anymore. He made that decision years ago when he turned his back on us and walked out on the family business.”
“I don’t give a fuck about what you think. He is part of this family, and you’re going to ring him!”
Stephen was shocked into silence at his wife’s uncharacteristic use of profanity.
“This isn’t about business, this is about our son. Gary’s brother is dead, and he deserves to know about it. The police say they’re going to release Greg’s body tomorrow, and Gary should be here for the funeral.”
Stephen opened his mouth to argue, but his heart wasn’t in it. His favourite son was dead. His other son — the one who had left his home, his family, and even the country, to live the life he wanted rather than the life his father had created for him — was all he had left. Knowing she was right, Stephen walked over and gave Cherie a kiss. “I’ll call him now.”
“Will he be up?”
Stephen glanced at his watch and, with knowledge gained from many international conference calls, made the time calculation. “It’s about two in the afternoon, his time.”
Stephen went to his study and rang his executive assistant. “Michael, can you please get me Gary’s number?”
Michael’s surprise was noticeable over the phone line. “Gary MacKensie? I can call and patch him through, if you want. There’s no need for you to ring him.”
“No, not him. Gary, my son. And I’ll be calling him myself.”
There was a short silence. “Are you sure, sir?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Now get me that number!”
To Stephen’s surprise, Michael had the number within seconds. He wondered how it happened to be handy, but decided it wasn’t important. He thanked his assistant and then nerved himself for what would be the toughest call he’d had to make for many years.
“Hello?” a still familiar voice answered, though with an American accent.
“Gary, it’s your father.”
The line went dead. Gritting his teeth, Stephen rang the number again.
“Leave me the fuck alone!” Gary said, before Stephen could get in a word. The line went dead.
Stephen gathered his thoughts. He rang the number a third time and spoke as soon as the call was answered. “Greg’s dead.”
There was silence, but no disconnect.
“The funeral will be when you can get here, if you want to come,” Stephen said, not sure if he wanted Gary to be there or if he preferred him to stay away.
“How did he die?” Gary asked in a subdued voice.
Stephen had to swallow before he could answer the question. “He was murdered.”
“The police believe it was a drug dealer by the name of John Brettson, but they can’t prove it. I’ve offered a reward, but there’s been no takers so far.”
“Greg’s not into drugs!”
“I never said he was.” Stephen paused to reign in his temper. It was not the time to start an argument about Gary misrepresenting what he’d said. Gary’s reaction did confirm Stephen’s suspicion that the brothers had stayed in contact after Gary had left the country. “The police think Greg stumbled across Brettson doing something illegal, and that’s when he got shot.”
“Why can’t they prove it?”
“The guy denies it and there’s only flimsy circumstantial evidence. The police are sure it’s him, but they don’t have anything that would convince a jury. I’ve had a private detective checking things out, but that’s been a waste of money.”
“Is that all you can think about? The waste of money? What about the waste of my brother’s life?”
“Gary, I’d give everything I’ve got, if it would bring Greg back. But it’s not going to. All I can do is try to bring his killer to justice. I don’t care about the money — I just want to make sure it’s being used for that goal and not thrown away.”
There was a short pause. “I’ll catch the next plane back to Australia.”
“I can organise flights for you, if you want.”
“Don’t bother. I’ll do this myself. I’ll let you know when I’m arriving.” Gary disconnected before Stephen could say anything more.
* * *
As Gary left customs, he saw his mother waiting for him, her chauffeur standing nearby. He walked up and gave her a long hug.
“You’re looking good, Gary.”
“Thanks, Mum. You’re looking as beautiful as ever.”
Her laugh was weak and forced. “Thanks, son, but I know how I look. The last week has been a nightmare that I wish I could wake up from.”
“I noticed Dad didn’t bother to come.”
She fixed him with a steely eye. “He wanted to, but I didn’t let him. I don’t think he could’ve handled seeing you. He still hasn’t really come to terms with Greg’s death.”
“That’s Dad. Not able to deal with anything important.”
Cherie Priestley slapped her son across the cheek. “That was uncalled for! Your brother is dead, and I will not have that being used as another tool in the long-running argument between you and your father. He’s been grieving for days, and I’m seriously concerned for him. He’s barely eaten since Greg’s body was found.”
“I’m sorry. I promise I won’t say anything about it again.” He paused, worried for his mother, but he knew she wouldn’t entertain questions about how she was coping. “You know I would’ve come home earlier. I came as soon as he called.”
She patted him on the arm. “I know you would’ve. Now, come on. Andrew will take your bags. I’ve got your room ready for you.”
Gary shook his head. “You two can take my bags, but I’ve got something I have to do before I come home.”
“What do you mean? The funeral’s tomorrow. We scheduled it as soon as we knew when you would be arriving.”
“I’ve got someone I have to see.” He kissed his mother. “I’ll be home later today, but there are things I have to do, first.”
He marched off, leaving the other two behind. He headed to the taxi rank and took the first available vehicle.
“Where to?” the cab driver asked.
“The St. Kilda Road police complex.” Gary had gotten the name of Detective Zachary Black from his father’s personal assistant. Michael was one of the few who kept in touch after Gary left the family business.
* * *
Their barking dogs alerted John Brettson and Ian Bower that they had a visitor.
“Go deal with them, Ian. I need to get this sorted out,” John said as he concentrated on the papers in front of him. They needed to get another undercover site organised as soon as possible if he was to meet his delivery targets. He had regretted the necessity, but the old operation, where he and Ian were currently working, was dismantled immediately after the intruder had been dealt with. He was reviewing plans for a hydroponics installation at another one of his properties.
“Sure thing.” Ian left the barn. Moments later, he was back. “Umm, John?”
John looked up when he heard Ian’s hesitant voice. “I’m busy, so this had better be important.” He noticed that Ian was pale. “What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“You know that guy that interrupted us a couple of weeks ago?”
“The one who saw the plants? Yeah, what about him? We know the cops found the body, but there’s nothing to link him to us, so we’re in the clear.”
“Er… well… he’s outside.”
“No. The guy you killed.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“The dead guy. He’s outside.” Ian was shaking.
“You must be seeing things.” John pushed himself out of his chair and shoved his way past his business partner.
He stopped as soon as he stepped outside. The man he had killed was leaning against the Range Rover that he had driven two weeks prior.
“G’day! Remember me? I’m Greg and I’m a Gemini.”
“But… but… but you’re dead!”
The apparition frowned. “Are you telling me something I don’t already know? I will say that I’m not particularly happy.”
“Wh… what do you want?” John was peripherally aware that Ian was cowering behind him, but his attention was focused in front of him.
“Justice.” The figure crossed its arms and raised an eyebrow.
“What do you mean?” John’s heartbeat was beginning to slow down as he realised that the figure wasn’t making any move towards him.
“Is justice that hard a word to understand? When someone does something wrong, they get what’s coming to them. That’s justice.” The figure pointed at John. “I want justice for what was done.”
“I…I… don’t know what you’re talking about.”
At that point, John noticed that the dogs hadn’t stopped growling at the newcomer. He wasn’t sure, but he didn’t think they would growl at a real ghost. He stealthily reached for his pistol.
“Really? You don’t remember me showing up a couple of weeks ago, looking for directions? You don’t remember what happened next?”
John drew his gun and pointed it at the apparition. “I remember. I don’t know what happened, but I’ve killed you once and I can do it again.”
The figure laughed. “You can certainly try, but no matter what you do, I’ll have justice. That’s now assured.”
The pistol aimed at the figure shook as John’s doubts took hold. Whatever he was facing didn’t appear to be concerned about the gun. “Maybe I should put a few holes in you and see if you’re still talking about justice.”
The figure scowled. “You can do what you want. I’ve already got what I came for. You’re going down, John Brettson, and so is your partner, Ian Bower.”
Ian grabbed John’s gun arm. “He knows our names!”
John turned his head and shook his arm. “Get off, you idiot!” He turned his attention back to the apparition, to see it ducking behind the Range Rover.
Something clicked in John’s mind. “It’s a trick!” He surmised that a real ghost wouldn’t be running away.
He had started to move forward when the sound of engines made him pause. He glanced to the side and saw three sets of car lights rapidly approaching.
“Ian! Inside now and hide the plans.”
John wanted to help get rid of the evidence in the barn, but he had to keep an eye on what was going on outside. His fears were realised when three police vehicles pulled up. When cops with guns drawn jumped out of the cars, he dropped his pistol and put his arms up.
“On the ground!” a voice boomed out.
John obeyed while protesting his innocence. “I haven’t done anything.”
“John William Brettson, you’re under arrest for the murder of Greg Priestley.” Another police officer proceeded to read John his rights, which he barely heard. He was glaring at the guy he thought he had killed.
* * *
“Why didn’t you run as soon as you had his confession?” Detective Black asked as he accepted the wiretap that had transmitted John Brettson’s confession to the waiting officers.
Gary shook his head. “It wouldn’t’ve been in character. He had to believe I was a ghost. Basic acting 101.” Years working as a low-paid actor in Hollywood had helped. Acting was a long way from being a high-flying business executive, but Gary was doing what he had always wanted to do.
He had pushed his acquired skills to the limit in the week following the funeral. He made sure he knew what Greg was wearing that night, and changed to the same hairstyle. He convinced the detective to get a duplicate set of number plates made and applied to a vehicle of the same model as his brother’s. He practised in front of recordings of business presentations that his brother had made, to get the voice right, though he broke down in tears the first few times he watched them. He knew he would have only one chance for the most important performance of his life.
“You know, you almost gave me a heart attack with that weird opening statement you made. I was sure Brettson would know something was up”
“That’s the way Greg always introduced himself.” Gary stared at the prisoners and sighed heavily. “My brother believed that identical twins being born in the sign of The Twins had to mean something special.
“I guess he was right, but I wish it wasn’t so that we could catch his killer.”
Copyright Notice — Copyright © September 2008 by Graeme.
The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form — physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise — without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.
Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.
I would like to thank Ray, Kel, C James, Shadowgod, and also everyone from The Mail Crew for the advice they have given me on this story.
I would also like to thank Aaron and Rain from The Mail Crew for editing this story for me. I can thoroughly recommend their website to all teenagers who are gay, lesbian, bi or not sure.
This story first appeared in the Gay Authors 2008 Fall Anthology.