The house seemed so quiet after everyone had left this morning, leaving just Aaron and me there alone. It felt nice. It felt like for the first time in my life I was in a place where I was accepted for being just who I was, with no expectations on me other than to just be me. I can’t explain how… what’s the word… liberating, I think, that feels.
I know that I probably didn’t deserve to have been welcomed here, especially after the trouble I know I had caused for Matt and Luke last year, but it felt nice to finally have some place that actually felt like a home, and to be amongst people that actually felt like they were family.
And to have met someone like Aaron, well, that was just the icing on the cake, wasn’t it?
After we had showered earlier we went back to the bedroom while the others bustled about getting ready to head off for their destinations, then when everyone had left we emerged from the room, made ourselves some coffee and headed out onto the verandah. We knew that we wouldn’t be heading in to town until a little later, so there really wasn’t a lot of point in getting dressed, therefore we had remained in our shorts. As the first part of the morning slipped by, entwined in each other’s arms and sipping on coffee, we sat there lost in our own thoughts, listening to the warble of magpies, the sound of surf rolling in onto the nearby beach and the hum of highway traffic.
For me at least, I could honestly say that I thought life was finally getting better.
I think that we may have surprised the guys last night when Aaron stayed over for the first time, but even they must have known that sooner or later we would take that step. After all, hadn’t we dropped enough hints over the past few weeks?
Aaron had been staying often, at least part way into the night before he would head off to his house. I had also visited his house on a few occasions and stayed late; although that wasn’t something I wanted to do all that often if I could help it - as his folks were far from welcoming. I suspected that they saw me as just another teen punk, there to sponge off whoever I could.
Of course Aaron knew better than anyone what his parents were like, and had even tried to warn me, but it wasn’t until I had visited the house myself that I believed him. He had kept telling me that he wanted to get out of there as soon as he possibly could. Now I knew why.
Sitting on the verandah in the sun and just taking it easy like this was an experience and a memory that I will now cherish forever. No matter what happens from here on, these days spent with Aaron, Luke, Matt and the rest of the guys will always go down as some of the happiest I have spent.
With my arms wrapped around Aaron, letting him lie back against me and with me hugging him to my chest, it seemed the perfect start to the day and I could have easily stayed there forever. We talked about the things we had done in our short lives so far, about the things that had brought us together, and the things that we one day hoped to achieve.
We told each other our secrets. I now knew his, and he knew mine. I told him about what had happened with Matt and Luke last year. I told him about how my mother had pressured me into making false accusations against Matt, simply because of her prejudice. He told me how his parents would go off for days at a time, leaving him to fend for himself and the other kids, and how, with Scott’s help, he was now saving for a motor bike, so that he could come and go as he pleased and do whatever he wanted to do, and not have to depend on anyone for anything ever again.
‘Do you really mean that?’ I whispered into his ear. ‘I hope that some day you’ll be able to think that you could depend on me.’
Twisting around in my arms he turned and faced me, with his almost angelic face bearing an expression that I found difficult to read.
‘Do you really mean that?’ he asked. ‘You know how many people have let me down already. I couldn’t take it if it happened again… especially not from someone that I was…’
‘Sssshhhh,’ I whispered. ‘Don’t say things like that. I know it’s early days yet for us, but I’ve… I’ve never felt about anyone else, ever, how I feel about you right now. I know we’re young, and I know that most other folks wouldn’t understand, or would dismiss us as just being kids, but I want to be around you for as long as you want me around. You got that?’
He looked up at me and smiled, then reaching up with one hand he cupped my face, then leant forward and kissed me.
‘You want to be careful doing that,’ I said to him once we had broken apart. ‘A guy could really fall for a kid like you if that happened too often.’
‘Is that so?’ he replied, then leant forward and kissed me once more.
* * *
We passed the early part of the morning sitting in the sun on the verandah and talking, before eventually I went back inside and grabbed the exercise book that I had been using as a journal (of sorts) and started adding to it, much to Aaron’s amusement.
‘What do you write about?’ he asked me.
‘It depends,’ I answered truthfully. ‘Usually just what’s going on in my life and what’s happening around me.’
‘Am I in there?’
At first I didn’t answer him. I simply grinned at him instead, then when he made a half-hearted swipe at the book I snapped it shut and hugged it close to my chest.
‘I might let you read it one day,’ I teased.
‘You better!’ he said, as I opened the book up once more.
After I had finished writing we spent the remainder of the morning back in bed learning some more about each other, and about each other’s bodies, followed by a swim at the nearby sheltered beach, just through the scrub and bushes from the house.
This was new territory for both of us. We were still getting to know each other and even though we were enjoying each other’s company, had become good friends and were now lovers, we were yet to take that final important step that would link us forever no matter whatever happened in the future.
We were both virgins. I know we both wanted to do it, as it was always called, but just now it didn’t feel right. When it did eventually happen between us I wanted it to be at just the right moment. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to be the act that would finally say to Aaron: I LOVE YOU!
I’m sure that most people would say I was just being a romantic fool, but hey, what is wrong with that? Anyhow, a lot of fun could still be had between now and when that moment would arrive, and I think between now and then we both intended to have just as much of that fun as we could stand.
It was sometime after noon when we finally made it into town. When we first reached town we called in at the caravan park for starters, but neither Scott nor Justin were there, so we continued on down the road to the middle of town. I bought us some hot chips and some drinks from one of the shops, then we headed for the edge of the lake and sat under a tree to enjoy them.
‘How long have you lived here?’ I asked Aaron as we ate.
‘Since I was a little kid. I think we moved here when I was about five, or something like that.’
‘Do you like it here? Do you want to stay here when you’re older?’
He picked up another chip then popped it into his mouth, grinning at me and chewing all at the same time, then once he had swallowed he took a swig from the bottle of Coke we were sharing.
‘Ewww… backwash!’ I teased.
‘Ha! You let me stick my uncut cock in your mouth and now you’re worried about a bit of spit?’
‘Okay. You have a point there,’ I laughed. ‘Now, you didn’t answer me.’
‘Well, I do kind of like it here, but…’
‘Sometimes I think I’d like to travel around a bit and see other places, then maybe come back here later on. Then hopefully live in a little shack by the sea with my boyfriend and live happily ever after.’
When he said those last words he glanced directly at my face and raised his eyebrows, as if asking a question.
‘Wow. It sounds like you’ve got it all planned out then,’ I remarked.
‘No, not quite all of it… not yet anyhow.’
‘And do I know this boyfriend you want to settle down with?’
‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure you’ve met. He used to cause a lot of trouble, but it seems he’s got his shit together lately. I’ll let you know if it works out like I’m hoping.’
‘Yeah, you make sure you do that!’ I laughed, before then popping some chips into my mouth.
When we had finished eating we sat there in the shade of the old tree for a while longer and watched some boats on the lake, as well as a few people on the paddle boats. Nothing much was said; we were just enjoying the day and each other’s company. Right at this moment everything was perfect, yet we both knew that it wouldn’t be like this forever.
‘Do you think we should try and find Scott and see if he has found out anything yet?’ I eventually asked.
I didn’t want to break the magical spell that seemed to have been cast over this day, but I knew I had to. The more I thought about it the more determined I was to see this through; not just for Aaron and for the kid from yesterday, but for everyone around here. I was falling in love with not just the boy I was with now, but with the whole place and if I intended to stay here, with Aaron, and with Luke and Matt and the others, then I wanted to do something that would make a difference.
‘I guess we should,’ Aaron answered softly.
I looked across at him and saw the change that had quickly come over him simply by my mentioning what we had come to town for.
‘Don’t worry yourself,’ I said. ‘If this comes off then there’ll be nothing for anyone to worry about around here again. It’s strange that a couple of kids could hold the key to something positive happening here, and that’s something that you should really be proud of.’
‘It has to come off first.’
‘It will,’ I said, as I got to my feet and put a hand out for him. ‘I’m sure of it.’
* * *
We found Scott and Justin driving up the main street a short time later; or should we say, they found us, pulling into the kerb just in front of us as we sauntered along.
‘Hey there, boys,’ Justin called to us through the open window. ‘How are things today?’
‘Great, thanks,’ we replied. ‘How about you?’
‘Good so far. We’re off to see old Sergeant Marsh, so maybe you should ask us again after that.’
‘We’ll, good luck then. Will we see you at your place tonight?’ I asked them.
‘Yes, of course. We can talk about it then. You boys take care now.’
‘We will,’ Aaron answered.
With that Scott started the truck once more and backed out onto the street, then put it in gear and roared away, with a plume of choking blue smoke following in his wake.
‘Damn, I wish he’d get a new truck,’ Aaron coughed.
‘So, what are we going to do now?’ I asked him. ‘Should we go to the hospital and see if we can find out anything?’
‘I… I guess so,’ Aaron answered. ‘Got to do it some time I suppose.’
‘Well, you had better lead the way then, seeing as I’m the new kid in town.’
We set off along the road in the direction of where the creek flowed out of the lake and headed for the sea, crossing the bridge shortly afterward and climbing the small hill on the other side. From there the road led down the hill on the other side toward the jetty where the fishing boats docked, which we could see bobbing in the blue waters in the distance ahead of us when we topped the rise. We didn’t start down the hill toward them, however, instead turning into a road which led a point which overlooked the sea, upon which a sprawling white building sat within manicured gardens, looking out over the sea, the lake and the town.
‘Is this it?’ I asked him as we walked through the main gates.
‘Yep,’ he answered. ‘This is where it all happens, but I don’t think that’s all that much these days, as most people go to the hospital in Macquarie Harbour for operations or whatever. This is just a small one. I think it was in the news that it might even get shut down or something.’
‘So, what do we do? How do we find this kid, do you reckon?’
‘Shouldn’t be hard. I’ve been in there once when I had my appendix out and it’s just the one corridor with some rooms down each side. We just see what room has a beat up looking kid in it.’
‘And try not to get caught?’
‘Will that matter? We can just say we’re looking for the kid that came in yesterday because we go to school with him or something?’
‘Which will only work if they don’t ask us his name.’
Aaron only nodded in reply.
The main doors slid open all by themselves as we approached them and we soon found that there was no one at the reception counter when we walked in through the entrance.
‘This way,’ Aaron said, while tugging my tee shirt and pulling me in the direction of a dim hall that led away to our right.
The smell of disinfectant always made me want to gag when I came into these places, but it wasn’t too bad in here. Maybe that was because it was only a small hospital or something, I wasn’t sure, but at least I knew I wasn’t going to throw up my lunch before we finished what we had set out to do.
A middle aged nurse passed us and smiled as we crept along a corridor with green linoleum on the floor, but at least she didn’t stop us or want to know what we were doing here. As we walked along, our shoes squeaking on the polished floor from time to time, we looked in the rooms and that found most of them were empty. One or two contained very old people who were sleeping. One had a man with a broken leg in plaster, with steel rods sticking out of him and with wires supporting his leg, which looked damned uncomfortable.
We were on edge as it was, but a minute or so later we were scared out of our wits when a voice coming from directly behind us said, ‘You boys must be looking for Paul. Friends of his are you?’
We jumped and spun around to see the nurse standing there looking down at us. We hadn’t even heard her approach.
‘Uh… yeah,’ Aaron managed to say. ‘We were told he came in yesterday.’
I shot Aaron a sideways glance, which thankfully, didn’t seem to be noticed by the nurse.
‘Yes, that’s right. The poor dear. He’s right down at the end of the hall, on the left. I’m sure he would like some company. You just go on down.’
She turned and left us standing there, disappearing into one of the nearby rooms, where an old lady sat in a chair by her bed.
‘Come on,’ I whispered, with it now being my turn to drag him along by the t-shirt. ‘We better get this over with. Do you know any kids named Paul?’
‘Only one,’ he replied, looking worried.
‘What is it?’
‘He’s only about twelve or thirteen. He’s the brother of one of the kids in my class at school. If it’s the same one.’
‘Well, there’s only one way to find out.’
Aaron stopped at the doorway and looked into the room, which was quite dark as the heavy curtains had been drawn across the windows. I stood behind him, with one hand on Aaron’s shoulder, just letting him know that I was right there and behind him on this.
‘Who’s there?’ a voice said from inside the room.
‘It’s Aaron here,’ Aaron said, before stepping into the room. ‘How are you doing, Paul?’
‘Do I know you?’
‘Yeah, you’re the brother of Chris from my class in school,’ Aaron said as we walked closer to the bed. ‘And this is my mate, Tony.’
The eyes in the battered face that was staring back at us shifted from Aaron to me, then back again.
‘We heard about what happened. We just wanted to see if you were okay.’
I looked Paul up and down and saw that he was covered in bruises. His arms, his body. His face. There seemed to be no end of black and blue. There were also some dressings on his ribs and arms, which must have covered cuts or abrasions, but thankfully for him there didn’t appear to be anything broken.
Paul looked away from us and I thought I saw the glint of a tear form in his eye, before spilling out and rolling down his cheek.
‘What did you hear? How could anyone know what happened?’
‘We were there just afterwards… when the cops were searching around the place.’
Paul’s head snapped back toward Aaron and his eyes widened.
‘We saw someone else there, hiding in the bushes. You know who we mean, don’t you?’
Another tear escaped Paul’s eye and ran down his cheek.
‘He’s done it before. He did the same thing to me. And we don’t want him to do anything like it again to anyone else.’
‘W-w-who do you think it was?’ Paul stammered.
‘It was Andy Thompson. It was him that did this to you, wasn’t it?’
Paul’s face suddenly drained of all colour and more tears welled up.
Aaron went straight to him and sat on the edge of the bed. Holding out his arms for Paul he wrapped them around the sobbing kid and drew him close, hugging him as if he were a baby and rocking him back and forth. Barely a sound had been made, yet Paul was letting it all out.
The two victims of Thompson’s attacks were connecting in a way that I hadn’t reckoned on, so I just stood back and left them be. A few moments later I heard the sound of footsteps in the hallway and turned to see the nurse standing there behind me, taking in the scene. She looked for a moment as if she too were about to burst into tears, but all she did was give me a gentle pat on the back, then turn and leave us.
Eventually, after several minutes of quiet Aaron held Paul away from him and looked him in the eye.
‘You can tell us,’ Aaron began. ‘Was it Andy Thompson who did this to you?’
Paul looked scared, but eventually he nodded.
‘And did he touch you anywhere else? You know, like…’
‘You mean, like my doodle?’ Paul whispered.
Paul nodded and said; ‘He… sucked on it. In the toilets.’
‘Have you told anyone else that?’ I asked him, while stepping closer to the bed.
‘Listen, Paul. Like I said, he did the same thing to me a while back, but… but I never told anyone about it. If we both tell the cops now we can get him locked up or something, so he can’t ever do it again. Do you understand?’
‘Tell the cops what?’ a voice suddenly boomed out from behind us.
Startled we all looked at the doorway, where we soon saw the imposing figure of a middle-aged policeman standing in his blue uniform, complete with a peaked cap, a pistol and handcuffs on his belt and a gut that said he liked way too many donuts or beers.
The policeman took a step inside the room and looked us up and down. Behind him stood another, much younger, policeman, as well as the nurse.
‘Hello again, Paul. Hello Aaron,’ he said, giving us a nod, before then turning to me and looking me up and down. ‘And what is your name, young man? You’re not from around here, are you?’
‘That’s my mate, Tony,’ Aaron said. ‘He’s staying with his cousin at the old Norton house out on Beachside Road.’
‘I see,’ the policeman said, obviously giving me a careful appraisal from behind his grey, though kind looking, eyes. I don’t know why exactly, but I was immediately struck with the impression that he was an okay sort of guy. Maybe it was the kind eyes and the grandfatherly appearance. I knew that we would still have to tread carefully all the same.
Taking his cap off the policeman sat down on the only chair in the room. We stared at him and he stared back at us, before finally he spoke again.
‘Paul, I know you didn’t want to talk yesterday,’ he said, ‘but there has been some new information made available today that I think you should know about. Maybe when you hear what it is you might want to talk some more, I hope.’
I think he was waiting for one of us to say something, but the three of us remained silent.
‘Apparently,’ the policeman offered, ‘you aren’t the only one to have had this happen to him. There was someone else who had the same thing happen to him not too long ago, and in the same place too. And we also think we know who did it. And there were probably others before him.’
When he said that he looked directly at Aaron, holding my friend in his gaze for several long moments.
‘W-h-ho?’ Paul stammered.
‘Well, who it happened to the last time we’re not one hundred percent sure of just yet; although I do have an idea who it was. We’re hoping he’ll come forward very soon. As for who did it, well, we’re almost one hundred percent sure it was Andy Thompson. You know who he is don’t you?’
When he said the name there was an audible gasp heard from both Aaron and Paul. I looked at them both. They had both gone as white as the sheets on Paul’s hospital bed.
‘Sergeant!’ the nurse suddenly said. ‘Is this really necessary? Right here and now, I mean? Don’t you people have rules about this sort of thing? Shouldn’t Paul’s parents be here at least?’
The sergeant held his hand up to silence her.
‘It was him, wasn’t it boys? That’s all we need to know. Just a simple yes or no.’
‘Sergeant. I’m warning you!’ the nurse said.
The silence stretched out for a few moments before finally being broken.
‘Yes,’ Paul said softly. ‘That’s who it was.’
The sergeant got to his feet and went to Paul, then placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.
‘Thank you, son. He won’t be able to do this again, to either of you, or to anyone else.’
He gave a nod to his young offsider who quickly stepped outside of the room, reaching for his radio as he went. We heard him talking in the corridor, saying, ‘Yes, we have an identification. Pick him up as soon as you can.’
‘Boys, I know this sort of thing isn’t easy,’ he said in a soothing voice, ‘but the worst is over, I promise you that. All we need to know is just what happened, then we can finish our job. It will all be over and no one else will know what happened to you… to either of you.’
Aaron looked up at him, his face clearly showing concern, but also some relief, I thought.
‘How did you know?’ he asked the sergeant.
‘Ahhh… that’s what our job is all about, son,’ he answered, giving Aaron a wink as he did so.
* * *
We heard later on that afternoon, well after we had left the hospital and walked back into town, that there was a commotion in the main street earlier, when Andy Thompson was arrested at his father’s office where he worked.
We were at Mrs Hamilton’s corner store buying a drink when some old biddy came in all excited and couldn’t help herself, she started blabbing about it to Mrs. H, who just smiled and nodded in our direction. When the old biddy saw us there she shut up real quick, but only for as long as it took for us to pay for our drinks and head for the door. By the time the little bell rang when we opened the door she was shooting off at the mouth again, simply unable to keep it shut.
Aaron and I laughed as we headed off down the street, thinking that we would go to Scott’s place and see if he had heard the news.
The only thing that was still playing on our minds was that the sergeant still wanted to talk to Aaron and get a statement, to find out what had happened with him that time. Before we left the hospital the nurse said something to us about there having to be a parent or an adult present when kids were being interviewed, and to make sure that if we talked to the cops again later we had someone with us, you know, just so that everything stayed legal like.
That was another reason why we were heading to see Scott; to see if he would be there when Aaron spoke to the sergeant again.
When we arrived at the caravan park we were surprised to see a police car parked in front of Scott’s house, along with Scott, the sergeant and another police officer sitting on the front verandah drinking cokes.
‘Ah, boys,’ the sergeant said when he spotted us. ‘Just who we wanted to talk to.’
Aaron looked at me and once again went pale. I placed a hand on his shoulder and told him not to worry, as the sooner he talked to the sergeant, the sooner it would be over with.
Slowly we climbed the steps and faced the man.
‘Now, Aaron,’ he said. ‘Scott has explained to me what happened to you, but we’ll just need to get a statement from you about it, that’s all. Oh, and of course the two boys who found you that day… errr… Matt and Luke wasn’t it? There’s nothing at all for you to fear. We know about your home situation and that you don’t want anyone else knowing if we can help it. Scott here has offered to be the person to sit in with you when we talk. Is that all right with you? It is a little irregular, but out here in the country we can sometimes bend the rules just a little bit, you know.’
‘I… I guess so,’ Aaron answered nervously.
‘It’s okay Aaron. I’ve already had a chat with the sergeant about what happened,’ Scott added. ‘All he’s going to do is ask you to tell it in your own words. They will write it down and that will become your statement, then you just sign it to say it is true and that will be the end of it.’
Aaron nodded slowly.
‘There’s nothing for you to worry about, son. Thompson has already been arrested and is in the lock-up as we speak. And at the moment he doesn’t even know that you are involved as well, he just thinks it is because of what happened with Paul yesterday. Now that we will have your statement as well, that will be the clincher.’
‘But he will find out that I’ve told you what happened to me?’
‘Eventually, yes he will. But he’ll be locked up, so he can’t hurt you,’ the sergeant reassured Aaron.
‘It’s okay, Aaron,’ Scott said. ‘It’s almost over.’
I walked over to Aaron and placed an arm around his shoulders, hugging him to me. Straight away I could feel him trembling beneath my hand.
‘Come inside mate and sit down,’ I said. ‘Just talk to them and then it’s done. After that we go home.’
As I led Aaron to the door I saw the sergeant glance at Scott, his face filled with questions, but Scott just gave a small shake of the head.
‘Thanks, Tony,’ Scott said as we passed them.
Once inside I sat Aaron on the lounge chair which looked outside toward the pool. Scott, the sergeant and the other policeman followed us in and eventually sat down as well.
‘Tony, while we talk to Aaron,’ Scott asked, ‘would you mind going down to see Matt where he works and ask him to come here when he finishes. You better tell him what it’s about. He should be finishing work soon, I think.’
I looked across at Aaron, placing an arm around him and said, ‘I’ll be back soon. Are you okay with this?’
‘Yeah, I think so,’ he replied.
‘Good boy,’ I said, then gave him a quick kiss on the side of his head and stood up. Judging by the look on the faces of the two police officers that was the last thing they had expected, but they soon recovered, with the younger policeman smiling smugly and the sarge looking at me with that kind grandfatherly expression I had seen earlier.
As I got up to leave the sergeant placed a hand on my arm, stopping me for moment. ‘Thank you,’ he said to me.
I gave him a nod, then I went outside, glancing back at Aaron as I opened the door and seeing him sitting there all scared and confused amongst the adults. I gave him a wink and he managed a smile, then I left.
* * *
It was around four-thirty in the afternoon when I went outside and started toward the store where Matt worked. It was a warm day and I soon developed a bit of a sweat, but it was still a pleasant day all the same.
I arrived at the shop about fifteen minutes later to find Matt wheeling some display stands inside from out the front.
‘Hey Tony, what’s happening? Where’s your shadow today?’
I looked at him for a moment, not quite understanding what he meant. My face must have shown my confusion.
‘I meant Aaron, you doofus. What’s he doing?’
‘He’s… at Scott’s,’ I replied. ‘He’s talking to the cops.’
‘Oh wow, he decided to do it then?’
‘What? Haven’t you heard yet?’
‘They’ve arrested that Thompson guy. Aaron and me were at the hospital today. We saw Paul, that’s the kid from yesterday, and found out from him that it was Thompson that did it. Just then the sergeant arrived. He got it out of Paul and Aaron, then they put the call out to pick Thompson up.’
‘Holy shit. And I missed it all!’
‘Well, that’s why I’m here. Scott and the sergeant want you to go there to give a statement or something, seeing as you found Aaron that time, and then it’ll all be over.’
‘Yes!’ Matt exclaimed, as he pumped the air with his fist.
‘How long ‘til you get off work?’ I asked.
‘About ten minutes. Here, help me wheel these things inside and we’ll get going as soon as I’m done.’
I took one end of a stand that had carpet things hanging from it (which I found out later went across the front of the dashboard of cars) and wheeled it in behind Matt. It was the first time I had been inside the shop and it looked like it had everything you would need for your car. Too bad I didn’t own one!
‘Here you go,’ Matt said to me, while holding out a set of keys. ‘My car is out the back. You go around and open it up and I’ll be there in a few minutes. Just don’t break anything, okay!’
‘Sure,’ I replied, grinning at him, then taking the keys I went outside and walked around the back of the building to where, between the surrounding buildings, there was a car park containing just two vehicles; Matt’s shiny black Holden Commodore sedan and a white, four-wheel drive utility.
I started walking over to Matt’s car but as I got closer I soon realised that there was something different about it to the last time I had seen it. I knew it was his pride and joy and apart from Luke it was the only other thing in the world that he truly loved, as he had completely restored the thing himself from what was almost a wreck. I knew this because he never tired of telling people that!
From where I stood at the back of the car I could see that there was something smeared across the roof; something wet and slimy and with a greenish tinge. As I walked down one side of the car I could also see the same substance smeared across the windscreen and the bonnet. I knew that this wasn’t good.
Just then I heard some footsteps behind me and I turned to see Matt approaching. When he saw me standing there looking at his car he frowned, then broke into a run to cover the remainder of the short distance between us.
‘Jesus! Motherfucking! Christ!’ he exclaimed as he stopped beside me, then reached out and dipped a finger into the sticky mess. Lifting his finger up to his nose he sniffed the substance, then let out a long growl.
‘What is it?’ I asked him.
‘It’s fucking brake fluid. The best thing there is to wreck paint! Quick I need a hose, or buckets of water, or something.’
We both started looking around and I soon spotted a fire hose reel hanging on the back wall of the building. Quickly I ran over to it and started pulling it out, turning the nozzle as I went, with a strong spray of water soon coming from the end of it.
I handed the hose to Matt and he adjusted the nozzle so that a strong stream was coming out with quite a bit of pressure, then pointed it at the top of the car, starting the process of washing away the mess.
His face was red with anger and he was cursing so loudly that his boss soon came out the back door of the building to see what the commotion was.
‘If I catch the fucker who did this I’m going to have his balls!’ he hissed.
‘Any idea who?’ I asked him.
‘Yeah. I have a pretty fair idea. That red headed bastard.’
‘That guy from earlier today?’ his boss asked.
‘Yeah, it’s pretty obvious, I think. He’s been giving us all shit ever since we moved here. He’s the one who broke the lights on it earlier this year and scratched the paint. And besides, he bought some brake fluid today as well, didn’t he?’
‘Why would you think? The fucking homophobe!’
As Matt continued to wash the congealed goop from his car, his boss – whose name I still didn’t know – and I stood there watching. We could see the frustration, with both of us really feeling for Matt.
‘You better run it through the drive-through car wash as well, mate,’ his boss said. ‘The brushes might help scrub away any residue that’s left.’
‘Yeah. I will. Thanks.’
A few minutes later Matt turned off the hose and then ran his hand across the bonnet of the car, before rubbing his fingers together.
‘That’s not too bad,’ he said. ‘Not much slime left. But you can sure see where it had been!’
I reached out and did the same, running my hand across the now marked and not quite as-smooth-as-it-once-was bonnet. What came off on my hand just felt like water to me.
‘Okay sport, we better hit the road, eh?’ Matt said, apparently now happy enough with his cleaning efforts. ‘The car wash is just down the road, so we’ll run through that on our way to Scott’s.’
His boss walked back over to the hose reel and started winding the hose back into place, as I handed Matt his keys and he unlocked the vehicle.
‘Thanks, Dave,’ Matt called out. ‘I’ll see you on Monday.’
‘Sure, kiddo. Have a good one. Don’t go doing anything I wouldn’t do!’
‘Hmmmmm…’ Matt said, then gave him a wave and climbed into the car.
I climbed in the passenger side and Matt started the beast up, the cool sounding exhaust echoing loudly within the confines of the car park, which was surrounded by buildings.
Backing out of the parking space we gave Dave a wave farewell, then Matt put it in first and pointed it toward the driveway between two buildings and we headed back out onto the street.
I could see why Matt loved this car, apart from the fact that he had virtually rebuilt it himself. It was quite plush inside, with everything in black, matching the exterior paintwork, while the upholstered seats and other interior features were trimmed in red. On the road it was about as smooth as any car I had been in, and despite the fact it was starting to get on in years now, it still ran sweetly.
‘Do you like it?’ Matt asked me as we cruised down the street. He had seen me running my hand over the upholstery.
‘Yeah,’ I answered. ‘It’s pretty cool.’
A few moments later we turned into the drive-through car wash and Matt wound down his window, then slotted some coins into the machine, before quickly winding the window back up again.
‘Just sit back and enjoy the ride,’ he said as we felt the car start to creep forward after being picked up by the automated washing system that would take us from start to finish.
Suddenly jets of water came shooting toward the car from all sides, followed by suds and foam. Next came the huge round brushes, starting at the front, while doing both sides as well, spinning fast and slapping the car with their soft bristles. All this time the car was moving forward on the belts that carried the vehicles through, and before we knew it we had been washed, scrubbed and rinsed and we were ready to start up and be on our merry way.
‘Pretty freaky, hey,’ Matt said as we crept back out onto the roadway.
We sped through town and headed toward Scott’s caravan park, turning in through the main gates just a few minutes later, where we found the police car still parked out front of his house, attracting curious stares from residents and passers-by alike.
‘I wonder how Aaron is doing?’ I said as I climbed out of the car.
‘I’m sure he’ll be fine,’ Matt said. ‘It can be scary, but it’s the proper thing to do.’
‘I know. I just…’
‘You care for him. It’s right that you are worried.’
We climbed the steps and crossed the verandah, and were met at the door by Justin.
‘Hey, bro,’ he said as he opened the door for us, then bumped fists with Matt in greeting, as I had often seen them do.
‘Come on in. The sarge wants a chat with you two apparently.’
‘So I hear,’ Matt replied. ‘I want a chat with him too… go and check out what was done to my car today!’
‘Why? What happened?’ he asked.
‘The old brake fluid on the paint work trick,’ Matt answered.
‘Seriously? The assholes! Any idea who?’
‘I’m guessing it was Red… but I’m not one hundred percent sure. I do know he bought some earlier today, and right under my nose too!’
‘Fucking asswipe! He’ll get his one day.’
‘Yeah, I’m thinking either Satur-DAY, or Sun-DAY.’
Justin simply grinned at us.
‘So…’ a deep voice coming from directly behind us said. ‘You must be Matt.’
He spun around to see the imposing figure of the sergeant standing there.
‘Yes, sir,’ Matt replied. ‘You wanted to see me?’
‘That I did, lad,’ he said. ‘We were hoping for a statement from you outlining the events of the day you and, errr… Luke, is it? The day you first met Aaron.’
We all walked into the living room where we found Scott, Aaron and another police officer sitting down. ‘Hi guys,’ Matt said to them and received warm greetings in reply, then sat down in the chair the sergeant pointed to.
‘Folks, if we can, could you give us some time just to get Matt’s statement, then once we get a brief statement from Tony as well, we will be out of your hair,’ the sergeant said as he sat himself down.
Scott got to his feet, along with Aaron as well, and the two of them came over to me.
‘Okay guys, how about we head out onto the verandah?’ Scott said to us. ‘They shouldn’t take very long. I’ll grab us some drinks and join you in a minute or two.’
Aaron opened the door and I followed him outside, with the two of us sitting down on the empty outdoor seats.
‘Well, how did it go?’ I asked him.
‘Okay, I think. The sarge is pretty cool and understands it’s a… what are the words he used? A delicate situation. I’m glad that Scott was there, though. At least with him it felt comfortable. Jeez, if it had of been my folks there it would have been really freaky.’
‘So, what happens now? Will they need to talk to you again? Will you have to go to court when Thompson gets charged?’
‘Sarge said it will depend on what Thompson does. If Thompson says that he’s guilty straight up then there won’t even be a trial. But if he says he’s not guilty then there will be a court case and I might have to appear. Sarge said that with two cases against him though, well there’s no way he can reasonably plead innocent… it would be worse for him if he does that and then loses, then the judge could really give him a long sentence.’
‘The longer the better if you ask me,’ I said.
‘Yeah, that’s what I reckon too.’
We sat there in silence for a few moments then Scott and Justin both came outside, carrying with them some drinks and a tray with some snacks.
‘What do you think he wants from me then?’ I asked as I took a sip of my Coke.
‘All he wants is for you to confirm you were with me and Aaron yesterday morning when we all saw Thompson hiding in the bushes,’ Justin said. ‘He’ll show you a photo of Thompson, you say yes, that’s him, and that’s pretty much it. That’s all he asked me to do. Three witnesses putting him there is pretty strong evidence apparently.’
Sitting back in the chair I just nodded, then took another sip.
‘So, what happened to Matt’s car?’ Justin asked.
‘Come and have a look. We washed it all off, but it made a freakin’ mess,’ I answered. ‘Matt’s going to make a complaint about it too.’
We all got up and trudged down the steps and the path to where the car stood, right beside the police car.
Justin and Scott started walking around it and I could see the anger in their faces as they took in the damage, with marks and stains already showing in the paint right across the roof and the bonnet. There even appeared to be some new bubbles that had appeared since we had been through the car wash.
‘What an asshole!’ Justin said as he ran a hand over the now uneven surface. ‘It’s completely fucked the paint work. He’ll have to sand it right back and re-spray it all now. I’d love to get my hands on that red-headed fuckwit!’
‘Won’t be cheap either,’ Scott added.
‘He’ll probably do it all himself again though,’ I said. ‘That should save him a bit.’
We stood around the car for a few minutes more, then we heard the door at the house slide open and Matt, along with the two police officers, came out onto the verandah and started toward us.
‘What do you think? A nice mess, or what?’ he asked Justin and Scott.
‘It ain’t half as bad as the mess that the prick who did it will find himself in if I get hold of him,’ Justin answered.
‘Now now, Justin. Let’s not get too carried away,’ the sergeant said, while surveying the damage.
The other police officer started writing down stuff in his notebook, then moments later went across to the police car and retrieved a camera, before taking a number of photos of the car.
‘I can’t promise anything, Matt, but we’ll have a quiet word with your mate, Red. I know who you’re referring to, I believe he’s a cousin of our friend Mr Thompson. Who knows, we might even get lucky and find that there’s a security camera on one of the other buildings around your boss’ little car park!’
The sergeant then turned to me and said, ‘Okay. Your turn now.’
I nodded glumly.
‘Relax, Tony. All I need from you is for you to look at a photo and tell me if you recognise the person in it, and if you do, tell me where you last saw him.’
‘Okay,’ I replied.
With a nod to his offsider the second police officer produced a photo and handed it to me. I took it and looked at it long and hard.
‘Do you recognise that person?’ the sergeant asked.
‘Yes, sir,’ I answered. ‘I believe his name is Andy Thompson.’
‘When did you last see him?’
‘Yesterday morning. I was with Justin and Aaron and we were walking through the scrub on the sand dunes, going from the beach to the car park, after we had been surfing. He was hiding in the bushes not far from the toilets that are there.’
‘Did you get all of that, Constable?’ the sergeant asked.
‘Very good. Thank you, Tony,’ while placing a gentle hand on my shoulder. ‘And thank you everyone. I believe we have enough to work with now. We’ll be in touch if there’s anything further we need or if there is any news.’
‘Thank you, sergeant,’ Scott said. ‘I think the whole town will be grateful if this all works out as it should.’
With a nod the sergeant said, ‘I think you could be right there, Scotty,’ then climbed into his car, followed by the constable.
The car was soon started and backed out of Scott’s driveway, then it was gone.
‘Almost there, guys!’ Scott said, then coming over to Aaron and me he put his arms around both of our shoulders. ‘I don’t know if that was bravery or foolishness what you two did today by going to the hospital, but I’m glad you did it.’
‘So are we,’ Aaron answered for us both. ‘So are we.’