When we left the house this morning I think we all felt that this would be a memorable day. Things were heating up around our little town, but I don’t think any of us had any real idea just how hot today, or the coming days, would get.
I travelled into Macquarie Harbour with Tim and Guy, as I often did, while Matt headed into town to work in his own car. As I was leaving the house I stuck my head in the door of Aaron and Tony’s room to tell them I would see them later. I found they were both still sleeping, totally out to it and wrapped up in each other’s arms, wearing only their boxers and contented expressions on their faces.
I had seen them up and about earlier when they had both showered, but they had obviously felt like making themselves scarce while the rest of the household readied ourselves for the day ahead. Looking at them then, with the sunlight streaming in on them they looked beautiful, like two innocent angels, but even I knew that once they awoke and their minds and bodies fell prey to the teenage hormones that were coursing through their veins, there would be nothing angelic about them at all.
The drive to and from the university at Macquarie Harbour was always a pleasant one when I travelled with Tim and Guy. I didn’t go with them every day, of course; it was all dependent on our timetables and commitments, but I did it often enough. On the other days I might catch the bus service back and forth, though that was sometimes more of a hassle than anything else, because of the timetables and the odd times when the buses ran out to Thompsonville from the city. On other days when none of those options was workable I would occasionally get driven into town or picked up by Matt himself, or sometimes even take Matt’s car – which I didn’t actually like doing as I knew how precious it was to him.
We all pretty much got along like a house on fire, and were always happy to help each other out, so one way or another each of us always managed to get to where he needed to be on any given day.
Now it was growing late in the afternoon, and after a day that had been long and tiresome, having to sit through a series of tedious lectures, I was heading home with my housemates and looking forward to being able to relax with my love and compare notes on how our days had been. I was sure that Matt would have plenty of news, but I also had something to tell him that I felt would be sure to get his attention.
‘Hey, did you remember we were going to Scott and Justin’s place tonight?’ Guy asked me as we cruised along the highway toward the turn off to home.
I looked up from the book I was reading – a collection of gay themed short stories I had picked up in the student’s op-shop – and found myself looking directly into his eyes, which were studying me in the rear-view mirror.
‘Damn!’ I said. ‘I’d forgotten about that already.’
‘I wonder how things were in downtown Thompsonville today?’ Tim wondered out loud. ‘I hope Aaron and Tony managed to get things sorted.’
‘I guess we’ll find out soon enough,’ Guy replied as he slowed the car and turned off the highway.
The run into Thompsonville was a relatively short one and it wasn’t long before we were again slowing down, this time to turn down Beachside Lane, before then bumping along the dirt road toward our house.
We found that nobody was home when we got there and everything was quiet. I fished my phone from my pocket and dialled Matt’s number.
‘Hey babe,’ he answered. ‘Are you guys home already?’
‘Yeah, we just got here,’ I replied. ‘Where are you at the moment?’
‘We’re on our way. It has been a shit of a day and I’m royally pissed off, but I have Aaron and Tony with me and everything is cool. We’ve just left Scott’s place, so we’ll be there in a few minutes and we’ll fill you in, then Scott is expecting us back there in a little while.’
‘Why? What has happened?’ I asked.
‘Heaps. I’ll tell you all about it when we get there.’
‘Okay. We’ll see you soon.’
When we had disconnected I told Tim and Guy what he had said.
‘I wonder what has happened? At least it sounds like they got things sorted out today though,’ Guy said. ‘That’s something at least. I can’t wait to find out what’s gone down while we were away.’
‘Let’s just hope that the creep has been locked up!’ Tim added.
‘Yeah, I hope so too,’ I replied.
We headed inside and the boys went straight to their room, coming out a few minutes later wearing only their towels.
‘We might grab first shower, before the others get here. It might be a good idea if we clean ourselves up before heading out,’ Tim said to me.
‘Okay. Just don’t use all the hot water,’ I teased.
‘You can join us if you like,’ Guy joked, while making a playful grab at Tim.
‘Nah, it’ll be right. I’ll just save it up ‘til Matt gets here,’ I replied, with a laugh. For anyone who didn’t know us that would probably sound almost perverse, but I have to say that it wasn’t all that unusual for us all to tease one another or make fun of each other, or our situation. As I’ve said already, we all got on like a house on fire and after spending nearly a year living together we were all totally comfortable with each other, with our sexuality and with our lifestyle, not to mention being secure in our relationships.
After they had disappeared into the bathroom and closed the door I grabbed a coke from the refrigerator and headed out onto the verandah to wait for Matt and the boys. It was a bright, warm afternoon with just a hint of a breeze blowing in from the ocean. When I looked out across the scrub that lay between the house and the nearby beach that we often frequented, I could see a bank of dark clouds, looming ominously off in the distance, far out to sea, giving promise of a lively evening ahead, should they make it to the mainland.
I didn’t have long to wait until I heard the familiar sound of Matt’s Commodore cruising down our road and when I looked up I soon spotted it between the distant trees which lined the road, coming at speed and with a plume of dry dust trailing out behind it. As he came to the open gateway into our house yard Matt slowed, then turned in sharply, before crossing the yard and coming to a stop near the garage, leaving the dust trail to drift on without him, before eventually dissipating, settling across anything and everything within reach.
As soon as I saw him turn I noticed that something was wrong with the car, or at least with the appearance of it. The usually gleaming paintwork was somehow damaged; tarnished and dull. I jumped to my feet and walked over toward the vehicle as the three of them climbed out.
‘What the fuck happened to the car?’ I exclaimed.
‘What does it look like? Some asshole has poured something all over it. Brake fluid I think,’ Matt replied. ‘It happened sometime this afternoon… right after Red was in the shop buying some. Is that a coincidence, or what?’
‘But why would he do that… apart from the fact he’s just an asshole?’
‘I don’t know, but I’d sure as hell like to find out! We showed it to the sergeant this afternoon when we spoke with him, so he’s going to see what he can find out. Apparently our pal Red is related to Thompson somehow, so maybe it has something to do with what’s going on there.’
I looked at Aaron and Tony, who were standing back, each with their arms folded across their chests and looking concerned.
‘So, how did you guys go? What happened?’ I asked.
‘It’s all good now,’ Aaron said. ‘We went to the hospital and found the kid… his name is Paul and he’s the brother of a guy I go to school with. He was beat up pretty bad, and was in a bit of a state, but eventually he told us it was Thompson, after I had told him he’d done it to me too. Then, just as he told us that the Sarge showed up. He got Paul to admit who it was that attacked him and as soon as he did the other cop that was with him put out a call and Thompson got arrested almost straight away, apparently.’
‘Wow. They sure didn’t waste any time then,’ I said.
‘No, they didn’t,’ Matt added. ‘They then spoke with Aaron at Scott’s place, then with me and Justin and Tony as well, so they seem to think they have enough to make the case against him stick.’
‘Why did they talk to you?’ I asked Matt.
‘They wanted to know about the day when you and me found Aaron… to back up his story I guess,’ he replied.
‘That makes sense, I suppose. So, what happens now?’
‘He has to go to court and face the judge. If he pleads guilty then that’s it, it’s all over Red Rover. If he pleads not guilty then I guess all of us will have to front up and say what we know, or what we have seen. The Sarge reckons he’d be mad to plead not guilty though, because if he does and is found guilty anyhow, which we all know he is, then the judge will likely come down on him even harder than he otherwise would.’
‘So, it really is just about all over then?’ I asked. ‘It just seems far too easy to me. It’s almost as if there is still more to come.’
‘Yeah, I know what you mean. We both know how the system works, but I think that’s all. I guess we will still have to see whether or not he pleads guilty. If he doesn’t do that, then I’m afraid it has really only just started,’ Matt answered.
We all chewed that over in silence, each of us no doubt hoping that this was indeed the end of the story; yet somehow we all knew deep down that it couldn’t be this easy.
‘So, how was your day?’ Matt eventually asked. ‘Did anything exciting happen?’
‘Kind of,’ I replied. ‘Cassidy wasn’t there today and rumours are rife that he has been suspended, pending investigation.’
‘What? What the hell for?’
‘An inappropriate relationship with a student, or so I heard,’ I answered. I hadn’t ever told him the full extent of the issues I’d had with Cassidy previously, only that I’d had a few problems. I had hoped he wouldn’t ever find out, as I was fairly sure that I knew what his reaction might be. I did admit I felt a bit guilty about not ever reporting Cassidy, however, but now that it appeared Cassidy had dug his own grave, or put the noose around his own neck, or fallen on his own sword, or whatever cliché you wanted to use, then that was his own fault and no one else’s. He’d had the chance to clean up his act and had ignored that warning, so as far as I was concerned he was deserving of what was coming to him.
‘Getting it on with a student, eh? Male, or female?’
‘Male, I think.’
‘Fuck, what is it with this area… it’s like there’s something in the water! Did he ever try it on with you?’
I didn’t answer him immediately, which was all he needed.
‘Jeessus!!!’ he exclaimed, his face suddenly disfigured with rage. ‘When did that happen? What did he do? And why the fuck didn’t you ever tell me?’
‘It was nothing, really. He put the hard word on me, I told him to back off and if he ever tried anything like it again I would go to the authorities. That was the end of it, and I didn’t tell you because I was afraid you might over-react.’
‘You think! I’d have belted the bastard!’
‘My point exactly,’ I answered as calmly as I could.
For a moment he looked at me with visible anger seething just below the surface, then all of a sudden the rage subsided and a new calm seemed to come over him, before eventually he smiled.
‘It seems you know me too well,’ he finally said, as he reached out for me. ‘I reckon you probably did the right thing.’
‘I have to admit I wasn’t sure of it at the time, but still, I’m glad I handled it that way.’
‘And that was the end of it? He didn’t try again?’
‘Lucky for him!’ he replied. ‘Now, it seems that all is finally right with the world, how about we get out of here and enjoy ourselves!’
* * *
It was one of those steamy summer evenings when we arrived at the caravan park, in two cars, with the air being hot and humid and with the threat of the looming storm hanging heavily about us.
It was Scott’s turn to have the barbeque fired up. It was usually sitting on the verandah of his house, but when we arrived we found Justin and Scott carrying some plates and dishes out from inside, descending the steps at the end of the verandah and heading around to a screened off courtyard at the side of the house and beyond the car-port, which at least provided some privacy from prying eyes.
‘Hey, you’re just in time,’ Scott called to us as the six of us walked through the gate and started toward the house, carrying the humble offerings of alcohol and other drinks we had collected at the drive through bottle shop on the way here.
Justin looked like he was taking care of the cooking, as he set the plates he was carrying down on a garden table then attended to the sausages that were already sizzling away, while Scott busied himself with setting everything up on the table.
‘There are some beers on ice already,’ Justin said as we joined them. ‘Help yourselves.’
‘You should be careful saying things like that,’ Tim said. ‘Some of these guys might just take you at your word and drink you out of house and home.’
‘I think we’ll be able to handle them,’ Scott said, as he started passing some drinks around. ‘If they give us too much trouble just remember that I’m on first name terms with the local sergeant; and he’s already been here once today!’
‘Yeah, so I hear,’ Tim replied. ‘Everything fell into place as we all hoped, eh! That was great news.’
I looked across at Aaron and Tony who had found themselves a seat not far from the barbeque, although hidden behind the brushwood screen, safely away from the prying eyes of anyone who might pass by on the road down to the cabins or caravans. As Tim finished I saw Tony reach across and place his hand over Aaron’s, before they looked at each other and smiled.
‘Yes. I think it was a good result all round,’ Scott said, while smiling at the two boys himself, with an almost fatherly expression on his face. ‘I went and visited young Paul up in the hospital tonight and he is quite relieved now. I’ve told him if he wants to talk about anything he can pop around here any time he feels like it.’
‘That’s good of you,’ Matt said. ‘The same goes for us as well. We’re only too happy to help if needed.’
‘I’m sure he’ll appreciate that,’ said Scott. ‘It can’t be easy for a kid like him to handle something like that. First of all having to come to terms with being who they are, then just when they think they have it all figured out someone like Thompson comes along and fucks everything up for them.’
‘Yeah, and it happens far too often as well,’ Matt replied.
‘What about you guys? Did any of you ever have to go through anything like that?’ Scott asked.
Matt put an arm around my waist and hugged me closer.
‘I guess in some respects we were fairly lucky,’ he said to Scott. ‘We had all the usual issues, of course, like figuring ourselves out, along with having our families and friends finding out as well. That was all quite challenging in itself. I know at times I was a quivering mess, but we somehow managed. I think it ended up being much harder for Luke than it was for me, even though at the time he was the strong one out of the two of us.’
‘Really? How so?’ Scott enquired.
‘I was bashed… twice,’ I answered. ‘First off, at the local park. Then by my own dad, who just flipped out at the idea of having a gay son.’
‘Holy shit!’ Justin said.
‘Yeah, Justin. That’s about it,’ I replied. ‘Still, what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, or so the old saying goes, so despite everything we’re still here, and we’re together, so that’s all that matters really. Matt might have thought I was the strong one… but that was only because I had come to terms with who I was a lot earlier than he had. Inside I was just as confused and insecure and anxious as any other teenage guy faced with coming out to his family and friends.’
‘But it all worked out in the end though, didn’t it?’ Justin asked.
I glanced across at Matt and found him smiling at me, looking proud and happy.
‘Yes, Justin, it worked out even better than I could have dreamed,’ I replied, before leaning across and kissing Matt.
Scott passed around some beers for us, although I think Aaron and Tony were disappointed with the Cokes they received, and we all sat down, while Justin continued to slave over the hot barbeque.
‘So, what about you guys?’ Tim asked, directing his question toward Justin and Scott. ‘What happened when you two hooked up? Was it a huge scandal, or was it all smooth sailing?’
Scott looked back toward Justin and smiled.
‘Have you ever heard about the old saying that goes something along the lines of, if you save someone’s life they become your responsibility, or they owe it to you?’ he asked. ‘Well, I’m sure you’ve heard before how Jay kind of fell into my lap… so now it looks like I’m stuck with him.’
‘Go on, tell the truth. You love it!’ Justin teased.
‘Yeah, I do,’ Scott replied.
‘Well, you sure as hell could have done a lot worse,’ Guy chuckled.
‘That’s true,’ answered Scott, ‘but I also know I couldn’t have done any better.’
We all watched as Scott and Justin embraced and kissed briefly, their love for each other obvious.
‘So, you haven’t had any hassles from anyone in town, then?’ Matt asked.
‘No, not really,’ Scott replied. ‘We get the occasional odd look from some of the old-timers, or sneer from the likes of Red, but since Jay moved here I think everyone has been fairly accepting. It was almost as if people had expected it or something, given our past. And we also try to make a point of not trying to flaunt our lifestyle in front of everyone. Discretion in a place like Thompsonville can be a life saver. That’s something that you all should take on board.
‘I think we already have,’ Matt answered.
‘And what about your parents?’ Guy asked.
‘Mine have always known about me,’ Scott answered. ‘Well, at least from the time I was a teenager, but Jay’s parents were a little slower in coming round.’
‘Part of the reason I came back here,’ Justin began, ‘was because I was way off the rails. My shrink told my folks that it might be a good idea if I was brought back to a place where I was once happy, so the olds packed us up and brought me back here for a holiday. Despite my hatred of the world, which at the time was largely caused by my father’s homophobic attitude, Scott was the first person to be able to get through to me… so I convinced my folks to let me stay here with him for a while. I haven’t officially come out to them yet, but after a while I think they figured it out for themselves… or at least I think mum did at first, and despite the constant shit that my dad always sprouted all my life about anyone who was gay, I think that even he eventually put two and two together. The rest, as they say, is history.’
‘Nice,’ said Tim.
‘So, how about you and Guy?’ Justin asked, directing his question toward Tim. ‘Was there anything different, or were there any problems, with the two of you getting together?’
They simply looked at each other and grinned.
‘To be honest,’ Guy said. ‘I think we had it way easier than most gay couples.’
‘We had some of the usual problems, of course, like issues with family members,’ Tim added. ‘But there were no big scenes, no fights, no one getting bashed or anything like that. I think our biggest problem was ourselves and our pussy-footing around each other, not knowing what we should be doing…’
‘Or jumping to the wrong conclusions when things didn’t quite go as they should have,’ said Guy.
‘Yeah… we had our moments. Although there was also one other problem that seemed to keep rearing its ugly head all the time,’ said Tim.
‘Which was?’ asked Justin.
Tim and Guy both laughed, then together they simply said one word; ‘Ben!’
‘Ha! Why am I not surprised?’ Matt snorted
We all knew what Ben was like. He was a fun loving guy, who we all loved dearly, but he was also a guy who wasn’t backward in coming forward and who could sometimes get offside with folks simply because he was such a straight shooter, who always spoke his mind.
We also knew that he and Matt didn’t always see eye to eye; yet despite that, I knew that Matt missed having him around just as much as the rest of us did. We were just glad that he was getting his life back together after his accident and that he and Samantha were still together and doing okay.
‘Yes, I can imagine it would have been interesting having him around when you were all living together. I guess it’s a bit quieter out at the house now, is it?’ Scott said.
‘Yeah, a bit quieter,’ Tim answered. ‘But no less interesting with these two new young love birds hanging around.
We all looked over at Aaron and Tony, who seemed oblivious to the conversation and were too busy snogging each other.
‘Ain’t love grand?’ Justin said as he turned the sausages once more. This only made us all laugh, causing Aaron and Tony to stop what they were doing and look our way.
‘Don’t stop now, guys,’ Matt teased them gently. ‘We were enjoying the show.’
* * *
The early part of the night passed us by quite pleasantly, as we sat around in Scott’s yard enjoying the food, the beer, the conversation and the company. Thankfully, even the pesky little bugs that could usually be found hanging around after dark seemed to have been kept at bay, thanks to the strategic placement of citronella candles around the barbeque area.
Justin showed himself to be a dab hand on the barbeque, while Scott proved, as always, to be an exemplary host. We were all so glad that we had hooked up with these two and become their friends… or was it that they had hooked onto us? Either way I think that we all felt we had made friends for life and the relationship between us all was only growing stronger.
The situation with Thompson was discussed only briefly, early on in the evening. To say we were all surprised that things had worked out so easily was something of an understatement, but everyone knew that the real test would be still to come, when he actually faced the courts.
It was Scott who put things into perspective for us, however, when he told us that it would still be possible for Thompson to be out on the streets, and quite soon.
‘I know that he has been charged,’ Scott said, ‘but you should all know that it’s quite likely that the judge will grant him bail, or possibly even adjourn the case when he first appears in court, in which case he could be let out between appearances.’
‘What?’ Matt said, sounding quite incredulous.
‘It’s true,’ Scott answered. ‘Despite everything, it’s still possible that he could be let out on bail between when he first fronts the judge and when his trial or next appearance is. Personally I don’t think it’s likely, particularly because of the seriousness of what happened to young Paul, but it is a possibility.’
‘Man, that sucks!’ Tim added. ‘The cunt should be locked up and have the key thrown down the sewer or something,’ he said forcefully.
We all looked sharply at Tim. None of us could be described as innocents, and the language that flowed around our house at the best of times was usually quite colourful, but I don’t think any of us had ever heard him say that before.
‘What?’ he asked when he say us all staring at him. ‘You’ve heard that before haven’t you?’
‘Yeah, often enough,’ Justin said, laughing. ‘But just not from you.’
‘And there we all were thinking what a sweet young lad you were,’ Scott added.
‘Sweet young lad?’ Matt offered. ‘Christ, you should hear the sounds coming from their bedroom some nights! There ain’t nothing sweet about that, I can tell you!’
‘Fuck, like you ought to talk!’ Tim shot back, grinning.
After that things went strangely quiet for a short time, as we digested what Scott had said to us. The thought of Thompson being let loose again wasn’t one which sat easily with any of us, but we still had to face it that it was a possibility.
‘So, Scott, do you have any idea when he might get to meet the judge?’ Matt finally asked.
‘Well, the sergeant said he was in the lock-up this afternoon, so it depends on when a judge or magistrate is available. I think I’ve heard before about there being special hearings out of normal hours, so that might happen over the weekend. Either that or he’ll have to wait until Monday morning.’
‘I still think it sucks!’ Tim said.
‘I agree,’ Scott replied. ‘But that’s just how the law system works.’
‘Then the law is an ass!’ Tim added.
‘So people keep saying!’ said Scott. ‘I’ll check with the police station in the morning and see if anything has changed.’
After that the party continued for a while longer, with at least six of us participating in telling stories and jokes and laughing, while the remaining couple seemed to have eyes only for each other. A few times we teased them about the fact they should have booked in and gotten a ‘van for themselves, but they seemed to be content just where they were, unconcerned by the fact they were putting on a show that was having an obvious effect on the rest of us.
At one stage I looked around and the eyes of everyone seemed to be locked on Aaron and Tony, as they continued to lock lips and run their hands over each other. At about the same time I felt Matt’s hands slide down my body, before soon starting to massage my lower regions. I glanced at his face and found him grinning broadly at me. When I looked again at the others I saw Justin rubbing himself through the board shorts he was wearing, while even Tim and Guy were getting in on the act.
In the end it was Scott whose cool head prevailed and restored some sanity to the scene.
‘Okay guys, I think we had better start wrapping this party up, before the cops get called back here again today… or the fire brigade!’ he said as he dragged himself to his feet and started gathering up stuff to take back inside.
That seemed to snap us all back to the present and when I glanced around at the others again I could see more just a few guilty looking faces, all looking rather sheepish.
‘We are so busted,’ Matt whispered into my ear as he let go of me.
‘It sure could have become interesting if he hadn’t said anything,’ I answered quietly. ‘I think even Justin was starting to get excited.’
‘What the fuck!’ I joked, jabbing him in the shoulder as I did so. ‘You just keep your eyes looking this way, pal!’
‘C’mon, surely even you would have to agree that he’s pretty hot?’ Matt gently teased.
‘Ha! I fucking knew it!’
‘Well, what else would you expect? What self respecting gay nineteen year old wouldn’t half fancy him?’
By this time all eyes were turned our way, which I soon noticed when I looked away from Matt for a moment.
‘And just what the hell were you pair whispering about?’ Guy asked us.
‘Errr… nothing much,’ I said, before Matt cut in and really dropped us in the shit.
‘If you must know,’ Matt offered. ‘We were discussing how hot Justin looked.’
‘What?’ squeaked Justin. Everyone turned his way and even in the pale light I was sure I could see him blushing.
Scott walked over to him and put his arms around Justin’s waist. ‘Sorry guys, but he’s already taken, or hadn’t you noticed?’ he laughed.
‘Yeah, yeah, we know that,’ Matt replied. ‘You’re safe, Scotty, or he’s safe… or something. We were just admiring from afar.’
‘Jesus. It must be interesting living in that house!’ Justin added.
‘Jay, you have no idea,’ I replied. ‘You should just consider yourself lucky you have Scott to keep you on the straight and narrow.’
‘Straight? Ha, now that’s funny!’
* * *
It was later than I had thought when we eventually arrived back at the house, with the bright red display of the clock in the kitchen saying it was almost midnight. How time flies when you’re having fun, eh?
Once inside we all said goodnight before then heading straight to our own rooms, each of us, no doubt, with our own ideas as to how the rest of the night would be spent.
After I closed the door of our room I turned to see the silhouette of Matt against the window, backlit by a faint glow coming from outside. Without a word I walked over to him, pulling my shirt off as I went, then when I reached him I tugged at his shirt also and soon had it on the floor beside mine.
‘If I didn’t know better I would say that your cousin has been putting some wicked thoughts into your head,’ Matt whispered as we embraced.
‘Wicked thoughts?’ I asked. ‘What is so wicked about the most natural, most perfect act that two human beings can share?’
‘Is that what you really think?’
‘Absolutely,’ I replied with some conviction. ‘Now why don’t you show me just what you think about it too!’
Even in the dim light I could see him grinning, his white teeth being the only thing shining in the night. Then, placing his hands on my hips he hooked his thumbs in the elastic of my shorts and underwear and in one motion pushed them down around my ankles, releasing my cock from the confines of my clothing and allowing it to spring free.
Immediately I felt his hot breath blowing over me, followed by his lips wrapping themselves around me, which only served to excite me further.
‘Easy, fella,’ I whispered into the darkness. ‘I want it to last.’
He mumbled something in reply, but with his mouth filled I had no idea what he said. All I could do was place a hand on either side of his head, run my fingers through his hair, and let him work his magic.
* * *
The town was buzzing when we finally made it to the main street the following morning. It was Saturday and it was one of those bright, early summer days, cloudless and warm, which brought people from all areas, near and far, to the beaches and the water. With the influx of visitors there was almost a carnival-like atmosphere, which was something I hadn’t before experienced here.
All the way along the main street there was barely a car parking space to be found, while all around the lake cars were crammed onto every spare spot of grass available. Over at the beach it wasn’t any better, with the car parks filled and the roads leading to them lined with cars also.
Tim and Guy had stayed at home, but for the rest of us our plan had been to spend a lazy day in town and on the beach, and for Aaron and Tony to pay a visit to the hospital, but given the activity downtown I think it was highly likely that those plans were about to be changed.
‘This is unbelievable,’ Matt said as the four of us walked along the main street towards our favourite coffee shop, at least thankful that we were able to park behind the shop where Matt worked. ‘I’ve never seen the place jumping like this.’
‘Well, we’ve only been here about ten months, and it wasn’t until the summer holidays were almost over when we arrived…’
‘Yeah, I know that, but this really is something else, isn’t it?’
‘I guess so.’
‘What do you reckon, Aaron? Does it get like this very often?’
‘Not that I can ever remember,’ Aaron replied. ‘Maybe sometimes in the middle of the school holidays.’
When we reached the coffee shop we found that it was already full, so Matt suggested that he would order some for us to take away and we would go down to the lake and sit under a tree. While he went inside to the counter the three of us waited out on the footpath, watching the crowds come and go.
‘Damn, for a small place it sure is busy,’ I heard Tony say. ‘And look at all that skin! I think I’m gonna like spending my summers in this place.’
I spun around at the sound to see Tony rubbing the back of his head vigorously, while Aaron looked on at him, appearing slightly pissed.
‘What the fuck was that for?’ Tony asked.
I could only laugh at him. He obviously still had a lot to learn. It was sometimes okay to look and enjoy, but if you’re in a fledgling relationship it is best you watch out for jealousy and insecurity, lest they come along for the ride as well.
Matt emerged a few minutes later carrying four coffees, perched precariously on one of those cardboard take away trays, with each of us taking one, then we headed off down the street toward the lake. We hadn’t gone more than a block, however, when we came to a small crowd gathered on the footpath. In the midst of them we could see a smartly dressed young woman standing in front of a shop window, while holding a microphone in her hand. Someone else was holding up a bright light and shining it on her, while yet another person was standing there holding a camera to his shoulder.
I could only hear bits and pieces of what she was saying to the camera, but it didn’t take Einstein to work out what it was she was talking about.
‘. . . idyllic seaside town… darker underbelly… several vicious attacks… sexual assaults… teenage boys… man charged… favourite son… special court sitting… remanded in custody… upcoming court case…’
We were quickly stopped in our tracks, not only by the small crowd but also by what we had heard being said. It looked like Andy Thompson was making the television news.
Matt and I glanced at each other, then at Aaron, who seemed to have suddenly gone pale. Tony placed an arm around his shoulder briefly, before realizing they were out in public and that might be pushing it just a bit too far.
‘You okay?’ I asked Aaron.
‘Yeah, I think so,’ he answered.
‘Did you hear what she was saying, guys?’ Matt asked us. ‘I think I heard her say that Thompson was remanded in custody’
‘Yeah, I heard her say that,’ Tony added.
‘Does… does that mean he’s still locked up?’ Aaron quietly asked.
‘Yes, mate,’ I answered. ‘That’s exactly what it means.’ Immediately I could see the relief flood over him when I answered him.
As we were talking the reporter and her crew were packing up their equipment and by the time I had answered Aaron they were just starting to walk off, toward a station wagon parked nearby which was emblazoned with the television station logo.
When they moved out of the way we looked across at the few people who had been standing on the opposite side of them to us and immediately my heart sank when I spotted a familiar face there glaring back at us.
Matt spotted him at about the same time I did.
It was Red, standing there with one of his goon mates, their arms crossed in front of them and both looking stony faced and as menacing as they could be; which wasn’t anywhere near as dangerous looking as they thought it was.
‘Well, well,’ I heard Matt say. ‘If it isn’t our old mates from Paint Strippers R Us.’
At hearing this, my head jerked sideways toward Matt, but when I looked back at Red I could have sworn that I saw the makings of a smile dancing across his lips.
‘Whatever are you talking about?’ Red sneered.
‘Did you know there are security cameras covering the car park behind the store?’ Matt added. ‘Apparently the cops already have the video… and it doesn’t look like your cousin is going to be around to help you out this time, does it?’
Suddenly Red and his mate looked uneasy, but when he looked across at Aaron and sneered it was my turn to feel uneasy.
‘You and your little fag buddies should watch out,’ Red seethed, as he stepped up closer to us. ‘We know who ratted on Andy and they’re first on our list. And seeing as you’re on their side, you’re next.’
‘Is that right?’ said Matt.
‘This ain’t over! Not by a long shot!’ Red said forcefully.
‘Yeah, you’re right. It’s not over. You’re about to get what’s coming to you,’ Matt added. ‘Only you’re too fucking dumb to realise it!’
With a final, ‘Hmmppff,’ Red turned and walked away, with his pal in pursuit. Neither one of them bothered to look back at us.
‘Are you sure that was such a good idea?’ I asked Matt, once they were out of earshot.
For what seemed like a long time he just stared after them, but just as I was about to ask him again he turned to look at me.
‘I have no idea,’ he said. ‘But if it’s war he wants, then that’s what he’s going to get. We had all just better make sure we keep an eye out, that’s all.’
‘I… I don’t like the sound of this,’ Tony said. ‘We thought we got rid of the cause of the trouble, but now we have this guy to deal with too.’
‘I don’t like it much either,’ Matt said to him. ‘But if the cops do get the video tapes from the cameras and find out it was him who damaged the car – and that it had something to do with payback for what happened to Thompson – then his ass will be right in the shit as well. And what will he be able to do then?’