The Last Newspaper in the World
4 November 2014
15 CHRISTINE’S NIGHT OUT
Christine pulled the car over. We were opposite the Awakeri hot pools now, in full weak winter sunshine. At I climbed out of the tiny car I glanced across the plains back to where the deep green of the range seemed to couple with the dark sky.
Christine came around and we leaned against the car with our backs to the road, shielding ourselves slightly from the highway. We spoke quietly, even against the noise of passing vehicles.
‘You know I loved horses when I was growing up. Had the whole pony club thing going on, walls covered in rosettes; and stacks of trophies displayed in prominent positions.’
‘Yeah, I can see that. Where’d you live?’
‘Up the valley, so it was a big deal to come into town to the club, then later going around the place for competitions.’
‘You were pretty good?’
‘The folks thought so. You can see a vid of me on Youtube winning the Bay junior eventing champs. Mum did it. It’s a hoot.’
I laughed and tried to imagine a younger Christine competing against some of those other pony club kids. It wasn’t that hard to picture.
‘I can kind of see you doing that but for one flaw – you don’t seem at all competitive.’
‘Oh I am really, you just don’t know it.’
‘Sorry, can’t see it. I knew some of those pony club kids at school and they could be pretty hard going.’
Christine’s face flushed and she looked like she was going to say something to defend her former club mates, but dropped it. Instead, she told me how she also loved writing and sent in reports to the paper.
‘The folks raced a couple of horses, just hacks really, so I used to trot along with them to help on race day. One day, we bumped into Harry and got talking. My folks told him how I was at a loose end and mum, pushy as, gave him an ear bashing until he agreed to take me on as a cadet.’
‘As a matter of interest, why was Harry there then?’
‘The usual reasons, I guess. He was there with Pat O’Rourke? He hasn’t much to do with him recently. That’s why I think it’s a bit odd that he’d send both of us out of town to take a photo of his horse like this.’
‘I just thought he wanted to get me out of town for a while or maybe give you some company.’
Christine shook her head. The pony tail was now drier and fluttered in the wind as a logging truck sped past and its wheels almost seemed to crease the road. We were quiet for a minute as the noise faded and the wind subsided.
‘You know how you said Harry was at the races with 20 Cents when you met him? Do you know what happened?’
‘How do you mean?’ she asked, looking up the highway.
I followed her gaze as the truck veered around the next bend.
‘Me,’ Christine said, gently lowering her head. Some of the guys in racing like to party hard. I was pretty young, okay it wasn’t long ago don’t look like that, when I started and mum and dad used to pick me up after going to the races. But they had to go up to Auckland one weekend, so Harry arranged for Mr O’Rourke to take me to the local race meeting.’
She went quiet then. I asked her where, she said, Tauranga.
‘After the races, we were going to head back but Mr O’Rourke said he wanted to first to go to some party at The Mount,’ she was talking quite fast now. ‘Said we’d just pop in and show willing to the owners and some other guys. It was an apartment by the beach. You know, in one of those big palaces. I thought it’d be fun,’ Christine said, looking over at me as if feeling the need to explain herself. I shrugged.
‘It was, at least to start with.’
‘How’d old 20 Cents go? I wouldn’t have thought he’d had it in him.’
‘Yeah, I know what you mean, but he was good, introducing me to everyone. Chang was there and that cop. You know, the one you don’t like.’
‘Mmm, that’s the one. I was on my own for a while, because Mr O’Rourke was talking with Chang, who was sitting on a couch with two girls. I must have been pretty green then, because it dawned on me that none of the men seemed to be with their wives.’
She was looking straight ahead now. It may have been the late sun breaking through distant clouds but her eyelids were narrowed.
‘I wanted to go but Mr O’Rourke laughed and told me to get a drink. There was a bar with lots of booze. I didn’t want anything, and just really wanted to get out of there. Stead came over and I felt better. After all he’s a cop, right?’
‘Right, so what’d he do?’
‘Nothing that I know of. We were just chatting. Then one of the girls brought out a pipe and passed it around. When it came to us, I shook my head but Stead said ‘it’s okay, I won’t tell if you don’t. I had a few puffs but I don’t know if I inhaled much, as I seemed to cough a lot. Everybody laughed, and I thought it was fun. I was getting tired though and it’d been a hot day. I went out on to the balcony and lay on one of the loungers, watching the surf crash in the evening sun. The noise of the waves seemed deafening from up there. I closed my eyes. I thought I felt somebody’s hand between my legs but I couldn’t tell you for sure.’
I nodded when she looked at me and didn’t say anything.
‘Anyway, it was dark when I woke up. It was cold, colder than it should have been for a summer night. I felt pretty bad but I was okay, you know, all in one piece.’
‘That’s good. Must have felt weird though? Good to get out of there, I suppose.’
‘I could hear voices from inside. A man and woman were slumped against the bar arguing, drinks in their hands spilling as they went back and forth. He was a big guy, with a strange, blank face. She was quite tall too but skinny as. I think she was a few years ahead of me at school, quite athletic then.’
I reckoned I knew who they were but didn’t say anything.
‘Where were the others?’
‘Bodies were spread around on sofas or screwed up in big chairs. Guys in their undies and chicks in not much at all. Mostly passed out. I couldn’t see Mr O’Rourke and looked over at the couple at the bar. They stopped arguing for a moment and the guy gestured towards a hallway where I could see some closed doors. I went to the first one and opened the door. It was a master bedroom, and Stead and Chang were in this huge bed with a couple of girls going hard at it. You know sometimes how you’re shocked and all you can do is stare? That’s what happened to me, until Stead lifted his head and roared at me to fuck off. I went to the next room and found Mr O’Rourke lying alone on top of the bed with his pants around his knees, but at least he was on his stomach. I shook him. He opened his eyes and didn’t say anything, just looking at me out of the corner of his eyes, blinking. He waved me to get out and said he’d be with me in a moment. I walked out. The couple in the lounge weren’t there any more. I went out of the apartment and stood in the hall. Leaning against the wall, I closed my eyes and started to shake.’
‘What happened? Did Pat come out?’
‘Yeah, yeah. He’d straightened himself up but his eyes were sliding around all over the place. He told me not to tell Harry. That he’d thought it’d be a bit of fun. I told him I didn’t think it was that funny. It was a long drive home that night.’
‘Did you say anything to Harry? Is that why he’s been so down on Pat?’
‘Yeah, I told him. Not everything like I’ve told you but enough. I love my job and felt embarrassed but thought he should know.’
Christine was quiet then. She shook for a moment. We got back in the car. I drove slowly off.
The Last Newspaper in the World
By Mick Stone
Published by BMS Books
An imprint of Business Media Services Ltd
The Last Newspaper in the World
Copyright © 2012 Mick Stone
All rights reserved.
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BMS Books an imprint of
Business Media Services Ltd
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