The Last Newspaper in the World
15 October 2014
CHAPTER 14: TALK TO ME
Where I came in, apparently, is that Chang wanted me to go to Singapore to track down the instigators of all his problems and the alleged murderer or murderers of Mayor Brand. I knew Harry wouldn’t bite on such a proposition, as that might have been a little too far out of the office for me to go. We chatted a while, agreed that I’d at least put the idea to Harry,, and we agreed to meet up again soon. Chang gave me his details and I left to find Christine. We met as she walked back from the stalls. Rain fell hard on the black pavement but Christine was smiling, striding through water in tight leather boots.
‘Enjoying yourself are you?’ I asked, turning up the collar of my jacket as we hurried over to the car.
She laughed as she pulled open the car door and flung herself in. I chucked my camera gear in the back and climbed in. As she started the car, turned on the wipers and the radio, I looked over at her face. Her hair was slicked back, just like she was a swimmer emerging from a pool. Little droplets of water ran down the side of her face. Her skin was shiny and tight from days in the sun, without having yet become hard from too much exposure to coast life. Opening the glove box, I reached in and found a small pack of tissues. My cold fingers awkwardly pulled over the plastic bag. Taking out a tissue I reached over and wiped water on her left cheek. Driving across the car park towards the gate, she reached up and grabbed the tissue.
‘Hey, I can do that, look after yourself,’ Christine said, her long fingers folding over mine to extract the tissue. ‘You look after yourself. Besides, I’ve got something to tell you.’
I shook my head and took a tissue to wipe my own face. The truth is since I had become closer to Angelique, I had become more open and interested in women. When I asked what it was she wanted to tell me, we had a little game of you first.
I told her what Chang had suggested and her response was similar to mine – Harry wouldn’t buy it – but she had a different take on Chang’s version of events. We were driving around the lakes on our way back to the coast. I’d always found the lakes on a rainy day had a sense of the sinister. Now, as Christine talked, I leaned against the door and looked out the window as choppy little whitecaps licked the lakes and deep mist crept down over bush so water-met-water.
‘Bill, you know Chang’s got a rep as a player?’ Christine said. I looked over at her as she steered the car around a slippery bend, peering intently through the wash of the blades on the windscreen. She suddenly sounded serious.
‘I would guess that, being a horse owner. So he likes to gamble. Stands to reason, or is he in too far?’
Christine’s voice lightened, she smiled and relaxed as we emerged from a narrow stretch of road to open highway, away from the gloom of the trees. ‘That too,’ she said, ‘but more like a player, player.’
‘So he chases the ladies, so…,’ I said in what must have been a vaguely mocking tone, because Christine took her eyes off the road and looked over at me. We were now on another narrow stretch of road around a lake. Water lay across the highway but the rain had stopped. Above the range ahead, I could see slices of blue-tinged sky thrown up from coast. Christine laughed and her still damp ponytail slapped her cheek as she shook her head.
‘Hmm, yeah, that too. It’s more than that though.’
‘You speak from experience?’
‘Pretty much. Let’s just say I had a lucky escape.’
‘Come on babe, you can tell me. I won’t tell anyone.’
‘Don’t ‘babe’ me. I know what you news guys are like,’ she said, suddenly serious.
I tried to back track. ‘Sorry. You do know I’m not like that,’ I said.
‘Not like Harry, you mean? Who took the pic of our Mayor lying on his back in a ditch with a hole in his head then?’
‘I’m not Harry, I said, swore and then added: ‘You must know that.’
‘Did you just swear?’
I apologised and we were silent for a while as the little car whipped its way up into the hills.
We were silent until the car started to hum down the other side of the range. The plains spread out like a welcome mat to the coast. The rain behind us, the clouds were split with that pale blue sky reflecting a winter sea. Giving an inner sigh, I glanced over at the silent Christine. She was different to Angelique, who flared with annoyance or joy, then freely said what she loved or hated. Diane knew more than I thought a horse-crazy kid could know. Suddenly I admired her joyful resilience yet was perplexed at how to mine her knowledge without driving her deeper underground.
‘Look, I’m sorry,’ I said, as she changed to fifth gear and cruised along the straight towards the coast. ‘I’m not Harry but this is a very big story for him. Let’s not forget we are talking about somebody who has been murdered. Whatever the mayor was up to, and it’s looking decidedly dodgy, did he deserve to end up in a ditch with a hole in his head?’
‘And have his photo taken by you, then splattered all over our paper?’ she neatly added.
‘Yeah that too, I suppose.’
We were quiet then for a while, as she navigated her way through Victory with fruit and vegetable stalls on one side and a police house, pub and shuttered stores on the other. After we crossed the bridge, I looked over to see if I could pick out Jimmy Tatua’s place and wondered whether his dad was right now cooking up some eel and eggs.
‘Okay,’ Christine said. ‘I don’t want this in the paper. This is between you and me. I am just not as heavy-duty as people like you and Harry.’
There she was again comparing me to Harry. Maybe I should really start swearing like the old man. I didn’t protest, however, as I wanted to hear what she had to say. The little car was humming along again and we really were going quite fast. I reached over and put my hand on her shoulder.
‘Look, you really don’t have to tell me anything. I don’t care enough. Hey, I’d rather be out having a surf.’
‘Yeah? That’s you all over isn’t it? Life’s a big joke, a bit of dreamtime at the beach,’ she said suddenly with a forcefulness that surprised me.
‘Nah. Maybe before this I would’ve, but now…’
Christine a deep breath as tears ran down her cheeks at a gentle canter.
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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