The Last Newspaper in the World
Chapter 3 EEL AND EGGS
The TV networks and national news were all over the story and we were shut out. We were all meant to be excited about our status as the banned media and devising new ways to cover the story. But it really was dead ends all around. Not that I minded too much. A bit of a show of calling around a few contacts for some platitudes about Mayor Brand contributed to a spread about his life and times. Diana was on to it, checking out his facebook page for unusual pics and notes of interest but Brand just didn’t seem to be that guy. It was all pretty pallid stuff, frustrating if you were looking for colour to use in a story short on detail. A not bad looking surf was just appearing on screen from the web cam when I noticed dad gesturing for me to come into the office.
It’s funny how slowly a computer screen can close down when you’re anxious about something. Not that I was too worried. After all, this was now a story officially going nowhere, at least as far the The Last Newspaper in the World was concerned. Not so, according to Harry. He was chewing down hard on his peppermints.
‘How’s that mate of yours, Jimmy Tatua?’ he asked, fiddling with a pen over a pad. I had a funny feeling I was being interviewed for a job, or was the old man having another crack at writing his memoirs.
‘He’s okay. I saw him the other day out at Drain Road.’
‘Yeah, I know that. What does he make of this mess with your mate Stead? What does he reckon is the story about Brand?’
‘I don’t know, I thought we weren’t allowed to talk to the cops?’
‘Bullshit. I’m not going to be told what we can and can’t fucken do by that bastard Stead or his useless boss.’
‘But how can we? If I contact Jimmy, mightn’t he get into trouble too?’ Ok, I felt pretty lame but I wasn’t really that interested in getting tied up in one of Harry’s dramas. I’d seen too many of them over the years.
‘Listen, Bill you’re the reason we’re in this fucken mess. If you hadn’t have been sucked in by Stead, we’d still be in the game. So it’s your mess, I want you to start cleaning it up.’
‘But dad, surely it’s your…’ He cut me off at that and went over to the door and called in Glen, Diana and Neil Rabistock. Neil was the office kid, straight out of school. Harry was probably the only editor who still hired raw kids with graduates being so cheap. Neil was slim, lanky with what looked like an amused expression on his face. He seemed to spend a lot of time doodling or watching YouTube clips. Then I would read really well researched and polished stories and wondered how did he do that? Looking over his shoulder one day, I saw he was drawing cartoons. Mine wasn’t that flattering as I seemed to be half asleep, although it was probably a post-surf chill. Now he trundled in behind Glen and Diane and I realised then how alert his eyes were, taking everything in.
‘Ok, I’m sick of us sitting on our hands. Anybody got any ideas?’ Before anybody could say anything, I said: ‘Look, why do we have to do what the cops want?’ Why did I say that? It came out of nowhere. Well, not entirely. While Harry had been going on his rant about Jimmy and my role in the mess, I had been half listening but had somewhere else also been thinking of alternatives. Harry and Glen looked at each other. I could feel myself suddenly wound into their world. ‘Yeah, go on,’ Harry said. ‘Well, you and I know just about everyone around here dad,’ I said pointedly using the familiar. ‘Somebody must know something, yet nobody seems to asking them the right questions.’
Harry looked at Glen and they exchanged a look. Although I hated dad’s swearing, I couldn’t help quietly giving myself a ‘fuck it’. ‘What’s that,’ Harry said. ‘Nothing, what do you think?’
Glen was in deep thought. I could tell that because he first ran a hand through his greying goatee and then ran it over his head as though running through his wisps of hair.
‘Yeah, I reckon we could do it. Bill can get out there and start talking to everyone you guys know, or don’t know. Diana can get on the phone and call everyone else.’ Diana opened her mouth to protest, but Harry put his hand up. He nodded toward Neil. ‘Neil, I think, can go down to the council and get all the agendas for the past year.’ ‘I can download them.’ Glen shrugged, ‘well do it but get a hard copy of the latest one also.’
We started filing out of the office when Harry called me back. ‘Bill, are you okay with this?’ ‘Sure, why?’ ‘Well, this could get pretty heavy going, so I was wondering.’ ‘You don’t think I’m up to it right.’ ‘Come on. I know you’d probably prefer to be down the beach, or anywhere but here. This is important. If you’ve got any problems, talk to me. Don’t just drift off on me.’ ‘Don’t go all fatherly on me all of a sudden.’ ‘Well you’re here aren’t you? Ok, bugger off and do some work.’
So ended the father-son chat. I left Harry’s office, and returned to my desk, where I picked up my bag. Diana was still annoyed at getting the desk job but we swapped phone numbers in case we need to be in contact. Leaving the newsroom, I stopped for a moment at the top of the stairs. Looking down, I could see brief sunlight flooding in through the door and I momentarily had the sense that my life was going to change. I felt a sensation as though I was stepping off into the new even though I knew I had been there before. As I started down into the pool of light, the door at the bottom of the steps was flung open. A figure shimmered in the glare and then became Christine Dobson, another of dad’s youngsters who acted as sports and racing correspondent. Compared to Diana, she was casually dressed, jeans, sweater, ponytail over hoody jacket, and boots, muddy. Having a bit of an interest in gambling, I’d had a few brief conversations with Christine but that was about all. So we nodded hello to each other. Just as I reached the door she called down to me from where she was standing near the top of the stairs.
‘Hey, Bill are you doing this thing with the mayor?’
‘You mean the mayor’s murder.’
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought you might be interested in something.’ I walked back up the stairs to her, wondering what Christine could tell me.
‘It’s just that when I was out at the track trials the other morning I saw Mr Brand.’
‘Bit of a horse fancier was he?’
‘That’s the funny thing really. I’d never seem him at the track before, well, at early morning training anyway.’ Now that was possibly interesting, I thought, and turned to go.
‘Oh, and he wasn’t alone.’ I had an inkling of why Harry swore so much. Maybe I was better off going for a surf.
‘Who was he with?’
‘I don’t know. They were on the other side of the track but I could see them through my glasses. The other guy was in a suit. I didn’t recognise from around here. He looked like a real Auckland type.’ I wondered what that was like.
‘Ok thanks.’ I turned to go and then it was my turn to call out to her. ‘Hey, Christine, any chance you can let me know if you come across anything more?’
The sunlight had disappeared when I turned to go out the door and it was starting to rain again. It was that light but piercing rain which was in some ways worse than a hot and heavy downpour. Standing in the doorway, I sent a message to Jimmy to say I was going out to his place and he came back with a brief ok. Jimmy lived at home in Victory. I always got on well with Mr Tatua, maybe formed through our relationship with the sea. The Tatua family had a boat building business on a piece of land on the outskirts of Victory, even though it was 20 minutes’ drive inland from Coastlands. He specialised in designing and building the kind of boats used by community groups, search and rescue and customers wanting no fuss vessels.
Although we hadn’t seen each other for a few years, we greeted each other and he welcomed me up the back steps of his house.
‘I’m just going to have some kai. Do you want some?’ He was slicing eel and laying the pieces out in a frying pan.
‘Sure, please, that’d be good.’
Standing beside him as he cut some more chunks off more me and chucked them into the bubbling oil, I looked out the kitchen window to the back of the property. Over the wire fence at the back of the section, and across the farmland beyond, I could see the distant ranges swimming in low clouds and rain. Rows of eels hung in a lean-to at the rear of the section. It was possible to stand there with sound of frying and the occasional rumble as truck went down the highway, to feel the stillness that belongs when you connect the dots in a life: The bush, the eels, the frying pan. Mr Tatua had also fried a couple of eggs each for us and he got me to butter some thin-sliced white bread. He said grace and we were eating at the small kitchen table when Jimmy came in, giving me a nod and jerking his head towards the back door. As we went out, Mr Tatua called out that he’d make some tea and I said that sounded good but Jimmy ignored him.
‘You know we shouldn’t be talking,’ Jimmy said as we stood on the back porch.
‘So what are they going to do? Bust one of their own?’ Jimmy looked sceptical.
‘Stead is pretty hostile to you, so just be careful is all I’m saying.’ Jimmy was taller than me and dressed in his uniform stood impressively next to me on the back steps. He wasn’t bull thick like Stead but looked powerful.
‘I know what you mean but it’s just we’ve got to get an in on this story. Have you got anything?’
‘Look, I’m not going to tell you anything about what we have or haven’t got. What I can say is that there’s something iffy about the whole thing.’
‘So it’s not just a case of the star-crossed lovers.’
‘I’m not saying. Could be. I don’t know but I am hearing nothing on that angle.’ That was it.
He told me to leave then and as I turned to go I asked him ‘Jimmy, do you know anything about the race course.’
‘No, except we used to lose our pocket money there. Such a dump but a lot of money’s gone down the drain there.’ For a boy from Victory, Jimmy really was turning into a puritan. ‘Hey what say we grab some waves soon?’
He laughed at that and shut the door.
The next chapter of the book will be posted next week.
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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