* * * FOURTEENTH INSTALMENT OF THE "HERALD'S" SECOND PRIZE NOVEL. * * *
YOU CAN'T SEE ROUND CORNERS
By JON CLEARY
Illustrated by JAMES PHILLIPS
FRANKIE McCOY deserts from the army to come back to his living as a starting-price bookmaker at Flanagan's hotel in Paddington. His girl, Margie Harris, breaks with him when she learns of his desertion and refuses to hear from him until he returns to the army. He meets two other girls: Myra, whom he picks up in a dance hall and to whom he introduces himself as Frankie Brown, and Meg, a niece of Flanagan's wife. In two Saturdays' betting he loses £150 and his creditors begin to press for payment. Two thugs, to whom he has lost money, accost
him in Flanagan's bar.
FOR a moment McCoy had a queer feeling of detach- ment, as if he had stepped out of himself and was view- ing this scene from an impersonal angle. He had seen things like this in the films, but they didn't happen to real people, least of all to people like him. He picked up his beer, but there was no taste to it; it was just wet in his dry mouth, and that was
"Look, fellers, I'll be honest with you. I ain't got the money right now. You coves skinned me the last two weeks. I'm up for over a hundred and fifty."
"We ain't interested in that," Lowe laid. "Ours is just eighteen quid."
"Yeah, but I ain't got eighteen quid." He was holding desperately to himself, trying to keep the frantic note from his voice. "I paid out what I could and I'm completely cleaned out. I'd give it to you if I had it. You know I ain't a welsher. I'm trying to raise the money now. I got an uncle I think'll lend me the money, but I got to work on him. I can't
McCauliffe stood away from the bar standing straight; he could have been a knife driven point-down into the floor. "You'd better, or we'll rush you. We'll give you till next Monday, McCoy. And then—look out. . . ."
They went out, the door swinging slowly behind them; the bar, small as it was, now seemed big and empty; the nickel taps winked in the light, the bottles glowed, the amber of the beer in his glass was a warm and comforting colour; there could have been no threats here in this atmo- sphere. He had dreamed everything that had just happened. Then he saw the two glasses, the beer in them un- touched, on the bar.
Flanagan came down and stood opposite him.
"What's the matter? You look as if you seen a ghost."
"Eh?" He looked up. "Oh, nothing."
"What did them two want? You don't usually knock about with them. I hope you ain't palling up with 'em. I tell you, Frankie; if you are, you move outa here. I'd keep 'em outa the bar if I could, but I ain't got nothing on 'em yet. But they ain't coming round the private quarters of the pub."
"It's okay, Syd. I ain't friendly with 'em. It was just business."
"That's all right, then. Just keep it business with 'em, Frankie. They're a bad couple."
Flanagan went back along the bar to the cash register and McCoy picked up his glass. He idly glanced at the man who had come in behind Lowe
and McCauliffe and who now stood round the angle of the bar, a glass in his hand and a paper spread before him on the counters He was in uniform, in jungle greens and with his hat pushed back from his yellow atebrin-staincd face, the face that was familiar yet older, older by five years of war.
McCoy walked round and stood beside him. "Hullo Harry. How's things?"
The soldier looked up. His face was lean and dried out but in his eyes you saw the close resemblance to Margie, his sister. "Oh. G'day
Frankie. Didn't recognise you for a
There was no welcome in his voice and he turned back to his paper. The meeting could have ended there but McCoy wanted someone, someone friendly, someone who would not hold threats against him, to talk to.
"On leave, eh? Glad to be back, I suppose?"
Harry turned the page of the paper. "No. I'm breaking my neck to get back to the mud and mossies."
The rebuff brought McCoy up short; he suddenly wanted to turn and run, to be away from this bar where he seemed to be standing alone against the world. He had always been alone against the world but till now he had never been on the receiving end; you could hate and suspect the world and feel strong doing it but you were weak and helpless before the feeling the world turned upon you.
"You seem to be doing all right for yourself," Harry said. His voice had the sawn edge of scorn. "Still in civvies, I see."
He struggled to draw up his defences, reaching back for the past that now seemed so inadequate. "Yeah. Working for myself—like I always have."
"So Margie tells me."
"Oh, she still talks about me?" Hate was swirling in a circle within him; from Lowe and McCauliffe to Harry and now to Margie; soon the whole world would be drawn in. "I can't get near her. I been trying to see her for the last week but she's too busy."
Harry stood up straight, leaning away. from the bar, and his right fist bunched, then he relaxed, his hand opening and reaching out for his glass. "Ah, what's the use? It's a waste of time hitting you."
Physical combat had never frightened him; now he almost wel- comed the opportunity to pound his
hate of everyone in to the face of this man before him. "Just try it, that's
A mirror, placed at an angle, ran round above the bar and Harry raised his head and looked up at it. McCoy turned his face up. following the other's gaze, and he saw the reflec- tion of themselves: the upturned faces, the foreshortened bodies stretching down to the floor, the illusion of look- ing at oneself from above, the re- verse feeling of being looked down upon. The inference of the last hit him as he heard Harry speak.
"McCoy, if I thought it'd do any good I'd wipe the floor with you." McCoy opened his mouth to speak but Harry brusquely cut him short. "Shut up. I'm telling you something. I got no time for you. I never did
have. As far as I'm concerned you're just a cheap lare and a bludger. But Margie seems to think you got something though what the hell it is I can't see. She's told me about it while I been home this time. 'She was hoping the army'd bring it out of you." Again McCoy went to speak but again he was cut short. "Shut up, I'm not finished yet. She still thinks it might. I know she's wrong. But she ain't been busy this last week, McCoy. She's been sitting at home, crying her eyes out. Crying over you! What a waste of tears!"
He picked up his beer and drained the glass; he had disliked McCoy for a long time and he had spoken with some vehemence but speaking vehem- ently and yet quietly, so Flanagan would not hear him, had been a strain on his throat; he needed the
McCoy stood in the wreckage of himself; he had been taken apart as he had never been taken apart before;
the words had crushed him because he knew some of them were echoes of what Margie had said. He wanted to hit Harry but it was as if his anger were made of glass; he knew that he himself would break as soon as the punch landed. He could feel a faint hysteria bubbling within him and he struggled to keep it in check.
"Well, if she's so broken-hearted, why don't she see me when I ask her? I rung her up and she told me to go back to camp."
"If you can't see it. I'm not going to put you wise." Harry folded his paper. "Wake up to yourself, McCoy. And if you don't wake up, stay away from my sister, or I'll come back and belt the b—— head off you."
He turned away and McCoy saw only his broad back, then the door had closed behind him and he was alone. He looked back along the bar and Flanagan was standing watch- ing him. For a moment there was a deep silence in the bar, then from the street there came the noise of a tram, the horn of a car, the cry of a newsboy, someone's laugh, and he went out of the bar and up to his room, knowing that one man's troubles had never stopped the world.
THAT night was a long succession of dark sleepless hours, broken only by the faint lonely chiming of a dis- tant clock, suffered only because there was no escape. He lay in the now uncomfortable bed seemingly trapped by the binding bedclothes, staring with strained eyes at the invisible ceiling, at the silhouette of the bed- end, at the pale triangle showing between the curtains. His mind was a merry-go-round that had no music; horses chased one another in a circle, and every one was a winner, ridden by Lowe and McCauliffe and Robinson and all the other bettors; he lay waiting for to-morrow to come, as if the new day might bring some solution, but he knew the future was as dark as the room about him.
He went down to breakfast with- out being called, glad to escape from the room, to see someone who would distract him from thinking. The long hours of wakefulness were grey and heavy in his face, and as he sat down at the table Meg looked at him, hard and with some concern.
"What's the matter?" he said. He was irritable and on edge, ready to resent her close scrutiny and yet, perversely, glad of sympathy if she
should offer it.
"I was just going to ask you. You look like you been on it for a week."
"I had two glasses yesterday after- noon. That wouldn't make me like this." He cut in to the steak on his plate. "I'm worried."
"Your bets, you mean?"
He nodded. He put the knife and fork back on the plate and sat back. The meat was tasteless in his mouth; he was hungry, but there was no pleasure in eating.
"What's the matter with the steak?"
"Nothing. I just don't feel hungry. Can I have a cup of tea?"
She poured two cups, then sat down at the opposite end of the table. "I wish I could help you, Frankie. But, gee, I dunno where to pick up a hun- dred quid or whatever it is. Might as well look for a goldmine out in Ox-
"Don't I know it? God, if it was only as easy to get as it is to lose it! Just to walk outside and pick it up off the footpath." He stood up, hands deep in pockets, and walked aimlessly round the room, staring at the floor as if expecting to find the money there. "Ah, I'm going nuts! What's the good of dreaming? I ain't got it, and I ain't going to get it."
He went out of the room, suddenly wanting to be alone again, and went in to the lounge-room. He flopped down in a deep chair and picked up the morning paper.
The papers still carried the story of the Belmore murder, though it had now been relegated to the inner pages and to the foot of a column. He read the item, his eyes dragged there by a morbid curiosity; he had lost interest in the case days ago, but each morn- ing he looked to see if there had been any new developments. It was like hearing a tune you did not like, but which you found yourself always whistling: He was wishing to hell they'd catch the murderer so he wouldn't have to read about him any more.
He folded the paper and sat staring across the room, seeing nothing for a full minute, his mind full of his troubles. His eyes focused, and he was looking at a print on the wall, a print of an old champion of the turf in full gallop. He cursed, stood up, and went out through the kitchen without speaking to Meg, out the side gate, and walked up toward the Park. Trams rattled by, crammed tight with people on their way to work; lorries rumbled in the stream of traffic; car engines revved: children on their way to school shouted; a butcher's meat- chopper thumped-thumped on the block. All was noise and bustle, and that was preferable to the lonely quiet
of his room.
By Saturday he had almost half decided to close his book and not take any more bets till he had solved his present problem. But he had the gambler's optimism and belief in his
luck. It was always the same; when you were winning you thought it best to keep on while your luck lasted, and when you were losing you still thought you'd better keep on till
your luck changed.
His clients came to lay their bets,
but there was a strained atmosphere; they tendered their money without comment, but he knew he was under suspicion. He couldn't blame them; they couldn't afford to be a pal to a man who couldn't pay them what he owed them. Their friendship with him had the glint of silver and the rustle of notes; without that colour and that sound the relationship was
The radio brought the bad news; the tinfoil voices of the announcers chanted a miserable litany; fast horses, the wrong horses, carried his luck farther and farther away from him. After the fourth race he went from the back room into the kitchen,
carrying a glass of beer with him. He had been drinking all afternoon, as if trying to fill the empty feeling within him, but the beer was having no
effect on him.
Meg was sitting at the table, sew- ing some underwear. She looked up as he sat down opposite her.
"How you going?"
"Lousy. I've lost on every race so far. I'm just not game to listen any
"You'd better go in Monday to some finance company and get a loan. You'll have 'em putting the cops on to you. Oh!" The needle pricked her finger and she raised her hand to her mouth to suck the affected mem- ber. "I don't mean the civil police, but someone might get nasty and hand you over to the military cops." She had learned of his desertion from her uncle, but McCoy now was too pre- occupied to notice that there was another sharing his secret. The Army and the evading of its provosts had now become a minor problem, some- thing to be shelved for the moment.
"What'm I going to use for security? These places don't give you a coupla hundred quid because they like the look of you. They'd get nothing if they repossessed me."
"Is it a couple of hundred now?"
"It will be if they keep coming home like this the rest of the pro- gramme."
But the next three races his luck
turned, and at the end of the after- noon when the prices came over they were much shorter than he had ex- pected. His columns almost ba-l
anced the debit side showed only a few more pounds than the credit. It was heartening, but it solved nothing the last two weeks still hovered in dark shadow above him.
He slammed the book shut, put on his hat and coat, went out of the hotel, and walked up Oxford Street.
The evening air was cool and now his first time out of the house to-day, he felt chilly. The sun had gone down an hour ago, and now only the sky behind the house on the other side of the street had any light. The roof tops were black and clearly lined against the pale green light, rising like deserted battlements and a child's kite, caught on a chimney pot, was a tattered standard. The sky, green and clear and pale, had a look of cold eternity about it—you could imagine this sort of sky above the earth long after life had left it.
People were on their way to the films, going early to get the best of the cheap seats, the women carrying their magazines or their knitting the men with the evening papers, sporting pages turned outward, tucked under their arms. This was Saturday night the big night of the week, the night of escape, one and sixpence took them from these poor streets to gilded halls, from their plain partners to hand- some men and beautiful women, from their own troubles to the hokum troubles of the screen drama that were always so much more beautiful and bearable. Even had they known they could not have been interested in the troubles of the dark young man hands deep in pockets, who walked silently and abstractedly by them. His problems were too much like their own; there was no glamour to being
McCoy had to meet Myra to night,
but right now he was not thinking of her. She didn't have the cure for what was wrong with him. Nobody had, unless it was someone giving away his fortune before he died.
He walked on, not heeding his pas- sage past Parish's the chemist, Flint's the grocer, Carter's the delicatessen, Navaretti's, the fruiterer, Hardman's the butcher—the thought fell into his mind with the shock of an icy dagger and on the handle of the dagger the name blazed HARDMAN! McCoy could see him coming down to the hotel with all the silver in his bag then going back to his shop with the bag full of notes and locking it in his safe till Monday when the bank
opened. Saturday morning and Mon- day morning and all the time between.
He stopped and stood stock still, his legs weak, scared of the idea and the suddenness with which it had hit him. He hadn't even thought of this way out—this was something that needed consideration. He walked on. He had seen the safe; it was a small old-fashioned type with a handle on the door shaped like a house door handle, and the lock had no combina- tion, but was opened by a key. It would need strong-arm tactics on it and that meant noise. He slopped and looked back down the street, checking the shops. Both shops on either side of Hardman's, Navaretti's and Nissen's, the radio repair man, were lock-up shops. He would be safe enough from those quarters, but he would still have to be careful of
people passing m the street outside. He must not leave the job too late, he must get it done before the traffic quietened down.
There had been no moment of in- decision, once the idea had come to him he had decided to go ahead with it. Gone was the troubled uncer- tainty of the last week; now his mind was working smoothly and efficiently; he could feel confidence growing with in him, like some drug taking effect; the battle was to be renewed, he against the world.
He turned and went back down to- ward the hotel. There was a small shed in the backyard of the hotel and he knew that Flanagan had some tools stored in there. He turned down the side street and went down, past the door of the hotel to the side gate. Quietly, he stepped inside the gate and crossed the yard to the shed. There was a light in the kitchen, and he could hear Meg singing and the rattle of dishes as she washed them. He
opened the door of the shed, lifting it so it would not scrape on its hinges, and stepped inside, closing it behind him. He stood in complete dark- ness, smelling paint and leather and wood and iron and rust, the peculiar smell of the paraphernalia that collects over a time in a backyard shed, then he lit a match. It flickered as he cupped his hand about it and gro- tesque shadows leapt out of the cor- ners and danced in mad corroboree about him.
Then he heard the footsteps coming down the path and he hurriedly blew out the match and the darkness closed
in swiftly, seeming to have pressure as he stood there holding his breath, waiting for Meg to open the door and wondering what he was going to say to her. Then he heard the door of the lavatory next to the shed being pushed open, and he knew he was safe. He relaxed, but still stood without moving lest he stumble over something in the dark. He heard a movement in the shed, possibly a rat, and outside in the street there was the squeal of a car's brakes. There was another moment's silence and he fancied he could hear his watch ticking, then he heard a woman call a man's name. She called three times, her voice shrill and loud in the quiet street, bouncing against the walls of the houses, then a car came down and took away the echo with its own
engine noise. He lit another match and made a hurried selection from the small choice of tools he found in a box on a bench. He had a hammer, a chisel, a pair of pliers, a pair of thick wire cutters, and a rusty heavy jack-knife; not much with which to open a safe, but there was neither time nor choice from which to be better equipped.
He went out across the yard, turn- ing right when he was outside the gate, down toward the lane that ran behind the hotel and the shops front- ing Oxford Street . He walked up the lane, walking close against the fence, his progress just a faint suggestion of movement in the deep shadow He picked out Navaretti's by the fruit boxes piled high in the yard, and then he was standing right behind Hardman's. He tried the gate and found it locked on the inside, but it was no effort to hoist himself up and over the fence. Down the lane a dog barked, and for a moment the fear of discovery made him weak, then he heard a voice from a house on the other side of the lane yell to the dog to be quiet, and the barking sub-
He felt his way carefully up the yard to the back door of the shop. The door, as he expected, was locked and the window beside it was also locked. He took out the knife and slipped the blade up between the frames. This had been a childhood game, playing at burglars, an inno- cent pastime had given him the prac- tice he now needed. The catch slipped back with a click, and he raised the window and heaved himself over the sill and on to a bench built along
the inside wall.
The back of the shop was divided fiom the front by the refrigeration chamber. Close against the bench that ran along the back wall under the window were two salt vats, and be- tween these vats and the back of the refrigeration chamber was the safe. That much he knew from memory.
He lit a match, cupping his hand about it to prevent reflection on the side hall that could be seen from the front of the shop. His memory had served him correctly; the back of the shop was exactly as he had last seen it. He knelt beside the safe, holding the match close against the door. The door looked strong and solid enough, but there was a yellow ribbon of rust
running right down the front of the safe, spreading out as it fanned round the door handle. Salt water from the vats had been dripping down over the safe for years, but Hardman, either from laziness or procrastination, had never moved the safe. The match burned down and he flicked it out before he burned his fingers. He stood up and went to the corner of the refrigeration chamber. From there he could see the front window of the shop and the silhouettes of the people as they passed, black anonymous sen- tries guarding this shop in which the thief was already at work. He looked at his watch: seven thirty. He stood for a moment listening, his car sepa- rating each noise into its own distinct-
ive sound then blending them again to get the aggregation, assessing the volume against the noise he might make here in the shop. There was enough: trams clattering by, the hum- ming of car engines and the swish of their tyres, the clack clack of heels on the pavement, the snatches of chat-
ter as people passed. If he was care- ful he would not be heard.
HE took off his coat and bent down before the safe. He lit another match and surveyed the task before him, then he inserted the chisel in the soft rust round the door handle and began tapping.
It took him an hour and ten min utes. His legs and body were cramped from kneeling and his hand was sore and tender from holding the chisel. But finally the door swung open, the lock giving away suddenly. He drop- ped his hands to his thighs and hung his head, resting for a moment, then he swung the door right back on its hinges and reached in to the safe. His hand found a small box and when he opened it there was the rustle of notes against his fingers. He scooped them out and stuffed them in to his trousers pockets, a nervous excitement bubbling within him There was also some loose change and that, too, he put in his pockets.
He stood up and felt along the bench for a cloth he had seen when he lit the first match. He ran the cloth up and down the door and over the small box, wiping out finger marks then he dropped the cloth in one of the vats. It dropped with a splash into the water, and immediately follow- ing the wet sound there was a shout in the street outside the shop. He stiff- ened, then relaxed as the shout came a second time, now farther away; it was only a couple of youths sky- larking on their way to some dance.
In another minute he was out in the back lane, walking with a large sense of freedom feeling like a bal-
loon suddenly released. It had been easy dead easy. You couldn't keep a smart man down; they'd had him for a while but now he was back on top. His shoulders squared and the old swagger came back to his walk.
He went in the side gate of the hotel, put the tools back in the box in the shed, then went out of the yard into the street again and up to the side door. He opened the door quietly and just as quietly crossed the hall and ascended the stairs to his room. He switched on the light and locked the door behind him. He walked over to the bed and emptied his pockets on to the coverlet. The money lay green and pink and blue and silver in the light; the colours were bright and cheerful and consoling, chasing away the gloom of the past weeks. He sat down on the bed, the money sliding towards him as the mattress tilted, and began to count the notes, ignoring the silver. One
hundred and twelve pounds. Not
enough but good enough. He could pay off most of the bettors and next week, with this turn in his luck, he would be back on the winning side
He looked at his watch, five to
nine. Myra would be wondering where he had got to; she'd be thinking he had stood her up. Not to-night, he wouldn't. Not on your life: to- night he felt like celebrating.
He dragged his suitcase out from beneath the bed. He opened it and with his nail-file slit the lining of the lid. He put the loose silver in his pocket and counted off five five-pound notes, four one pounds, and two ten shillings and put them in his wallet; he would casually exhibit his wealth before Myra to- night; women always liked to see a man with money. He folded the wallet about his vanity and his confi- dence and put them in his coat pocket.
The rest of the money he shoved into the slit in the lining, pushing a sheet of brown paper in after it. The slit was evident but the money lay smoothly and flatly behind the lining. He closed the case and pushed it back
under the bed.
He went along to the bathroom, washed, went back to the bedroom, and changed into clean clothes, trans- ferring his money from one suit to the other. He looked at himself in the mirror, appraisingly and with approval, winked at his reflection, then went downstairs and into the lounge-room.
Flanagan, in pyjamas and dressing gown, the paper on his lap, a bottle and a glass on the table beside him, looked up as he entered.
"Oh, hullo. Thought you'd gone
"I did. Came back to get changed. Where's Meg and the missus?"
"Gone to the pictures. Having a quiet night on my own."
"Look, Syd, how's it for a bottle of whisky?"
Flanagan laughed drily, derisively. "Don't be a b—— fool. Where d'you think I'm going to get whisky?"
"Ah, come on. I know you got lit. You got half a dozen bottles down in the cellar. I seen 'em when I was down there the other day."
"What were you doing down there?" Flanagan looked up sharply.
"I went down to give the bloke from Tooth's a hand when he de- livered the beer. Come on, just one bottle. I'll pay you what you ask. I got a cobber who's having a party to-night. It's his birthday and I want to give him this as a present. I'll get a drink out of it, too—get a bit of my own back, sort of."
Flanagan laboriously got up from his chair, grumbling. He would never let the youth know, but he liked Mc- Coy despite his faults. "I could get five quid from a Yank."
"That's right, Syd." McCoy grin- ned. "But let's be patriotic."
Flanagan returned in a minute with the bottle wrapped in brown paper. McCoy had the money ready in his hand and he passed Flanagan a
"I haven't any change," Flanagan
"Forget it. Take it off the rent. Good-night."
He went out, full of confidence and swagger, the old McCoy, who
could beat the world.
HE crossed George Street and walked up the lane beside the Regent
Theatre. He walked nearly to the end of the lane before he found what he was looking for, a drain- pipe that came almost to the ground. He took the bottle out of the paper and pushed it up the drain-pipe then stuffed the paper in after it as a plug to hold in the bottle. He dusted his hand and walked back down the lane and turned right toward the Trocadero. Law forbade the taking of liquor into the dance hall and— he grinned to himself at the thought; he was in high humour and ready to smile at anything—you couldn't go up to a cove in the street and
ask him to mind a bottle of whisky for you while you went and collected your girl. His girl—even that thought pleased him. He had come out of the slough of despair, from abysmal depths to this new height where the sun shone and everything was right and in its place.
He had no trouble finding Myra.
As he came in the door she went past in the arms of a small, sleek Greek, who, oblivious of her bored expres- sion, was obviously conscious of her sex and very glad to be close to it. The music was low and muted, syn- thetically sad, and a girl at a micro- phone in anguished tones informed the dancers that she missed her lover who was away at the wars. At the end of the song she went round be- hind the orchestra dais and made a date with an American.
Suddenly, Myra saw McCoy stand- ing by the door and instantly her bored expression was gone. Her face broke into a welcoming smile and she lifted her hand and waved to him. He waved back and as she came round the floor again she sud- denly left the Greek and walked away from him toward McCoy. The Greek stood still in the middle of the floor, ignored as if he were just a chair she had vacated, then with an ex- pression of angry disgust he pushed through the crowd toward the side of the hall and from there stood glaring at Myra and McCoy.
"Gee, hello dear," Myra said, and
the welcome in her voice was as warm as her smile; everything for her now was conditioned by the presence of this man; for better or for worse, she loved and hoped. "I didn't think you was coming. Where you been?"
McCoy, amused, feeling slightly superior toward the Greek, nodded across the hall. "Your boy friend don't seem to like me cutting in."
She looked carelessly over her shoulder, dismissing the Greek with a shake of her head. "He'll get over it. And who cares if he don't?" But her only interest was standing here before her; there was no other man but this one, looking.more confident and handsome to-night than she had ever seen him look. "What kept you?"
"We had a few extra jobs at the garage. It meant working t'morrer otherwise." The pretence of his job in a garage had been maintained; there was no reason for too many confidences: To her, he was just a nice boy named Frankie Brown, who was twenty-one, worked in a garage, and lived in Paddington. She did not know it but that was all she was ever going to leam about him; de- spite her ideas to the contrary he did not intend to allow their relation- ship to assume any more permanency than it had now; he liked the phrase, "my girl" only for the proprietary feeling it gave him, not for the con- verse relationship of his being "her boy." "Look, feel like a drink? I managed to get a bottle of whisky. What d'you say we go somewhere and have a coupla spots? That do you?"
Anything he proposed did her. "It's ages since I had a drink. Wait'll I get my coat?"
"Okay, I'll go and get the grog. Meet you outside."
He went out and down the lane, collected the bottle, and was waiting for her when she came down the
steps. She took his arm and they walked up to the corner of Bathurst
"Where'll we go?" she said, not caring so long as she went with him.
"Think we'll go down to the Domain again, eh?"
They caught a tram down to Hunter Street, and as they alighted he had a sudden idea. "Here, hold the whisky. Won't be a minute."
"Where you going?"
"We want something to eat, don't
He went into a snack bar, bought sandwiches, a bottle of lemonade, and persuaded the girl behind the counter to give him two paper cups. He took his wallet from his pocket and hold- ing it wide open, displaying the notes inside with studied casual ostentation, extracted a five-pound note and of- fered it to the girl.
"Ain't you anything smaller?" she
He grinned. "That's all. Ain't it
"Must be wonderful to be rich," she said, and gave him his change. He went out of the shop and she went back to cutting tomato sandwiches, thinking she wouldn't have minded going out with that bloke, smooth
looking like he was and with his wal- let lined with fivers. She cut bread, sliced tomatoes, and chewed her gum.
McCoy rejoined Myra and they walked up Hunter Street. "I thought you'd gone home," she said.
I got some sandwiches, a coupla cups to drink out of, and a bottle of lemonade. We can tip that out and get water in it. You don't like your whisky neat, do you?"
"I'll take it any way; but it and you last longer when you take it with water. And I don't wanna pass out to-night. Not to-night or any other night; I don't want to lose any of the time I'm spending with you."
They reached the Domain and crossed the grass towards the Art Gal- lery. A man with a bundle of papers under his arm, one of the city's dere- licts whipped by the world, the mark of his defeat the thin bent line of his back and the averted face, crossed their path, heading for a seat under the trees, his bed for the night. McCoy looked after him without making com- ment; the world would never lick him like that. He felt no pity for the unfortunate, only contempt; he had already forgotten his own despair of the last fortnight.
"Frankie, why don't you come out home t'-morrer? I'd like you to meet my mother and father."
"Have you told 'em about me?" Vanity vied with suspicion; was she shining up her brass plate to hang
round his neck?
"Not much. Mum never asks me who I go out with, I tell 'em where I'm going but I don't say who I'm going with. I dunno whether they care. I ain't had a boy home since— well, since the boy I told you about."