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Final Instalment Of This Serial Will Appear To-morrow

YOU CAN'T SEE  

ROUND CORNERS

By JON CLEARY

Illustrated by JAMES PHILLIPS

WHAT could Meg's news

be? Had the police

made an arrest? Had the Belmore murderer been caught and was this perhaps his

salvation? "What?"

"Someone broke into Hardman's over the week-end. Busted the safe and took over a hundred quid."

One hundred and twelve, to be exact. He walked in behind her and

closed the door.

"They got any idea who done it?*'

"They reckon not. But Hardman took all the numbers of the notes, so they can trace em if the bloke tries to get rid of 'em."

If the bloke tries to get rid of them. Meg went through into the kitchen and be went upstairs, ascending with- out realising he was making the move- ment, moving automatically, stunned and dazed, along the hall and into his room, slamming the door behind him, to flop on the bed, his face buried in the pillow, sicker than he had ever been before at this latest calamity.

They have the numbers and they can trace them if he tries to get rid of them. The money that was to be used to keep the bettors quiet, the solution of one of his prob- lems, and now he could not use it. There were eighty-two pounds in the lining of the suitcase beneath the bed and there were twenty-two pounds in his wallet and there were a five pound note and a one pound note somewhere with blood on them and the police knew the numbers of every one of them. And—Oh, God! Oh, God! There was a pound note down in Flanagan's cash register! He rolled over on his back and flung his hand across his eyes and fervently, despairingly, wished to Heaven, which he had long forgotten and denied, that he were dead. There was no future for him whichever way he

turned.

HE lay like that for a long time, lost in the silence of the room, not   hearing the traffic outside, the occa- sional plane that passed overhead, just listening for the footsteps on the stairs. Then he sat up. This ain't doing you any good. McCoy, just sitting here. Go downstairs and meet the trouble. Maybe he's lost the note. Maybe he's taken it across to the bank . . . He rose immediately and went downstairs, his heels hitting flatly on the stairs, across the hall, and through into the bar, and there were two large men, obviously detec- tives, and a uniformed policeman standing talking to Flanagan, and this was it at last, the end of the chase and the worry and his torturing con- science, the end of everything. They turned toward him as he came into

the bar.

"What d'you know, Frankie?" Flanagan said. "They found one of the stolen notes in the money I took over to the bank this morning."

Relief had blocked his throat, but he managed the word, "Yeah?"  

"You don't know anything about it, do you?" said one of the detec-

tives.

"Me?" I know it all, brother. I know more than you'll ever know. Confidence came back, a false confi- dence that still built up his resistance, prepared him for further questioning. What these mugs knew now wouldn't hurt him one bit. He laughed. "No, dunno a thing. You got any idea who gave you the note, Syd?"

"Gawd, no, I changed a coupla —no, about four—notes this morning. Didn't notice who gave 'em to me. Coulda been anyone. Coulda been you, even."

For God's sake, don't say any more.   Flanagan! Don't tell them how much I gave you! He stood there, stiff yet weak, frozen as the moment hunglike a word above him.

". . . No." Flanagan said. "I ain't got the faintest idea."

McCoy turned and went out of the

bar, slipping away quietly as the de- tectives went to the door, and went   up to his room, to the room that had  

now become a retreat, his ivory tower  

of despair and futile planning for the future. He felt in his pocket for the cigarettes, and his hand touched Gray- son's letter. He had forgotten all

about it.

I'm relying on my memory that this is the right address. Snow was out to see me last week —you can see at the top of the letter where I am now—and he told me you'd scrammed from camp. I guessed as much when you didn't write me; I think you're a damned fool, Frankie, but, still, it's your own funeral. I thought you might have come across to say good-bye before you left. Anyhow, that's past. Why don't you come out and see me? There aren't any jacks out here and I'll be damn glad to see you. It's pretty lonely, just sitting in the sun all day then going back to bed at night. I'm going nuts. Come out and cheer me up.

Come out and cheer me up. Every- thing now was ironic, a mockery. But he would go out. He wanted some-   one to talk to. He was staying too much in this room. He would go out and see him to-morrow.

After lunch he went into town to the films. He had no desire to see a show, and he sat in the darkness while the world laughed loud and long and a thousand-pounds-a-week comedian, played the fool. McCoy came out of the theatre and looked at his watch. He had to stay in town till the hotel was shut, till the bettors had gone

home.

It was twenty to eight when he let himself in the side door and went into the lounge-room. Flanagan, alone, looked up from his paper.

"Where you been?"

"Went to the pictures in town. It came out a bit late so I had tea in

town."

"Coupla blokes were looking for you in the bar to-night."

"Okay, thanks, I'll probably see

'em to-morrer."

Flanagan went back to his paper. "Yeah. That's what they said."

HE was asleep, dreaming again of Myra and the blood on her face,   standing here in this room, smiling down at him as he lay on the bed, then she was lying beside him, her  

body naked and close against him and yet without warmth or feeling, and in her hair there were banknotes with blood on them, and he knew the police were coming, and he could do nothing to rise from the bed and Myra, but lay powerless beside her while the police knocked on the door.

He struggled into wakefulness still hearing the knocking, then he opened his eyes and the door was opening and Ern McCauliffe was coming into the room. He came to the bottom of the bed and stood with both hands on the bed rail, and in one hand he held a small brown paper parcel, evidently his lunch.

"I'm on my way to work I got the sheila downstairs to let me in." He   was speaking quietly, but his voice was still flat and hard cutting the silence like a jagged knife. "We didn't   see you in the bar last night."  

McCoy sat up and reached for a cigarette. His hand was not steadv, and he took time about lighting the cigarette, waiting for his nerves to

quieten.

"No." Nervousness and the sleep     that was still in his throat made his voice a croak. He cleared it, "I went

into town for the money and got held up."  

"You'll get held up in the lane down the back of the pub if the money ain't there to-night."  

"Look, Ern. You know I ain't a   welsher—"

"Do I?"  

"Well, I've always paid you before,

ain't I?"    

"You don't wanna spoil a good

record."  

"You know I ain't ever gyppcd anyone."

"That's right. And you don't start now." McCauliffe leaned forward   across the bed-rail, standing on the balls of his feet, poised like someone ready to drive home a blow. "Look, McCoy, I don't care where you get   the money, Barney and me will see you in the bar to-night at quarter to   six and you'll have our eighteen quid."  

He turned suddenly on his heel and went out of the room leaving the door open behind him, and the threat of his voice still pervading the room. McCoy drew deeply on the cigarette and looked about him. He knew now what a man felt like, standing on the death platform while they put the rope round his neck. His eyes travelled slowly round the room—this was the platform. They were hanging him in this room. Suddenly something within him burst and he flopped down in the bed and hardly realising it, he was crying into the pillow. Childhood came back like some faint echo and his despair came out of him as it had when he was a kid and he was wishing to God that there had been no youth, no child- hood, no infancy, that he had never been born.

When he went downstairs later and looked into the kitchen, Meg was cooking at the stove and Flanagan was sitting at the table eating.

"Going up to get the paper. Won't  

be a minute."

"Here's one here," Flanagan said.   "No need to get another one."

"Oh, I'll go up anyway, I feel like  

the walk."

As he crossed the hall to the side door he heard Meg say, "Dunno what's come over him lately. One   time you couldn't get him outa bed   and now he goes for a walk before

breakfast."

"Maybe he's in love," Flanagan  

said.

God if that was all it was! He went up the street to the shop and bought both morning papers, two copies of each. The murder was still news, still worthy of a two-column   spread. The police had now learned that the murdered girl had been out several times with a man whose name was unknown. They had published a photo of Myra and there was a request for anyone who had seen her with a man to come forward and describe the man.

HE looked at the photo and he felt a faint dizziness. It was a good   photo alive and full of her vitality, her smile wide and friendly, but he was not looking at her laughter there

in the ink, but seeing her with her

face smashed and the smile gone for- ever under his

pounding fist. He  

turned his gaze away from the

photo, looking again at the story, then suddenly shivered. Asking anyone who had seen her with a man to come forward and describe the man. Sup- pose the man she had been dancing with on Saturday night, the Greek, should come forward to give infor- mation? He had taken a good look at McCoy—he had looked long enough to be able to recognise McCoy if ever he saw him again. McCoy turned and walked back down to- ward the hotel and it seemed there was a tightness round his neck.

He stopped to cut out the clip- pings, threw those two papers down a drain, then went on to the hotel with the other two copies under his

arm.    

Flanagan had finished breakfast and was inside, in the bar, moving bottles, whistling to himself, a man without a care in the world. McCoy went into the kitchen, sat down, and put the two papers on the table beside

him. Meg put his breakfast before him, then sat down opposite him and reached across for a paper.

"How's the war going?"

"All right." He sat watching her, putting food into his mouth without glancing at it. She read the front page, glancing down it, sometimes stopping to read an item, then she turned to the inner pages. She had the paper spread out before her and he could not see her face, only the top of her head move as she turned from one item to another across the page. There was silence between them and in the room there was only the sound of a kettle boiling on the stove and he sat there, not eating, the meat stuck on the end of his fork, waiting and knowing, as surely as he knew there was sunlight in the yard outside, that she was going to com- ment on the murder.

She spoke from behind the paper.

"She was a nice-looking girl, wasn't she? The one that was murdered."

"Was she? Have they got a pic- ture of her?" Here must be the pre- tence, the facade of ignorance.

She turned the paper round and the face was staring at him again, laugh- ing at him across the food and plates and cups, laughing at him at break- fast, reaching her dream only in

death.

"They oughta hang him when they get him." She pulled the paper round in front of her again. "You   men can be animals at times; dirty, rotten animals."

"Yeah." Here's one dirty rot- ten animal, he thought, who wishes he'd never touched a girl, who wishes he'd never been born.

He felt he could not stay round the house all day. He would go out and see Grayson. He went into town and caught a train out to the station nearest the sanatorium, sit- ting hunched down in the seat, look- ing at the city flying past the window, trying to think of some escape from the future, trying not to think of her as he had last seen her. He turned from the window and the face was in front of him again, laughing at him, then the man in the seat opposite turned the page of his paper and the face was gone.

He stood up and went out and stood on the platform near the door. He watched the ground rushing past below the carriage and saw the cable posts coming at him from infinity, rushing with terrible speed, being there opposite the doorway just a moment, then gone, solid iron posts that would kill you instantly if you jumped into them from a train travel- ling at forty miles an hour.

Stop it, McCoy, stop it, stop it, stop it! Oh, God. God, I'm going nuts, I'm beginning to crack! Sud- denly frightened, he turned and went back into the carriage and sat down.

He alighted from the train and caught a bus out to the sanatorium. The buildings were white and cool in the thin sunlight, peaceful and calm as if accepting the death within their

walls.

He went up to the front office and asked for Grayson. A uniformed attendant took him out through a side door and down a path and across a lawn, and Grayson was sitting in a wheel chair, his eyes closed, his face pale and thin and lifeless, a dead man sitting in the sun. They had almost reached him before McCoy recognised him. He saw the thin hands and the beaten body beneath the rug, and he suddenly wished that Grayson hadn't written him, hadn't asked him to come. Age had always frightened him, and Grayson was an old man. He felt sick and frightened, and he

wanted to turn and run.

GRAYSON opened his eyes, turning his head, recognising McCoy, and   he tried to sit up straight in the chair. His mouth widened and the shadows in his cheeks grew deeper, but the smile was a mockery, an echo of a pleased welcoming expression.

"Hullo, Frankie. Would you get a

chair, please, Dick?"

The attendant went across the lawn, got a chair from beneath a

     

tree, and brought it back. McCoy sat down, still wishing he had not come, and the attendant went away.

"I got your letter yesterday. You had the right address."  

"How've you been?" Death was in Grayson's voice, there was the dark whisper of eternity in the faint

tired tones.

"Oh, so-so. You knew I went through?"

"Yes. Snow told me when he was out last week." He was silent for a moment, looking at McCoy, the sunken eyes half-shut against the sun. "Do you think vou'll get away with

it, Frankie''"

I don't know, he thought. Maybe they'll never discover who she was at the Troc with, maybe the Greek won't come forward to describe me, maybe they'll just put her aside with all the other bodies they find, maybe —He blinked his eyes and Grayson came back into his gaze.

"Do you?" Grayson said.

"What? Oh, the jacks? Well, they ain't caught up with me yet."

"It'll be a long war. Frankie. They'll be on the lookout for you right till the end of it."

"I'm on the lookout for them.   Stop lecturing me. Keith. I'm not worried about the jacks. I've for- gotten them. I haven't thought of them since last Saturday or even be- fore that. How you doing your-   self?"

Grayson looked away, down through the trees and across the small gorge to the low hills that tore the bottom of the clear blue sky into a tattered edge.

"No good." he said, and his voice was distant as the far away hills. "It won't be long now."

McCoy turned his hat slowly in his hands, looking down at it, seeing the trade mark on the sweat-band, the boomerang, the symbol of re- turn—"ashes to ashes and dust to dust"—seeing now the real reason for his visit to-day and knowing now he could do nothing about it, that the visit, had been abortive. He had come out here to-day because he no longer felt that he could contain his secret, because he was becoming so scared he could no longer think straight, be- cause Grayson was the one man in the world he could trust, and he could tell him how it had happened and why and that it was not his fault, and Grayson would have helped him.

And now he couldn't. He couldn't tell a dead man his troubles. And maybe it was just as well. Maybe it would have been wrong to tell him. He had to keep it to himself. That was the only way to be safe. So far he was the only one who knew, and if he stayed the only one who knew then he would be safe and they would never find him. But would he stay the only one who knew? What if someone had recognised him? What if the Greek went to the police? God, if only he could get to the Greek. Hold on, McCoy! You're thinking of another murder!

"Does it hurt you much?" he said. He had noticed Grayson had not coughed since he had arrived.

Grayson shook his head. "There's not much left to hurt. I'm just past it all now. I'm just sitting here waiting now."

Waiting to die. Another man, but sure of his death. He, McCoy, was waiting, too, but he did not know when they would come for him.

"How long?"

"Perhaps three months. Maybe not as long."

He looked down at his hat again. "I'm sorry, Keith."

"I shouldn't have asked you out here, Frankie. Nobody should come and see me like this. I only depress people."

I could depress you some myself, McCoy thought. I could tell you I'm just as low down in the world as you are. I could tell you that in another three or four months, or however long it is from the time they catch you till the time they hang you, I might be with you.

THEY sat there in the sun while the

breezes moved in the trees and   small birds walked stiff-legged and lightly on the green lawns and time, the enemy of one and the friend of the other, went slowly round their watches.

"Time I went, I think."

"Yes. It's a long ride back to town. Thanks for coming to see me, Frankie."

"That's all right. Glad I came."

"Frankie? I mightn't see you again. Once I told you something. I think

you're all right, but remember it   Frankie—you can't be smart all the time. You can never see round cor-

ners and there's always something   planned for you that you can never beat just by being smart."  

He held up a thin white hand a farewell from the grave, and McCoy

took the dead claw.

"I know Keith." This was his chance to confess his secret, but it was no use. "So long."

"Good-bye, Frankie."  

He went up the path and at the doorway turned and waved to the shrunken distant figure in the wheel-

chair. The white hand came up then dropped and he turned and went into the darkness of the building and through the corridor out into the sun- light again and they never saw each other again.

All the way home in the train McCoy sat thinking of Grayson, of him sitting there in the sun waiting to die and wishing that he himself was as sure as Grayson was that death would come within a specified time. Because now he had thought of something that up till now had escaped him. A Labour Government was in power at present and its policy abolished the punishment by death for capital crimes. Instead, a criminal was sent to gaol for periods upwards of ten years. And he didn't   want that. Twelve months of con- finement and he would go from one cell to another and the last one would be padded.

He walked out of Central Station and down into Eddy Avenue. A

Bronte tram came along and he got on board, sitting in the smoking com- partment steadily riding closer to the hotel and quarter to six and Lowe and McCauliffe. He could not face them he knew that—there was only retreat; he would have to move from the hotel.

He had no eighteen pounds to pay them their debt, and the money in the suitcase was just so much worth- less paper. He might just as well have broken into the shop and stolen a pound of sausages. So he would move from the hotel and get a room somewhere in the city and maybe he would be able to pick up some money somewhere, maybe betting or going down to Thomas's two-up     school, and then he would go back and pay off all his debts.

(To be Concluded

Tomorrow)

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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