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jm The Australian Women's Weekly jp m Novel. May 26, 1954 ' M
SS SUPPLEMENT Must not be sold seporotely
JUST LET ME BE
r llHE sun was already warra, climb
I ing through a dear, smooth sky I from the pile 'ess above the borl I zon to the li ig h blue right over . head, and as they walked down Carr Street and turned into Brook, stopping for a moment on the corner at the tcp of the hill smelling the sea coming in on the flint breeze, thev could see the bri-ht shine of the b>.v and the long white flash of the breakers
"Going down this morning?'' Harry
'T don't think so." Joe said, and they walked on "Too tired. And Conni" wants to go to a hop tonight, so I better grab arba) sleep I ran. I dunno how vou keep it up "
Harry lauehed an easy, ready Laugh "Youth, tint's what lt is. sport Yoi''ve forgotten ail abiut it."
Harry Brennan was twenty He was slightly above medium height with tbe promise of being tal'er and his frame solid even now. was «till developing He was going to oe a bia man and he knew it: he walked with a premature confidence his curly reddish-fair head looking down from heights it had not vet achieved.
"Yeah, that's it Too old at twenty eight." And Jce Brennan grinned at hi* brother.
They looked li^e brothers. Joe was an inch shorter than Harry and wirier in the shoulders ind trunk, but he har! the same curly hair, fairer thon Harry's and worn not so long, and the same hard-boned f iee with the friend'y mouth the broad nose, and the aggres- sive chin. Only in their manner was there a difference: Joe had none of Harry's look of arrogance and his presence was a.s quiet as his slow pleasant voice
A cab swung round the corner ahead ol them and drev into the kerb before a block of flats. A man got out. He turned from paying the driver as the Brennans dre v level with him and spoke against the quickly speeded motor of the cab as it drove away.
"Hullo Joe. Harry. Waddia know?' Bill Pepper was a short round man with a round, red-brown face. He had a quick, nervous manner, continu- ally beating the air with swift, plump hands, and his small bright eyes, though not shifty, could not keep still and seemed to be for ever looking for something beyond what they could im- mediately see. He had an air of in- security about him.
"Hullo, Bill,' Joe said "Late this morning?"
Pepper spread his hands, the sun glinting on a broad gold ring on a finger of the right hand, then like diving birds they swooped back to his sides. "Had a big night last night Had some Yanks in from one of the boats and we couldn't get rid of 'em Not without making a fuss, and I don't like that How's the milk carting?"
Joe smiled. "Gives us a living." "Just," Harry said.
"Well, I'm for bed." Pepper said "See you again. Be good."
He went into the block of flats and the Brennans walked on.
The thick hush ol a warm morning lay all over Coogee, hanging like some- thing almost tangible over the hilly suburb, oppressive as an oven irom which the fire has just been raked Heit was everywhere, coming up from the pavement beneath their ieet, re- flected from the houses they passed, in the thick sweat-pr ivoking air about them, as if it still lingered from yes- terday, and all the days of the past week, and the position at 'he sun didn't mean a thing.
The Brennans crossed Dudley Street and began to climb HM hill. Two girls came down the hil! ea tl and colorful in floral and stripe* but these were hairdressers from an exclusive city salon, with ideas atojve irere milkmen, and they went past, t leir eyes fixed on J point level with the tjp of the church
Karry looked back over his shoulder
'Righto. Romeo." said Joe. "Don't iorget you're just a milkman You'll have to go up in the v rid."
T wonder ho^ r'd ¡fl made ray flujgh the way Bill Pepper does? Gee! What a life! Just sitting back running a baccarat school while the dough ?ornes rolling in."
"It's okay if you w inna earn your monev that way 1 wouldn't be keen on it."
' You got too much conscience, that's vour trouble. What's tip matter with it? Mavbe it ain't lcgil. but it's honest, lint it?"
"Oh, I suppose so. I don't think Bill ud run a cranked game Maybe it's just because I ain't the gambling ?lort." He had ion? ago forsaken chance and what it mi'îht bring him
tween his leaving schDjl and joining the Army it had laughed in his face, tossing him a job anti then taking it away from him He was wedded to security now, the sure thing, the regular pay-packet every Frid.iy
"Well. I would'be li ;i meant I could eirn my dough easier than the way I do now." He wallowed in a dream of luxury: he could feei tie smoothness ol silk shirts against his body, the power of a Packard beneath him, the crispness of banknote- in his hand.
"Dad's been trying bard enough and long enough," Joe slid. "He musta bought a coupla Rolls foi the bookies, but so far he ain't collected anything himself."
"That's his own tault for following the horses. You can't win there. Nah. there's plenty other ways that are surer. Anyhow, Tm not gunna be driv- ing a milk-cart all my lile."
"Yeah. What's wrong with that?" He raised a banner: the world lay beaten before him
"Nothing, nothing.' He'd been like it himself once: he Aas going to be a great cartoonist, another Low or Phil May. But his ambition had worn out aljng with his shoes as he tramped round from office to office, from fac- tory to factory, and in the end all he'd wanted to be was anything but un
OR the six years be
employed. "When you're rich gimme your milk order, will you?"
Harry smiled and raised his thumb. "You wait and see. I'm the local boy that's gunna make good."
They could feel the sun hot on their backs as they climbed the hill.
"It's gunna be a beaut again today," Harry said.
A youth about Harry's age came out of a gate ahead of them and swung down towards them, walking quickly, glancing at his watch.
"Hullo, Des," Joe said "Running late again?"
Des Hart's thin, long face broke into a long-toothed smile. 'Always the same [hey don't run the shop lo suit me Wish I was youse two-on your m h une."
He pasted them and they heard him going down the hill behind them in a
"Gee!" Harry said "A counter jumper, and all he wants to oe is us, a i jupia milkmen!"
Joe grinned. "No ambition, rías he?" "Righto, righto. Quit rubbing it In. It gets me how some pe >alc never go anj whare or do anything u t stick in the te little rut all the r .ives."
"Wi'.l. no. You been s nnewhere, at lem You were in the wa: and you saw some other parts ol the world."
"Wog country and boons country. I'd racier staved home." Bul ie knew that was a lie: travel was one of the few good things about war one of the few memories worth retain, g It was probibiy why he had pined the Greeks and Cretans he had seen i. ey had fought in their own streets dying by violence in familiar surroundi gs, aware of Horror against the ba._>g.ou:id of the.: own homes. He looke.1 abiut the stree, mw. a little startled by the me nory of exploding den \. and was suddenly glad of the peace and solidity of the morning scene.
"You reckoned Greece was all right." "It wai. But how much time did I have to look at it?"
Five weeks to see a country, and Jerry on your tail all ihe time, and people lying dead in the ii tie burial grounds of their own front gardens. Greece had been all right, but every time iw remembered it there was super- imposed on it those other memories, and they were the ones :hat were most affecting.
"All right," Harry said 'So you do gel me down You and everyone else who don't wanna get oula this dull locality I dunno why you dm't look around for another job. something where you'd get more money and could work yourself up and mayoe move around a bit. I didn't know whether you were fair dinkum when you wrote home wmle you was in the Army and asked me to try and get you on at the yard I thought you'd be trying for something else. You got brains, more than l got, and you don't do anything
"I ¿et along without trouble."
"Well, what's a bit of trouble?" He would meet it and conquer it : he was pie»: cd for anything. "You can't go on for ever without meeting it."
Im hoping." He would recognise lt li he did meet it again: its face was familiar.
"Aah!" Harry disgustedly flipped his hand. "Sometimes I wonder how you
and me can be brothers. We aint a blt alike."
Joe grinned. "Dont let it worry you. You're getting to sound a bit like Connie. She's ambitious, too."
"She's a girl after my own heart. I wish I was a few years older, we might get together."
"I'll poke you in the eye if ever I catch vou looking at her.
Harry laughed. "Don't you trust me,
They walked behind the crowd of people waiting for the bus on the corner of the street, nodding to some they knew, Harry staring speculatively at the girls, arid turned into Arden Street. A bus rolled down, slowing to take the corner, people standing in crowded discomfort on the rear plat- form and the conductor yelling vainly, Move along inside there! The crowd at the corner surged forward then stopped, as if lost and bewildered, as the bus went past.
"Sheep." Harry said, then they had reachel the front gate of their home.
It was a narrow, semi-detached red- brick cottage with a tiled verandah fronted by a low stone wall. The gate and fence and woodwork of the house were minted a bright cream, offset with green, and an enamel plate be- side the front door proclaimed "Haere Mai."
A small boy, bout eleven earrving a school case came out of the front door and waited for them to come in the gate
"Here he is." Harry said "Young Timothy, the pride of the Brennans. Ain't Mum coming out to w^ve her dar!ir g good-bye?"
The boy -aid. "Quit calling me Tim- othy "
Florence Brennan came out on to the verandah and ow sat down on the seat beneath the front bedroom win- dows Phe began to fan herself with the copv of the morning paper she carried
"Phew it's going to be a scorcher again today! I'm feeling done in al- ready." she said.
Flo Brennan was fifty, but looked six years younger, and it was a con- tinual surprise to people meeting her for the first time to learn she was the mother of four c 'ldren. the eldest of them twenty-eight.
"Here she is." Harry said. "Good old Flo. Gunna wa"e youl- baby off to school?"
"Leave him alone." Flo Brenmn said. "Go on. Tim. You don't want to be
A freckle-faced, button-nosed young- ster came down the street and stopped at the gate "You ready, Brennan?" He gave Flo Brennan a gap-toothed smile "Hullo, Mrs. Brennan. Hot?"
"G'day, Smithy," Harry said. "Did you clean your teeth today?"
Smithv favored them again with the gap-toothed smile. "Too right. Every
one of 'em."
Tim kissed his mother perfunctorily, and swung open the gate.
"What's for breakfast?" Harry said. "What do you want?"
"Don't let's start that. What you got?"
"Bacon and eggs. That do you? What about you. Joe?"
Joe had picked up the morning paper from his mother's lap. "Yeah, anything that's going. I'm easy."
Harry and his mothe/ went inside, their footsteps dying away down the long hall that led right through to the lounge room. Joe slowly turned the pages of the paper. He pushed his
hat back on his head, undid the but- tons ol his shirt, and propped his feet up on the low wall of the verandáh. Life was safe and unexciting, just as he wanted it, far removed from the Grecian homes that were tombs, and the blood running in the streets, far from the conference tables on the other side of the world where trust had be- come just an empty word, from the dis- tant years where the Positions Vacant column had been as important as the casualty lists in the years just gone.
He folded the paper and took up from yesterday the adventures of Joe
rose with the swell, feeling it go past him, hearing it break behind him and go in towards the beach in a cool, wh.te thunder. He rolled in the water, easily as a p irpoise, his body cool and weightless, tasting the fresh tang of salt on his lips, feeling the immensity of the sea, rising lazily and without effort on its undulant tide hearing the far-away shouts of the people bathing close to the beach. This was it all right. What more could a man want?
A swell came rolling in, beginning to break white on the crest, trailing faint spume, and he turned towards the beach. He kicked his feet and rode the breaker right into the shallows and lay for a moment with the wet. loose sand beneath him feeling the water running back past him. then he stood up
He walked up the beach, stopped beside a small pile of clothes, spread out a towel and sat down on it.
He lit a cigarette and looked about him. On this Friday afternoon, despite the heat or perhaps because of it, the beach wasn't crowded. Joe idly looked around, then he turned his head and saw Rita Cadbury sitting only a few yards away from him.
"Hello, Joe." Dark glasses gazed blankly at him. but her smooth, brown face flashed a smile at him. "I thought you were going to ignore me."
"Hullo. Rita." Rita Cadbury was a sleek, sun-bleached blonde who was a.s much part of Coogee Beach as the promenade and the yellow sands. She had married an American during the war, but no more had been heard of him after he had gone north to the Philippines, and most people had for- gotten him and his name.
The sun glinted on the glasses, and red-tipped fingers came up to smooth the already smooth hair. Joe walked across and sat down beside her.
"Isn't it hot today?"
He nodded down towards the south- west, where a faint, grey stain was creeping up into the blue. "Looks like we'll have a thunderstorm tonight. That'll cool things a bit."
"I hope so I usually don't mind the heat, but I've just about had this . . . I haven't seen much of you lately, Joe."
"Maybe you ain't been looking for me. I been down here. You were probably looking at someone else."
She smiled, but the glasses still hid her eyes. "I've never turned my back on you yet. Joe."
"Well, here I am now," he said. "How you been?"
"Oh. all right, I guess." She had worked for the Americans besides marrying one, and her voice had de- veloped a faint American intonation. "A bit fed up "
"Yeah?" He shifted on the hot sand, and looked out to sea, past the white, breaking waves to the smooth, spark- ling permanence that, far out. faded
HIS was the life. Joe
through shimmering haze into the raw blue curve oí the sky. "How's that?"
"You don't know a rich man who wants a wife, do you?"
"Don't tell me you wanna get mar-
"Why not, for heaven's sake? I've been once already. I'd try it again. I liked it while it lasted." The dark
glasses turned towards glim, and the blank, bottle-green lenses seemed sud- denly to mirror her feelings. "I get
"I never get that way m'seli." "You never get lonely?"
"No." Loneliness was fear of your- self: that had never happened to him. Even in those other years, when he'd seen the blokes going off to the pic- tures Saturday night with their girls, and he himself had had nothing to do but stay at home and listen to the radio, there'd been no feeling of lone-
She laughed "Oh. well You're engaged, aren't you?"
"Yeah You seen me down here with her a coupla times. Girl with dark, curly hair."
"Yes, she's nice. What's her name?" Rita, confident of her own looks, had never been jealous of other women's beauty.
"How long have vou known her?"
"About three years. I met her at a party once when I was down on leave
from New Guinea."
"When are you going to be married?" He shrugged: the question was an echo, occurring over and over again. "I dunno. Everyone keeps asking me that. When we look like getting a place of our own. I suppose I'm not keen on living in one room or with my
"It might be a long time before you can get a house or a flat Don't you believe in grabbing what you can while you can?"
"Yeah. But I also believe in hang- ing on to a thing once you've got it. And I reckon our marriage'll stand more chance of being permanent if we get off to a solid start."
"I've seen plenty of happy marriages in one room."
"Yeah, and I've seen plenty oí the other sort, too."
"Hullo, Joe. Hullo, Rita." They both looked up. It was Bill Pepper. "Mind if I join you?"
Rita said, "Hello. Bill Glad to have you."
Pepper spread his towel and flopped down on it. His brown, round body glistened with sweat.
"Ain't it a beaut today?" He wiped his forehead vi itJi the back of hts hand. "Well, waddia know, Rita?"
"Joe and I have been talking about married life."
"Oh?" He sat cross-legged, his hands drumming on his knees. "Thinking of getting married. Joe?"
"Thinking of it."
"I didn't think you was the marry- ing sort," Pepper said.
"What gave you that idea?"
"Oh, I dunno. You look too easy- going to worry about marriage. I'vo heard you say you don't like trouble. I'd imagine you'd like the quiet life."
"Is married life so hectic?" Rita said. "I don't mean that," Bill said. "I mean Joe don't look like he'd want tho worries of marriage You get em, especially if you're a working man like Joe. I know. I had 'em. My missus and me are doing all right now, but we had plenty worrying back at the start. Making your money keep two instead of one, trying to buv a home of your own, wondering if vou can afford to have kids, thinp.s like that. You look like you'd rather make a detour around them sorta things I don't mean any offence. Joe."
"I know. Bill," Joe said. "Did you ever have to live in one room or with your in-laws?"
"No." Pepper shook his head. "Things weren't so bad in them days We had a house out in Tempe, and I can remember we used to think fifteen bob a week was a lotta rent. They charge you four times that now for a room with a coupla sticks of furniture in it. I dunno why, but I wouldn't of reckoned you'd be keen on that."
Joe looked at Rita. "See what I mean? Bill sees my point."
Pepper said, "Where's Harry this afternoon? He's usually down here, especially on a day like this."
"He came down for a while this morning," Joe said. "He's home in bed now. He didn't get much sleep last night."
"Playing two-up again, was he?" Pepper taid.
"That's the first I heard of it." Joe said. "Where'd you get that?"
Bill's hands turned over, palms up- ward. "Maybe I'm giving away secrets. Maybe I shouldn't of said anything. I thought you knew."
"We're not that kinda family. We usually keep tñings to ourselves."
"Oh, well, I better shut up and say no more about it, then."
"You think it's something I oughta know about?"
The hands came up, posing a query. "I dunno. I think he oughta stay away from there."
Pepper shrugged resignedly. "Righto, you might as well know. I've opened my big mouth too far. But keep it to yourself, both of you. I run a two up school out in Redfern, besides my baccarat set-up in Darlinghurst. Not many people know about it, I mean that I got anything to do with it. I got a manager, and I only drop in there once in a while. Last week I was in there and I seen young Harry. He didn't see me. I asked the bloke who runs it for me how long he'd been going there, and he said about three or four nights a week for the last month?"
"How's the betting there?" Joe said. "It gets pretty steep. He's only a kid. and he's only getting a milkman's wages. He's likely to get a bit rash and finish up in trouble. That's why I'm telling you. I don't worry about the other fellers who go there, they can look after themselves, but I've known young Harry since he was a nipper."
"How's he been doing so far?"
"Oh, he's in front. Or he was when I was there last Tuesday night. He's been pretty canny about his betting. It's when they keep on winning that thev start to get reckless."
"Couldn't you tell your manager not to let him in?"
Bill shrugged. "How can I stop him?" Joe picked up a dead match from the sand and broke it. "Silly fool. This is one of his get-rich-quick ideas. You're to blame in a way."
"Me?" Bill's eyebrows went up from behind his sun-glasses.
"He was talking about you only this morning. He's fed up with being a milkman. He wants more dough, lots of it, and he wants to get it the easy way. He reckons yours is an easy way."
The dark glasses had a cold look about them and the hands were sud- denly still. "I don't like that, Joe."
Rita said: "Now steady, you two. Let's keep this nice and friendly."
"Just like you sala a minute ago. Bill," Joe said. "There's no offence. I don't mean you run a crooked game or anything like that. But you do earn your money easier than we do."
Pepper relaxed. "Yeah, I suppose so. I'm sorry. Joe. I thought you was makin' a crack You probably seen
a coupla articles on me lately in the papers, about the baccarat, and I'm a bit totíchy on it. , I don't like to get my name in the papers. I'm a man for the background. But Harry oughta learn I ain't always been in the money like this. I'm earning it easy now, but I nadda battle to get here. You might tell him that when he starts talking about me again. I wasn't doing as well as him at his age. I just come outa the army-I'd only been in it six months so I wasn't any returned hero-and I nadda look around for a Job. I was looking for a long time."
he forgot the heat here on the beach and remembered only the coldness of poverty. "Then I get a job. Know what I was? A milkman. Yeah. You might tell Harry that. I was a milkman till 1931, and then the depression put me out of a job again and I hadda start all over again. That was when I started gambling. I reckoned my luck couldn't get any worse, and there was always a chance it might turn. It did. But slow. Some weeks I'd have twenty quid in my kick, and the next I wouldn't have a razoo. I only got properly on my feet In the last few years, since the war started. But don't ever let Harry think it's been easy getting here. Don't let him think it's so easy now."
"Why's that?" Rita said. "What've you got to worry about now?"
"There's some blokes who'd move in on me as soon's I turned me back. Oh, I know it sounds like them gang- ster 'pictures, but it's fair dinkum. I gotta watch 'em all the time, smile at 'em and shake 'em by the hand, while I watch they don't cut me out."
Joe threw away the broken match. "Harry oughta hear you. I dunno why I worry about him. He's old enough to get along on his own, and he's no bunny. But he's a bit ahead of himself, that's his trouble. He wants to be a big shot and he wants to be one in a hurry."
"What kid doesn't?" Rita said.
"Yeah, I know." There'd been his own dreams, once. "But most of 'em haven't got the go in 'em that he has. He just won't sit around and dream about it."
"Well, maybe he'll get what he wants without any trouble." Rita moved her shoulders, feeling the sun beginning to bum even through her deep tan. "I wouldn't worry about him."
"Things don't come that easy to people," Pepper said, experience stretch- ing behind him like a familiar street. "Not to the average person, and he's only average. Why don't you say something to him. Joe? You're as thick as I've ever seen two brothers together."
"We are, I suppose." It had hap- pened only in the last eighteen months, since he'd come out of the army; till then, the difference in years had made their relationship that of child and growing youth, then boy and man, but now they were men together, suddenly discovering each other and glad of each other's corrrpany. "That is, in a way. We still mind our own business, because that's what the family's like. And one thing I've never given him is advice."
Pepper stood up, taking off his glasses, his eyes mere slits now against the glare. "Too hot here on the sand. I could do with some hair, with this sun. I can feel my skull getting red hot. I'm going for a swim. Coming, Joe?"
?No, Bill. Time I was going, I think." "Well. I'll get my bloke to keep an
HE years slipped back:
eye on Harry," Pepper said. "If he keeps going just the way he is, he
won't come to any harm."
"Yeah, keep an eye on him," Joe said. "I don't want him getting in
over his head."
Joe stood up and looked towards tne
"Good," Rita said. "If something doesn't break soon I feel as if every- thing's going to melt and fall in."
Joe grinned. "You'd make a nice
But he hardly heard her. Something would have to be done about Harry, and he didn't krtow what. His mother would worry if she knew, and she'd had enough worry in her time. And then he shrugged. Why should he interfere? Harry wouldn't thank him. The kid had ambitions, even if they weren't the right sort, so why should he, who'd failed, step in and try to squash them? Live ano. let live: it had been his dead grandmother's favorite expression, and from the time he'd first come to understand it he'd tried to live up to it.
"Coming, Joe?" Rita had pulled on a pair of white slacks and was now but- toning a red linen blouse.
He had been staring out to sea with- out being aware of it, and now he turned. "Yeah. Won't be a minute."
"Now don't waste any time over your food tonight," Flo Brennan said, and wiped her hands on her apron as she stood back to survey the table. "Get it over and done with, so I can clear off and wash up."
"What's the rush?" Joe said. He lolled on a light couch beneath the dining-room window; he felt lazy and limp with the heat, and wished Connie didn't want to go to that dance.
"Friday night," Harry said. He sat at the table, drumming with a fork to the rhythm of a band coming over the radio in the lounge room. "Housie night. She's off to skin 'em again. Big time gambler, she is."
There was a local housie-housie game every Friday night, and Flo Bren- nan was a regular, almost fanatical patron. The rest of her week's pro- gramme varied with her mood and the condition of her purse, but Friday night she kept a regular date in the hall where the game was run.
She had gone to the kitchen now, and they could hear her complaining. "It's always the same when I want to go out. Never anyone here to have their meals. Where's your father? And I told Tim to be in by quarter to six. I'll give him a clip under the ear when he comes. Molly's late, too. It's always
"Righto. Happy, stop laughing," Harry said. He stood up and walked to the door and called down the hall.
"Yes?" The answer came from the front verandah, vague and automatic, as if the owner of the voice was en- grossed in something of major im- portance.
"Come on, your tea's ready. Mum's in a hurry."
There were footsteps down the hall, then Arthur Brennan came into the room and sat down. He was shorter and thinner than his two elder sons; his shoulders were stooped and he walked as if he were perpetually tired.
His reddish fair hair was streaked with silver. His face, broad and blunt as his sons', but without the aggression, was lined and worried. It wasn't a weak face, but everything about him gave the suggestion that he had long ago realised life was too big a battle:
his only hope now was a big win on
"They're^hard to pick tomorrow," he said, and put a folded newspaper down beside his plate.
"Where are the races?" Joe said.
"Randwick." Arthur Brennan had a soft voice, with a trace of Irish lilt he had picked up from his mother and had never lost. "I think I'll go down tomorrow. I might hear of something that's going. They're too hard to pick just on form. Feel like coming?"
There was almost a plea in his voice. This preoccupation with racing some- times made him a lonely man in the family: when he spoke of form and tote dividends and his new system he spoke a language in which none of the others was interested.
"I dunno," Joe said, knowing he wouldn't. "If this heat keeps up I wouldn't wanna be in it. Too hot and dusty."
"Yeah. I wish it ud rain." Arthur Brennan tapped the paper. "There's a couple here that ud go all right in the mud. It ud make things a bit more open."
Flo Brennan came back into the room, bearing plates. "All right, Dad. Forget the races for a while and get on with this." She put a plate down In front of him. "Where's Tim got to?"
There was a scamper of feet up the back steps, and young Tim came bursting in, panting and dishevelled. Flo Brennan turned in her chair.
"I thought I told you to be in at quarter to six? Look at it now-ten past. Where've you been? You're building up to a good hiding, my boy."
"Gee, I didn't know it was so late.
We was playing cricket-" Tim went
to sit down at the table.
"Go and wash your hands! That's no way to come to the table. And comb your hair." There were footsteps In the hall and Flo Brennan resignedly pushed back her chair and stood up and went out to the kitchen. "Here's her ladyship now. Everyone coming at once, just as I'm sitting down to enjoy my own."
Molly Brennan came into the room, and sat down.
"Phew!" she said. "Hasn't it been a scorcher today? I must've sweated away half a stone. And those buses. I had to wait twenty minutes at Darling- hurst for one to pull up, then didn't get a seat."
She leaned back in her chair, relax- ing. She was a wide-shouldered, good figured girl with a long, erect neck that made her« look taller than she was.
"Why didn't you catch a tram?" Harry said.
"I don't like the walk up the hill, especially on a day like this."
Tim had come back into the room and sat down. "Bit on the lazy side, aren't you?" he said.
"Quiet. Junior," Molly said. Her mother put plates in front of her and Tim, and resumed her own place. Molly looked at her father. "I'm going to the races next Saturday."
Arthur Brennan looked up: someone was speaking his language. "Tomor-
"No, next week."
"W*>o with?" Flo Brennan said.
"Ruth Levene, a girl from work."
"Why're you going to the races?" Arthur Brennan said.
"Oh, we'd just thought we'd like a day out. And Ruth goes with a jockey."
"What's his name?" Arthur Brennan said.
"Peter. Peter Morris, J think.
"Yeah, I know him. He's a good boy. Rides for Farquharson." Arthur Bren- nan nodded his head. "Why don't you ask them out some night?"
J "Get him to bring his horse," Joe
"Anyhow," Arthur Brennan said, "I'd like to meet young Morris. He might be able to put me on to a thing or . two. Ask 'em out some night."
"All right," Molly said.
"Levene?" said Harry, "sounds Jew- ish to me." He turned to his mother. "Remind me to be out that night."
"You're never in," Plo Brennan said. "So it won't upset your routine."
"Don't give 'em nam sandwiches for supper." Harry said.
"Why don't you grow up?" Molly said. "Your t utlook's about as nar- row-"
"Another crack like that-" Harry put down his knife and fork with a clatter. His jaw came forward and his sudden temper showed in his eyes. "And I'll-"
"You'll do nothing of the sort," Flo Brennan interrupted. Her voice was flat and final: hers was the authority In the house. "Now let's get this meal over. I'm running late as it is."
in comparative quiet. They were not a family given to intimate confidences, and yet they all understood each other so completely that there was never any embarrassment over the change of mood in any one of them. The family was a whole and the character of each member of it, his mood and temper and foibles and weaknesses, fitted in like an integral part. They were the Brennans, and as such a complete and undivided entity: they had varied in- terests and often had differences of opinion and sometimes they quarrelled, but in the end it all meant nothing: they were still the Brennans, one half of the world, and the other half beyond their front door.
Joe, since his return from the war, had begun to realise just how much
they all meant to him, had begun to
realise just how much warmth and understanding there was in their small circle, and he knew that, much as he loved Connie and wanted to marry her, there would be a certain regret when the time came to leave the family.
Joe walked to the back door. Their backyard was small and immediately beyond their fence the ground dropped away suddenly so that you looked over the roofs of houses to the sandhills of the old disused rifle-range and beyond that to the industrial suburbs north of Botany Bay. The sky now was low and dark, stretching out to the west where it did not quite meet the hori- zon and where the sun burned redly like a fire through an open furnace door.
"This is as bad as New Guinea," Joe said.
Molly was clearing away dishes. "It's getting me down. I feel something's going to happen all the time. It's like waiting for a gun to go off."
"I just hope it doesn't rain before I get home." Flo Brennan said. She poured boiling water into a dish, and
steam rose about her.
Joe turned from the door and went
back inside and through to the iounge room. He flopped down on the low lounge and picked up the evening paper. Tim lay on the floor, reading a comic. Arthur Brennan sat forward in a deep chair, scribbling in a pad as the hard, metallic voice of a racing commentator gave his tips for to- morrow's races. The room identified the family: a pianola, Flo Brennan's favourite home recreation, stood against one wall, and on top of it were the photos of her four children, the one of Joe showing him in uniform.
On the wall above the radio was a colored sketch of Phar Lap at full
.HE meal was finished
gallop, done by Joe when he was fifteen, a sketch that showed his talent was more than adequate even then; and on the wall opposite was a paint- ing of a brood mare and foal grazing in a rolling paddock, that Arthur Brennan had bought one day at an auction.
"How does he fancy 'em tomorrow?" Joe said, nodding at the radio. He began to idly turn the pages of the
"Sh! Just a minute." Arthur Bren- nan crouched closer to the radio, giving all his attention to the voice. He scribbled again in his pad, turned down the radio, and sat back. "He mentioned a couple."
"Are you gunna have a bet, then?" Joe was still glancing through the paper. He had no interest at all in the horses, but he knew his father liked to talk about them.
"Oh. yes, I'll risk a few bob. You don't get anywhere holding on to it." He dreamed of the big win, the satis- faction of the long-awaited revenge. "Nothing venture, nothing win."
Tim looked up, twisting over on the floor. "Hey, Dad. D'you know any jockeys?"
His father nodded, "Yes, a few." Arthur Brennan was a frustrated man about town: he knew no one. and yet in his imagination he saw himself on intimate terms with everyone, the well known and the unknown, the high and the low.
As a customs clerk he had often spoken to notabilities entering or leaving the country, and he would come home to regale his family with stories of what some big industrialist had said to him. "Why?"
"I'm starting to collect autographs. If you could get me one from a jockey, that ud be a start. Will you?"
"All right, I'll see what I can do. I might be able to get you some others when the ships come in. Some important people from overseas. Re- mind me about it."
"Get your book now," Joe said, "and I'll give you mine."
"Who wants yours?" Tim said. "You aren't anyone. You're just a nobody."
"Righto, smarty. It isn't everybody who's a nobody. You oughta get my autograph and then write under it: A Nobody. It's blokes like me make all the other autographs valuable. That's relativity, or something. I read
about it somewhere."
"I don't care what it is. I only want somebodies in my book."
"Oh, well." Joe shrugged, smiling, and went back to his paper.
Plo Brennan bustled through the room and went down the hall to the front bedroom. Molly followed her. Harry came into the room, combing his hair down before his face, and went to the mirror on the mantle piece.
"You wanna do something about that hair," Joe said. "You look like Tarzan."
"Well, he was no slouch."
"He ran around with monkeys."
"Ah, you're behind the times, sport. This is the fashion."
"I been noticing 'em down on the beach, that mob you get around with. I dunno what the country's coming to. We're breeding a race of second- hand Yanks, long hair and fancy ties."
"What's wrong with the Yanks?"
"Nothing. But I bet they don't .all dress like you bunnies think they do. You look like B-grade film actors."
Harry parted his hair and swept it back. He grinned in the mirror. "We're the new generation, sport. The ones you won the war for. We're bringing some glamor into the world."
"Now I know what they mean when they say we lost the peace."
Joe sat looking up at Harry as th«
latter carefully combed his hair into place. Was he off again to-night to the two-up school? Should he point out to him the mess he might be heading for? Then the old thought carno back: what business was lt of nts? He wanted the quiet, secure life. Why should he blame anyone for wanting something else?
He stood up. "I suppose I better start petting readv, m'self. Wish I was staying home to-night, instead of dancing, but Connie wants to go out."
Connie Marshall was an only child. She lived with her mother and father in Randwick, the neighboring suburb to Coogee, in a quiet street behind the military hospital. Her earliest memories were of visits to the hospital with her mother to see her father.
She was too young io know what
was the matter with him, but, she could remember that he had looked terribly ill A long time afterwards, as she" had grown old enough tn know her father and listen to the complaints of her mother, she had learned that in the ten yearsfollowing his return from the 1914-liTwar he had been a periodic patient of the hosnital as a chronic sufferer of the DT.'s.
Jack Marshall Still drank, but now he passed out before he had drunk enough to give him the horrors Peg Marshall no longer loved him. barely tolerated him. and Connie loved neither of them. Connie Had turned all her love on Joe. and she desperately wanted to marry him.
They walked down her street now. Joe coming his coat over his arm and with his collar open and his tie loosened. The night was black, shut down by the low clouds, and the street lights had an unnatural bril- liance. People, invisible in the dark- ness, sat out on their front lawns or verandahs, complaining of the heat, reluctant to go in to the uncomfortable, sleepless beds. Thev talked in desultory tones, and their anonvmous voices, like the mutter of ghosts, followed Joe and Connie down the street.
"I'm glad we left that dance," Joe said. "I was just about readv to fold up Wish that storm ud break."
"I won't be able to sleep tonight." Connie said. She had a quick, lively voice, slightly husky, as if she were just getting over a cold.
"Itni be a beaut when it does come." "I'm scared of thunder and VGraining. I'm always waiting for someth;ng to happen." She smiled sheepishly in the darkness.
They reached the gate of her home and turned in There was a cane lounge on the front verandah, and Joe flipped down on it.
"Let's stay out here."
"All right. I'll get something to drink. What would you like?"
Connie had switched on the light in the hall and now stood in the doorway. Joe looked up at her and got the clutch in the stomach that was like a first sight of her. She stood in the doorway, a Prmlv moulded girl who exuded vitalitv. She had thick, black hair, curly and cut short, and a tanned, smooth face that in repose, which was rarely, had a patrician line to it. Her eyes were dark blue and candid and wide apart; her nose was short and slightly curled under at the tip; and her smile was a swift flash of very red lips and very white teeth.
"I'm a lucky man," Joe said, smiling up at her.
"I know you are. And I'm a lucky woman." She looked down at him. "Now what do vou want to drink?"
"What is there?"
"There should be a bottle of beer on the ice. Dad won't miss it."
"Not much he won't." Jack Mar- shall's drinking had become a joke between them: they spoke of it
Ironically and without embarrassment, | as li he were no relation to Connie. "Still. I could do with a glass.'*
Connie went into the house. Joe lay back on the lounge, opening his shirt right down the front. In a house across the road a radio was turned full on, and he could hear very bad swing. It stopped, and an announcer came on, smooth and breezy. Joe listened to hlni without really taking notice of what he said. That would be a good job Just sitting and burbling Into a microphone. No energy or effort required, just a voice. What a life! And what a hope.
Connie came oiit and handed him a glass. She sat down beside him and he noticed she had changed to a pair
of shorts and a cool shirt.
"That dress was sticking to me." She said and raided her glass. "Here's
to cooler weather."
The glass was cold In Joe's hand, and when he drank the beer it was sharp and tangy in his mouth. He could feel it going down, cool.
"I'd like to have a shower of cold
beer," he said.
"You get some luxurious ideas. Who do you think you are-Nero?"
"No, lust Joe Brennan. Just a no- body. That's what young Tim called me tonight. But I can dream, can't I?"
"I suppose we all can. I often do." He could feel her quietness as she sat beside him, and he knew there was something he should say. but he couldn't think what. His mind was tired by the heat, and he was in no mood for discussions.
He felt about for a cushion, and put it behind his shoulders: the hard cane was becoming uncomfortable. He opened his shirt still wider. He fin- ished the drink and put the glass on the wall of the verandah.
"Do you ever dream, darling?" she said, thinking of her own dreams in bed at night or in the rare, quiet mo- ments of the switchboard at work.
He moved his hand up and down on the warm smoothness of her arm, strok- ing her absently as he might a cat. Sure, he dreamed. Of this and that, of what might have been; of being rich or famous or heroic: of what he might have been if he had his start all over again and the luck was better: of what he might hnve done in the war if he'd been recklessly heroic in- stead of discreetly sensible; but most of ali he dreamed of Connie and him- self, of their future together, their own home and their kids, and some sort of small but solid security
hearts from the time thev had met at Doris Scoble's party when he was on leave and they had sat out on the verandah talking for almost two hours.
But he hadn't really loved her, con- fessing it to himself, till he had gone back to New Guinea where she wrote him three times a week and he repHed once a fortnight, and then had come down on leave again twelve months
She had been waiting for him at Central Station, to kiss him and speak to him for just a few minutes before he had to go out to the leave depot. He had loved her from that time on, answering her passion with his own, glad when the war had finished and he could come back to her.
She put her glass on the veraiid ih wall beside him and lay back, stretching out her long, well-shaped legs, she lifted the hair off the back of her neck, feeling it damp with perspira- tion, and rested her head on a cushion. She put her hand over his,
.HEY had been sweet
running he* nails softly up and down his fingers.
"Darling, I want to get married." 1 "So do I."
"No, I mean now. Soon. I'm getting tired ot waiting, Joe."
Joe was silent, staring across the street and beyond the dim outline of the rooftops to where the city lights were a pale reflection, really nothing more than a lessening of the darkness on the low clouds; it looked like a false
"You know why we can't, dari. Don't let's go into lt again. Not tonight."
"That's what you always say. Not tonight. Not any night. Joe. you've been back from the war eighteen months, and we've been engaged all that time. And I'm no nearer the altar now than when you put the ring on my finger."
Without meaning to hurt her. Just listless and saying the first thing that came into his head, he said: "Well, we'll go and have a look at the altar tomorrow if you like. Brennan's Con- ducted Tours."
She took her hand away, quickly and angrily. "All right, if that's the way you feel about it. let's forget it."
He felt for her hand and held it,
limp in his own. "Tm sorry, dari. I know how you feel. I feel that way m'self. honest. I wanna call you Mrs. Brennan arid be with you all the time and have kids. But you know how I feel about where we live. That's im- portant, dari. Or it is to me. I Couldn't stand a one-room flat. I don't think you could. And lt wouldn't work if we moved in here with your people
You know that."
Her voice was resigned. They had gone over this time and time again, but there was never any answer-or if there was, it was never the one they wanted. "I know. . . . Oh, Joe, but something's got to happen soon I 1 can't stand it much longer."
She rolled against him dropping her head on his shoulder, and though she was silent he knew she was weeping. Then- she sat up. feeling in his pocket for a handkerchief with which she dried her eyes. "Sometimes, darling, I think it's never going to happen."
"That's no way to think, dari. It's gunna happen. It's got to. I know it's been a long time, but maybe if we'd got married right at the jump we wouldn't be together now. You seeh yourself what happens when people live with their in-laws. Look at tile Par- kers. They might never of broken up if they hadn't hadda live with his people. I want us to be on our own."
"I know, darling. I shouldn't com- plain, I suppose. I don't want to live here with Mum and Dad. and I don't want to live in one room, either. But you see how it gels me down? I can't live with you. Sometimes after you've gone, I go into bed and cry myself to sleep."
"What a life!" Joe clapped his thigh: he suddenly saw the future as something almost as disheartening as the past. "I wish we could get a place!"
"Don't you ever hear of any on your rounds? You know, a customer moving .or something?"
He laughed. "There ain't-" "Ain't, darling?"
He squeezed her hand. "TherÄiasn't been one customer who's moved since I came back ¡ind took over the run. Why, even when they go away on holi- day they get someone to come and stay in the house so squatters won't move In. Some of 'em are asking me if I know of any flats." He laughed aeiin: he had studied the To Let columns with the same concentration as he'd studied the Positions Vacant columns In those other years.
"Our only chance ls to shoot some- one, then move In as they move the body out." He turned to her, his voice quiet and serious. "You don't get wild with me, do you, dari, because I can't get a place for us?"
"Oh, I don't know. Sometimes I do. I know I'm unreasonable, because there just aren't any places. But sometimes I get impatient-I want to forget that idea of security for the future and let's have our happiness now. I can't see much point in being happy in our old age if it means being unhappy when you're young. And right now I'm ter- ribly unhappy."
He had stretched out, putting his feet up on the verandah wall, and now he looked up at them, squinting at them as if through a rifle sight mark- ing time till he could find the right thing to say. They had gone over this many times, but he always knew he had never quite convinced her of just how much a home of their own meant
Despite Jack Marshall's addiction to drink he had a good job and the Mar- shalls had always been comfortably fixed-Connie had never known what it was to want new clothes to replace the threadbare things you were wearing, or for pocket-money to join your friends in a round of entertainment.
"I'm not so happy m'self," he said. "I never thought it was gunna be like this. I used to lie awake at night, when I was in the Islands, thinking about the house we'd build and where we'd build it and how we'd be as happy as a coupla love-birds. I used to kid m'self that that was what I was fight- ing for-that when the war was over I'd be entitled to something, you and a home and kids. I've got you," and she squeezed his hand, "but the rest of it's still just a dream."
"I'm tired of dreaming." She was silent for a while, then she said: "Darling, couldn't we risk it? I mean, beginning our married life in one
He continued to stare up at his feet on the verandah wall, then he said "You know what that means? Paying through the nose for something we'll never own, not being able to save. I've told you' what I've always wanted for us, dari-when we start paying our money I want it to be buying a home for us, something that in ten or fifteen years' time we can say belongs to us. But if we move into a room we'll be buying nothing-"
"We'll be buying time together," she
He turned his head and looked at her, at the dim oval of her face and the dark shadows that were her eyes, and knew suddenly that she would never come round to seeing things his way. There was no stubborness about it, or desire to be perverse; she Just wanted happiness, and she wanted it now And for the first time he felt selfish and ashamed of himself.
He put his arm about her and, feeling suddenly quite happy, he said: "All right, dari. Three months. If we haven't got a place in three months, you can name the day, and Mr. and Mrs. Brennan will move into whatever they can get, one room, a tent, or a tin humpy."
"Oh, darling!" She almost flung her- self against him, and he tightened his arm around her and drew her to him. He kissed her.
They heard the footsteps on the pavement and then the gate swinging back. They sat up as Peg Marshall walked up the steps on to the verandah.
"That you, Connieî" she said.
"Yes," Connie said. "How'd you go tonight?" . ,
Peg Marshall sat on the verandah
wall and wiped the back of her hand across her forehead. She was a tall, thin woman, taller than Connie.
"Hello, Joe . . . gosh, it was hot down there tonight! I thought I was going to pass out a couple of times. I was mad to "go. I didn't do any good again, either." Her voice had a plaintive whine; it was a perpetual complaint against the way life had treated her. "But your mother won again, Joe. Six pounds."
"She's tinny," Joe said. He didn't like Peg Marshall, and he believed nis mother accepted her as a friend only because she was sorry for her. He knew he couldn't live in the same house as Connie's mother for more than a week. She was his particular argument against living with in-laws.
"Yes. they all know her down there.
She collects something nearly every week. Is your father home, Connie?"
"No. Where is he tonight?"
"I don't know. I never do," Peg Marshall said. "Well, I'm going to bed. Good night. See you over the week-end, I suppose, Joe?"
"Yeah, Mrs. M." He had never been able to bring himself to call her Mum, even though he was practically in the family and Connie called his own mother Mum Brennan.
She went inside, and they were left alone. The radio over the road had been turned off and the street was heavily silent, as if everyone had fled before the coming storm.
"Think I'll make tracks," Joe said.
"All right, darling. I'll be down home tomorrow night about eight."
They stood up. He held her close against him.
"We'll be happy, darling," she whis- pered. "One room won't beat us."
He pulled her to him almost savagely and kissed her passionately while .he hoped with all his heart that she was right and his own fears were just a hangover from the years that were behind him. The future mightn't be as he had dreamed it, but whatever it turned out to be it would be miles better than the past.
IN the morning the
storm still had not come. Joe woke to the insistent call of the alarm clock and he reached across and shut it abruptly into silence. He lay on his back, com- ing slowly awake, feeling the sweat of the night on his body, aware of the heavy atmosphere. He slept out on the front verandah, with a venetian blind lowered to give him some privacy from passers-by in the street, and now he wondered how the other members of
the family must feel, sleeping in the stifling rooms inside.
He looked at the luminous dial of the clock, listening to its reproachful tick- ing. Five past three. What a time to be getting up to go to work! Half-way through the night. Maybe all those other bunnies, the nine o'clock starters, the ones Harry derided, had something after all. Right now they were still
dead to the world.
While he had been In the army he had thought of the job he would like when the war was over; he had par- ticularly thought of it at those times when he had been doing guard duty and had had to get up in the middle of the night to take his turn.
The old ambition to be a cartoonist had died, mainly because he didn't feel like going back to art school for another three years, and he had tried to think of something that would pay good money without any training. After he had met Connie and had begun to think of marriage, he had written to several firms, asking to be considered in their post-war plans, but all of them,
though polite and regretful that they couldn't help a man fighting for his country, had expressed doubt that they could employ a man with no training in anything but job-hunting.
He had considered training under the government rehabilitation scheme, but even that didn't guarantee you a job when your course was finished, and in the end he'd written Harry asking him to approach Old Man Seager. So he'd been demobbed, had a fortnight's holiday, and then started as a milk carter, and now here it was quarter past three and he'd better get a move
He got out of bed and went quietly inside. He felt his way down the dark hall till he came to the room where Harry and Tim slept. He switched on the light, blinking in the sudden glare.
Harry's bed had not been slept in and Joe felt a momentary wave of annoy- ance-the silly dope wouldn't be able to keep up this pace for long. He picked up his clothes and went out to the bathroom. He stepped under the shower, coming suddenly fully awake under the cold water, then dressed and went out to the kitchen.
He took his mackintosh from a peg in the small recess near the bathroom, remembered and turned back and took Harry's too, went out through the kitchen and out the back door, round the side of the house, and down the street, carrying the two mackintoshes and the can in which he had brought milk home yesterday.
He turned the corner, walking through the yellow brilliance of the street light, and went along Oberon Street. He wore rubber sneakers - army relics: he had scrounged three pairs when he had been in the Com- mandos-and he was walking silently through a world of silence.
The storm pressed down over the city, compressing the world, and he had the sudden idea that if there were any sound it wouldn't be heard in this thick, hot silence. Then, to contradict and slightly shock him, a car went swiftly along a cross street farther along, come and gone as a dark flash beneath a street light, and its sound slapped gently at him. Then thunder broke over in the west and came gal- loping across the sky and went away out to sea. He wondered where Harry was. Was he playing two-up again? He wondered if he had better say some- thing to him about that; it was a mug's game unless you could afford it. and a milkman couldn't afford it. He knew what the big schools were like: just out of curiosity he'd been along with some of the blokes when they'd been down on leave.
Harry was all right now, and would be as long as he went on winning, but you couldn't go on winning for ever. The only men who came out of the game with a winning margin were those who knew when their luck was due for a rest and quit when they got the sign, knowing better than to over-
Still, maybe he was worrying himself unnecessarily. This wasn't like him, to worry about other people so much. Harry could look after himself, and if he couldn't it was about time he learned. Maybe he wasn't at the tw.o up school, after all: he could have spent the night at the home of his current girl friend. Babs or Peggy or whatever her name was.
He stepped off the footpath and crossed the road, thinking of Harry and his long hair and his loud ties and his brashness, and he suddenly realised he was remembering himself. Funny he'd never thought of it before. Eight years ago he'd been just like that himself. Even when he'd gone into the army his hair had been too long, and he'd arrived in the Middle East
before he'd had it trimmed to a man's length.
He'd been addicted ro flash clothes, too. when he could afford them. And what about his own wise-aleck out- look? How many people had tried to advise him when he'd rushed down to enlist in October. '39, told him now w as the time to get a job with so many men leaving to join the army. It was a war, it was adventure, something far removed from the monotony of job hunting, and he was going to be in it. Five bob a dav and all the glory in the world! He'd enjoyed the fighting in the Desert, and even after Greece and Crete there was the feeling that he'd been through something that put him apart from the ordinary run of men.
Then, when he'd come home to the fighting in New Guinea, he'd joined the Commandos. It had been the three years in the Jungle that had chanced him. had made him grow up. In the long wait of the dawn stand-to. in the dark, sleepless hours after a raid, the enthusiasm for adventure had begun to slowly wither: killing had become just a business, a grim, sometimes horrible, business, and all the glory had gone over the hill. That was when he'd decided that after the war, in peace time, he'd live the peaceful life, the secure, peaceful life that had so far evaded him.
He'd grown out of the man that was now Harry, and some dav Harry would, too. In the meantime. Harry could go on living as he liked and he, Joe. could mind his own business.
Thunder was more frequent now.
Bright flashes of lightning, throwing everything into blue-white relief, ht the streets and thunder would come with shattering turbulence from the west going over in a heavy, oppressive roll that seemed to flatten everything, and dying away out to sea.
Joe turned into the milk yard. It was approached through a long lane from the street and was. in effect, an island surrounded by a sea of houses.
It was a large, clean, cobble-stoned yard with a row ol st ibles along one side, a shed for the carts at the end. and a loading-dock and office opposite
the stables. The fourth side consisted ' of the back fence of Old Man Seager's house and the lane entrance.
The lights were on. and as Joe came into the yard he could see the long lines of cans standing on the loading dock, gleaming dully beneath the bright yellow electrics. Two or three carts were already backed into the dock, and there was the clatter of cans, the stamp of horses' hoofs, and the voices of men to give the impression of noisy bustle after the quiet of the dark streets.
Joe waved to the vard checker, Monty Simmons, said hello to a couple of the carters, and went over to the stables.
He led out his horse, a big, raw- boned black, and having harnessed him, took him down and put him be- tween the shafts of a cart. He loaded his tanks and backed the cart into the dock.
Monty Simmons came along the dock with his quick walk.
' Where's Harry?" he said. He was a big man, well over six feet tall, and with a massive, soft, flabby body.
Joe swung up on tb the dock.
"Dunno. He didn't come home last night."
"He's making a bit of a welter of it lately," Simmons said. "This is the third time this week he's been late. The Old Man won't like it if he finds out."
"He's got nothing to moan about." Joe said. "He won't know unless some- one runs telling tales Harry's always back in the vard on time. If he's late starting, it only means he's gotta run
a bit faster. I wouldn't worry about it. Monty."
"I'm not worrying," Simmons said. "And if you're hinting that I carry tales. I don't like lt, I don't like it at all. I'm only trying to help the boy."
He turned and rolled back, along the dock, his size making his huff slightly ridiculous. Joe grinned after him, then turned and began to load his cart.
Other men had come into the yard now. and the place was alive with sound: clattering cans, the splash of pouring milk.
The clock above the small offica at the end of ' the dock showed four o'clock, and the first of the carts began to draw out of the yard.
Dick Bailey jumped up on to the dock. 'How's this heat? You get any sleep last night?"
"I might just as well stayed up all night Would of been more comfort- able." Bailey was a thin, dark man with prominent teeth, twenty-four years old. and already the father of three children. He was a happy, good-tempered man, and he was always telling Joe it was due to his beiQg:
married and why didn't Joe hurry up
and get himself into the same state?
"Looks like it'll be raining before we get back," Joe said.
"Well I won't mino that. It'll cool things down a bit. But I'll try and save coming back to the vard for a see md load. Spin it out a bit, I think. Where's Harry?"
"I dunno. By the wav. Dick. I might soon be an old married man like you."
He had felt a sudden urge to tell someone, anyone at a»!, that he and Connie had finally decided they had waited long enough. The family had been asleep when he had arrived horrie last night, and when he had got into bed he had lain for a long time think- ing about their decision.
a disappointment that the ideal of a home of their own to begin with had proved to be unattainable, but that had gradually given way to thoughts of what their life together would be like, and b\ the time he had dropped off to sleep he was happy and excited and almost convinced that they would never notice the inconveniences of liv- ing in one room. "Connie and I have finally made up our minds."
"Have you?" Pleasure showed In Bailey's face. "Good on you, Joel. When's it gunna be?"
"We ain't named the day yet. About another four months' time. I reckon."
"Well, I'm glad to hear it. Now you'll really start to live."
"I been looking forward to it for a long time."
Joe finished loading his tanks, slammed down the panels on top ol the cart, hoisted the two extra cans on to the footboard In front of the cart, picked up a mackintosh, and walked along the dock to Simmon's office.
Simmons was bending over a desk, writing in a ledger. He looked back over his shoulder as Joe came into the office.
"Give this to Harry when he comes in. wu! you?" He dropped the mackin- tosh on a chair and turned and went out of the office.
He went back along the dock and swung on to his cart. He picked up the mackintosh that lay on the seat and went to fold it. As he did so he saw the name tag inside the collar and knew this was Harry's: he had taken his own along to Simmon's office.
He turned to get off the cart, then
.T first there had been
changed his mind and folded the mackintosh and placed it on the seat beside him. The coats were the same make and much the same size: there would be no inconvenience to either of them by the change.
He slapped the reins and the cart rattled across the cobblestones, out of the yard and down the lane. The noise and bustle dropped behind him suddenly, almost as if he had shut a door, and the dark street loomed up ahead of him. He slowed as he came to the end of the lane, just as the hurrying figure came round the cor- ner, and stood to one side to let him
pass. It was Harry.
"You better step on it." Joe said.
"Where you been?"
"Out." Harry said. Lightning flared and Joe had a glimpse of the vivid tie and the bright, pleased lace. "Bet I beat you back to the yard."
Joe raised a hand to him and slapped the rein's on the horse's rump. The cart bounced across the Slight dip of the gutter, the milk slapping in the tanks, then it was rolling down the street, the horses' hoofs beating a percussive tattoo in the dark silence between the recur- ring rolls of thunfler.
Harry, pleased wjth his night's win, went down the Iahe to the yard and the job he hoped he'd soon be leaving. Joe, thinking about him. wondering how long his luck would hold, rode down the street and out of the peace- ful life . . .
There was a rumour of licht out to sea, and the houàes on the east side of the street were beeinnine to rise
angularly against the fadinrr blackness. Joe, cat-footed in the dark, the can Jangling in his hand, ran down the steps of the house and slammed the gate behind him. The street light on the corner fifty yards away had a busted elobe, and this part of Brook Street was in darkness, so that Jo» had to head for the cart by instinct, remembering where he had left it when he had eone into the house.
Then a glare of lightning lit up the street, living everything a b'ue-white, dead look, and Joe saw the horse throw up its head and back nervously against the cart. He reached the horse and took its head and could feel the nervous shivering beneath his hand.
"There. Darkie, hold it, hold it."
Then in a moment the air had turned cool and Joe felt the sweat-soaked shirt clinging coldly to his back. In the darkness, heavy drops of rain began to fall, slowly, and in a widely spaced rhythm like the beat of a metro- nome, hitting the ground with a flat, wet slan. then suddenly he heard the sweepine sound on the roof-tons, com- ing through the darkness with in- credible swiftness.
He let go the horse, turned quickly,
and ribbed the mackintosh 'nm the seat of the cart and struggled into it. The rain hammered on the stiff material and, as Joe turned to lock the wheel, it sprayed back into his face from the cart. He had felt nothing like this rain since he had been In
It seemed to be coming in a solid, drlvlne downpour, and when the light- ning lit un the street again, flashing silver on the rain, he could barely see the cross street at the bottom of the hill. That was why he was not sure he had seen right, and he stood with one hand on the quivering, nervous horse, staring down towards the corner and waiting for the next bright burst of light.
It.came, suddenly and vividly, and there were the two struggling figures, seen through a screen of rai" locked together and swaying about the foot- path like mad dancers. Then th» dark^ ness had come again like a sudden blindness, and there was only the crash of thunder and, as lt died away, the beat
oí rain and the cascading of flooded gutters.
Joe stood beside the horse, feeling lt stiil shivering beneath his hand, and wondered what was going on down there at the corner. Was it just two blokes having a blue after an all-night binge, or was it a hold-up, or what? If it was just two drunks having an argument, then it was none of his business, and they wouldn't thank him for interfering.
He'd go down there and shove his nose in, and the chances' were they'd both turn on him and tell him to take a jump at himself, and he might
even find that one of them would want to take a poke at him. He stood there In the wet, swishing darkness, unde- cided what to do, not afraid of trouble, and vet reluctant to plunge into it. Then the street flashed into bright- ness again, as if to force his decision, and he saw one figure rolling on the ground and the other standing over him with a foot raised to kick
That was enough tor Joe. The street was gone again in the darkness as he star:ed running down the hill, the rain beating along behind him so that it -Teemed to be carrying him forward. He didn't want trouble, but he couldn't turn his back on savagery
-a fight was anybody's business when someone started to put the boot in. "He ran quiet-footed in his sneakers
through the rain, hampered bv the stiff, voluminous mackintosh warned of a et'tter by the rush of flooding water ard leaping it in the darkness, and when the lightning came again he was onlv a few feet from the men.
"Hey!" he yelled.
The standing man turned ouiekiy and. before 'he darkness had fallen again Joe 5« the long blade in his hand. ea""ht as a thin flash of hard, brighter li-M in the brightness of the lightning, then he had plunged for- ward through the darkness, hearing the crash of thunder in his ears, and the ma" went down under him They hit the pavement with the duli, sickenin" thud of flesh ag linst a hard surface, the shock coming through '¡ip man's body into Joe's, then Joe heard the long, cold-Ti"d lng rin ac the knife went through the mackintosh He lay for a moment on the strug-ding, cursing body be- neath hi"i paralysed for a moment with summe and fright, then an<?er sudden'-" bailed within him as the quick re-'Cition came hom» fh->t IU° man h->d m^ant to stab him. He ro"r>d to one «H» and swung his Pst ard felt a sif; f iction as it smithed into the na'e dim face below him
"All right." he panted. "Let up. Let up."
The man muttered something that Joe didn't catch, and his fist looped up in a wild swing that caught Joe a gland"1; blow behind the ear
Joe yelled. "Quit it, will ya!"
He tried to roll away to get to his feet, but lie trod on the mackintosh and fell forward on the man again. The fist swung up again and, as Joe rolled aside, sensing the punch rather than seeing it, he felt the mackintosh rip again as the man stabbed at him
with the other hand. Joe's hat had fallen off and, as he rolled and struggled, the rain beat in a steady driving stream against his face. He flattened himself on the kicking, punch- ing body beneath him, feeling for the hand with the knife.
"Let up " he gritted.
There was still the shock in his mind that all this was happening. He had said good-bye to all this with the end of the war. He had finished with death and violence-and now this man was tryine to kill him. It was like a bad dreim.
The man twisted sharply, his thin
body seeming to contract, and in a moment he had wriggled clear and was standing above Joe, but pulled down in a crouch as Joe tugged hard on his arm. The man raised his fist, Joe staring up through the rain and seeing the long, thin arm as a club against the fading east sky, then it came smashing down. Joe felt the blow land on his cheek and slide off as he turned his face away, then he had brought his feet up into the man's stomach, pulling hard on the hand that held the knife, and the man went over Joe's head in a grotesque whirl of arms and legs and landed heavily on the pavement.
Joe twisted, coming from the prone position to a crouch in one swift move- ment, remembering instinctively now all the tricks they had taught him at the unarmed combat school, knowing this man meant to kill him Just as much as the Jerries or Nips had, and dived towards the dark, spreadeagled shape.
He was fighting for his life, and he had to knock the bloke cold before that knife got home.
They rolled off the footpath, their own panting breath louder in their ears than the crash of thunder, and fell into the gutter. The water poured over them as it rushed down the hill, and Joe, underneath, felt his head being forced back. The water swept over his face, blinding him, choking him, thundering in his ears, and he struggled desperately, kicking with both feet and punching blindly with his right hand while his left clung to the man's knife-hand.
Lightning was a dazzle before his eyes, and there was a crash beyond the roar of water in his ears, and he had the sudden panic-stricken thought that this was the end, and it was a futile way to die after all those other years . . . Oh. God. no. no not now. not this way!
D ESPERATELY, finding
strength when he thought it had all gone, he arched his body, and as the
man came forward over him, his hand still o» Joe's throat and pressing him down into the water, Joe twisted, throwing up his hip and heaving, and the grip on his throat was suddenly gone. His face came out of the water, his mouth wide >pen and gulping air, and he hid spun over and the man was beneath him
Joe, mad a w with anger, his rare temper erupting under the strain of the last minute, still shaken by the thought that, he had been almost mur- dered, reached down and' felt for the man's throat and pushed the dim, con- torted face down into the water. The hand with the knife, freed as Joe's hands went to the throat, came up and swung, but again lhere was only the rip of material. The hand struggled to free the knife from the coat, but Joe, panting, cursing, hating this man beneath him, banging his head down into the gutter, pressed down with his body, imprisoning the frantic hand.
Then suddenly the kicking and strug- gling ceased, the hand that held the knife fell back, empty, and Joe, with a slight shock and a swift flood of relief, knew it was all over. He sat up. still straddling the limp, twisted' body, feeling the water rushing past in a cold, bubbling cascade.
He pulled the unconscious man round so his head was out of the flooded gut- ter and he wouldn't drown. He stood up and the knife fell from his mackintosh, hit his foot and-skidded
into the gutter, disappearing beneath the swirling water. Then as he stood there, bruised and aching and wet through, his lungs burning for want of air, he was aware for the first time that it had stopped raining.
Joe turned as he heard a groan, and the man on the pavement, whom he had completely forgotten, was just sitting up. Joe crossed to him and knelt down beside him. and in the dim, grey light recognised Bill Pepper.
"How are you. Bill? All right?"
Pepper looked up quickly, drawing back as if waiting to be hit again, then he relaxed, his whole body rolling into a soft, fat ball, limp and boneless
"Oh it's you. Joe!" he shivered and straightened up. arching his back as if he were trying to find his spine, and looked about him "Where's the other bloke? The one that tried to do me in? You seen him?"
Joe stood up and crossed to the gutter. He reached down and grasped the limp, sodden man by the coat lapels and pulled him on to the foot- path. He stood up. feeling the sticky warmth on his fingers, and looked down at his hands. In the grey light they were smeared with a dark stain.
He stared at it. remembering the time he had been wounded in a dawn attack, knowing blood had no colour in the very early morning light, and felt a cold shock.
He knelt down and felt inside the man's shirt, feeling the deep gash where the knife had gone home, but the man's chest was still, and already felt cool beneath the wet shirt.
"That's him," he said, and stood up, and was aware of the hollow sickness of fear creeping through him. The lightning was flaring out at sea. and the rumble of thunder, already far away, seemed to point the quietness of the street. "He's dead."
"Dead!" Pepper said. "How'd it hap- pen?" He stood up and leaned shakily against the brick wall of the flats that towered above them. "Did you do it?"
Joe felt his pockets for a packet of cigarettes, but he had none.
"Got a cigarette?" he said, and no- ticed the nervousness in his voice. Pepper felt in his pockets, automatic- ally, still staring at the quiet, sodden figure lying on the kerb. He tossed over a squashed packet and matches.
Joe lit a cigarette and stood for a moment watching the hand that held the match. There was a faint tremor in the fingers, and the palm felt as if it could not close
"It was me or him." he said, and said it slowly, testing his voice again. "He had a knife. He tried to use it on me. I only tried to knock him out."
"But, Joe. you didn't have to do that -" A hand opened out towards the body, and the fingers shook a little in the increasing light.
"Oh. Bill!" Joe swore violently. He could feel and hear the tremor in his voice. The enormity of what he had done suddenly came right home, and he felt weak and afraid and a little angry: it was as if the dead man on the kerb had sat up and accused him. "I didn't do it. I didn't mean to do him in. It was an accident. He must of stabbed himself."
"Well, how-" Pepper said, then his voice trailed off as if he had forgotten what he was going to say. He stepped closer to the body and peered down.
"Who is it?"
"I dunno. You know him?"
It was a young, smooth, dark face, thin and foreign-looking, with lank, black hair, matted now on the unlined forehead. There was a dark bruise on the cheek where Joe had landed a punch, and a few small bruises on the
throat. The man couldn't have been .lder than twenty.
'.Never seen him before," Pepper «aid. his voice high and breathless. Joe. forgetting his own state for a moment, suddenly realised Pepper was very upset and scared, and somehow the knowledge let him tighten his grip on himself. "Looks like a dago "
"Poor dope." Joe said and then saw the thin, vicious mouth.
Joe stood UP. "What happened? Did he jump you?"
"Yeah." Pepper's hands were flutter- ing nervously and he kept looking about him as if looking for somewhere to sit down. "I come home in a cab, like I usually do, and he dropped me just here. I always get out here at the corner so the cab won't wake up Mavis. I got out and walked along there to my gate, and this bloke was waiting for me. He didn't say any- thing, just hung one on me, and I fell into him."
"What was he after? You got any money on you?"
"Oh, about forty quid. But, he could of had that without getting tough about it. He didn't gimme time to hand it over. He didn't say a thing, Just swung at me. Then when he got me down he put the boot in. That was when I copped this," he patted a dark swelling on his temple, "and passed out."
He looked down at the dead man lying on the kerb, one leg trailing in the gutter and the rushing water hitting the foot and spraying up in a grey-yellow fan. "I wonder who he is? I wonder if someone sent him? Maybe they-" He wiped his hand across his face again and shook his head as if he didn't want to believe the thoughts that were coming up in his mind.
Joe looked down at the thin, inert body and the pale, smooth mask of a face. For a moment he had felt pity for the dead man, but now, remember- ing the lunging knife, there was no regret.
"Well. I better go and ring the cops," he said.
Pepper's hands stopped fluttering and he looked down again at the dead man. He stood staring down, his brow puckered as if he were concentrating, as if he were trying to place some- thing In relation to Joe's words. Then he looked back at Joe, and Joe had the idea he was trying to forget his nervousness: he searched in odd corn- ers for courage and found it.
"LVyou have to do that?" he said, but his courage suddenly died away and his voice faded out into a plea.
"What? Ring the cops?" The ques- tion was a shock to Joe: he had con- sidered nothing else. And now. for the first time, he knew why he had been afraid: everything began to clear in his mind, and he saw this incident going on into the future, like a spring growing into a widening stream.
All the other deaths had been im-
personal: you killed a Nip and he was just a body and nothing more. But this would be different. The police, with their talent for cold, hard facts, would build it into a reality. It would be with him from now on like some re- curring malady.
"Yeah," Pepper said. "Have you gotta do that?"
"We just can't leave him here. This is a dead mani It ain't just someone I knocked out. He's dead."
The rush of water in the gutter had abruptly ceased, and it was just a trickle now. Joe's voice seemed un- naturally loud in the still, silent street.
"Drop your voice. Joe," Pepper said, and his hands pressed down like an orchestra conductor's. "I know he's
dead. That's why I don't want you to ring the cops." He looked up and down the street, and his voice dropped to almost a whisper.
"Look at it my way. Joe. We dunno who this bloke is-maybe someone sent him out to get me. If the papers get to hear of this they'll really gimme the works. I'd be shut down in a week."
"Look. Bill, you ain't the only one in this." Joe's voice was impatient; Pepper had opened a door that led to unknown trouble. "I killed him. I did it in self-defence, it was an accident, and all you gotta do is back me up. I'll be the only one they'll be Interested
A hand waved, brushing aside the argument. "Don't you believe it. Joe, You ain't news. You're a nobody, Joe. No one knows you. But everyone knows me. And anyhow." quickly, as if the thought had just struck him. "how d'you reckon you'll get on with the police? D'you think they'll just let you alone till the inquest, and even after it? It won't be that easy, Joe. You killed him, so they'll charge you. They gotta do that, even If you did do it in self-defence "
quiet, shining street with the limp, wet body lying almost ignored at their feet. The nascent dawn came slowly in from the sea, over the low, dark clouds in the east to the lakes of clear pale sky ap- pearing overhead. Up the hill, the horse, forgotten by Joe. stamped a hoof and blew noisily.
"Don't you see, Joe? It'll be better for both of us. Just move this bloke a coupla streets away, dump him, and forget all about him, and no one will worry us. Let someone else find him." He looked up the hill. "You got your cart. It won't take a minute to sling him up on the footboard and drive up to the park and dump him there. We don't want any bother, Joe. You don't want it any more than I do. You're easy-going. Joe, you like the quiet life. You like being that way. The cops won't let you stay like that, once you get mixed up in this. This bloke's dead. Joe. It's manslaughter. That'll be the charge, even though you'll get out of it. Come on. Joe, what you say?" The restless eyes were still, staring at Joe. wide with fear and pleading.
Joe shook his head "No, Bill. It wouldn't work out."
"Why wouldn't lt?" Pepper's hand echoed the question. "D'you think it'll work out if we go and ring the cops? Use your head. Think what it's gunna
"That's what I am thinking I I don't go around killing people and then dumping 'em in parks. I'm on the right side of the law, Bill. That's where I wanna stay. I ain't ever been in trouble before, and I don't wanna start now. What happens if they find out I did kill him, how'm I gunna talk m'self out of it then? Moving the body and not telling the cops-ain't all that gunna look bad? And what about this bloke's people? How're they gunna feel about me. then? Will they
"Will they believe you if you go and ring the cops now? Even if you get off scot-free, will everyone believe you? You know what people are like. Joe -they talk, they always wanna think the worst. I'll be your only witness. Joe. You know what they think of me. Come on. Joe, be sensible."
Joe looked down at the dead man, and quite suddenly he hated him. This limp, useless body represented the future: he would be charged and he
HEY stood there in the
would be acquitted, he felt sure of that, but between now and the ac- quittal there would be little rest for him. And even afterwards it might
be the same.
He looked down at the blood on his hands: he could wash away the stain, but there would be nothing he could do about the memory, there would always be the whispers of people to remind him. He had done his best to forget the violence in other lands, the death in the desert and in the moun- tains and in the jungle, sure lt was behind him for good, and now here was blood on his hands, and a dead man at his feet, while he stood not a quarter of a mile from his own home.
He felt angry and hurt, bitter at the fate that had once again laughed at him. and then, looking up at Pepper, he felt quite suddenly angry with him, too. These two men, this dead one at his feet and this scared, pleading one at his side, had trapped him. Whatever it was that had drawn the two of them together had reached out and ensnared him.
"All right," he said, and felt as if he were beginning something from which there was no retreat. "I'll go up and get the cart."
He went up the hill, still unsure that he would go through with the suggestion. His mind rang like an adding machine, totalling up every pos- sible development from the moment he rang the police, but the machine had a defect: it could give no answer.
Water had soaked in under the mackintosh as he had fought in the gutter, and his wet clothes clung to him; he shivered, but he knew he wasn't all that cold. He took off the mackintosh and threw it on the seat of the cart, then he led the horse down to the corner.
He jumped up on to the footboard and lifted the spare cans, now empty, over on to the back of the cart, then swung down again.
"Righto," he said.
Together they lifted the body and laid it on the footboard of the cart. Joe spread the mackintosh and covered the body, and felt the surge of hate again as he saw the thin new slits in the dark material.
"I hope we ain't been seen," Pepper said. He looked up and down the street, then back at the still heap on the footboard.
Joe picked up his hat, wet and pulpy, and threw it on the seat of the cart. He knelt down and wasned his hands in the water in the gutter. It came trickling down the hill, run- ning past his hands, taking the dried blood with it, and going on down the gutter, whispering as it went.
He cursed, silently and savagely, at the raw deals fate had given him. Only last night he and Connie had decided on the first step towards the quiet, secure life he had dreamed of for so long, and now he had been pitched headlong into this calamity, into this sudden, unexpected reminder of the violent years he had wanted to forget.
He stood up. then abruptly bent again "The knife! We gotta get that!
Where is it?"
Pepper stepped over beside him "Ain't it there in the gutter?"
Joe felt beneath the running water, but his fingers touched only small rubbish wasned down by the rain: a few pebbles, a bottle-top, an emptv match-box. There was no sign of the knife. "It ain't here! It musta been washed farther down." -
"Come on, leave it. lil look for it when you're gone. There ain't time now." Pepper was conscious only of
the body on the footboard of the cart. "Come on, Joe. You better get going."
Joe took a last look at the gutter, looking down the hill, hoping to catch a glint that would tell him the knife ?was stuck in some drain, then he stood up, stepped off the kerb and swung
up on to the cart.
"You're doing the right thing. Joe," Pepper said, standing by the wheel and looking up.
The water ran unheeded over his feet as he stood in the gutter: he was like a man in a sinking boat who stands with the water rising about his legs and looks upwards and pravs. But his praver was a bribe: "I'll look after you for this. Joe."
Joe sat on the cart and looked about him, at the silent houses with their staring windows, wondering if they had been seen. He was bein;; a fool, but maybe in the long run it would work out for the best He .wasn't concerned with the effect of the whole affair upon Pepper; he had hardlv listened to Pepper's rpisons for concealing their part in the death of the stranger once Pepper had put the initial idea into his head.
He didn't care if Pepper lost his gambling-s"hools or became involved with gangsters. He was doing this because of Joe Brennan and no one else. Or. ves, there was someone else -Connie. He was doing this because of himself and Connie and their life together, the life he had dreamed of in the years of violence.
"I'll give you a ring later," he said. "Let you know how things've gone. About elsht o'clock, so your wife won't get suspicious. She might start ask- ing questions if I ring back in a few minutes And have a look for that knife."
"Righto. I'll do that. And never mind waiting till eight o'clock-ring as soon's you can. Ill stick by the phone." A hand came up and pressed Joe's leg: they were partners, sealed in the blood of the man on the foot- board of the cart. "And be careful. Joe. For God's sake, be careful."
Joe went slowly down the hill of Dudley Street, leaning back in the seat against the slope, one foot pressing on the brake and the other on the front board of the cart, the leg propped stiffly out above the mackintosh-cov- ered heap on the footboard. Joe was treading hard on the brake, and every now and again there would be a thin squeal as the iron rims of the wheels slithered on the macadam. The street lights had gone off, and now the grey day was lightening.
Then he was down In the dip at the bottom of the hill, below the sun, in the grey light again. On his left he saw the red telephone box: it seemed to appear out of the dim light as if to warn him there was still time to ring the police. But he turned away and faced ahead: he'd go through with it now he'd started. The horse was pull- ing hard against the slope that led up to cross Arden Street and run down to the park along the edge of the sea cliffs.
Joe stepped over the body and swung down from the cart. He took the horse's head and began to coax it up the hill. Shops lined the left-hand side of the slope, and the dressed windows had a calm look of normalcy: breakfast foods stacked in pyramids in a grocery store; note-paper and child- ren's games in a newagent's, the layette for the unborn babe in the baby-shop. Joe remembered them with yesterday's eye, and it was like looking at a dis- play of the peaceful future about which
The horse strained, neck out-thrust and head low, but its stamping hoofs,
striking sparks, only slipped on the wet roadway, and twice Joe had to heave upwards to save the horse from falling to its knees. Walking backwards up the hill, pulling on the rein, he could see the sunlight striking the tops of the houses on the opposite slope, slowly creeping down over them, and he felt the urgent need to hurry. Desperately, feeling himself beginning to sweat again, knowing this time it was from fear of discovery, he alternately bullied and coaxed the horse up the hill; he kept glancing to right and left, taut with expectancy, waiting for the ambush to be sprung.
"Give you a hand, Joe?"
He spun round, facing up the hill, his whole body seeming to stop hying for a moment, then he could feel the loose nervousness in the hand that held the rein. A short, thin-haired man stood before him.
"Oh, hullo, Dave." Dave Klbby owned the newsagent's; he came down early every morning to bundle up the papers for the boys to deliver. "No, no, thanks. I'll be all right. lil take him back the other way. I'll skip this bit up here."
SOMEWHERE an alarm went off, ringing insistently, shrill and loud in the quiet morning, then it was shut off. The world was waking up. Soon there would be broad daylight in the streets, and people moving about. Joe stood for a moment, wondering if this was the begining of it all, wonder- ing if he should tell Kibby what lay be- neath the mackintosh on the footboard of the cart, wondering if he should turn back down the hill to the rhone box, then Pepper's words came back "won't let you alone"-and he knew there could be no retreat, not if the dream of the future still held.
"Look, maybe we can do it if 1 get behind the cart and push." Kibby was an energetic man, always ready to try anything.
Joe watched Kibby move down past the cart, past the dark heap on the footboard without looking at it, and he stood paralysed, knowing this was dis- covery, and having no words in his mind to answer the question when it came, knowing what he had really known all along, that he couldn't get away with it.
"All right?" Kibby said, and took hold of a wheel spoke.
"No;" Joe almost screamd the word. He jerked the horse's head round, swinging the cart sharply, and Kibby almost lost his balance.
"Hey, go easy!"
"Sorry, Dave.' To himself, Joe's voice was strained and light. It was a strug- gle to find words, then they came with a rush: "I didn't see you had hold of the wheel. It don't matter about giving me a hand. lil take him down through Asher Street. I gotta go down there, anyway. lil come back up here on my own, later. There's only one customer. It's all right, thanks, Dave."
Kibby, mollified, shrugged' his shoul- ders: "Well, all right, if you say so, Joe. But I don't mind giving you a hand if you want it."
"No, it's okay, Dave. Thanks all the same."
"Well, see you later. Be good." And Kibby turned and walked on down to his shop.
Joe watched him go, weak and sick and dry in the mouth.
He led the horse down the hill, wanting to run, feeling the mackintosh covered heap on the footboard to be
as conspicuous as if the corpse lay un- covered. At the bottom of the hill he turned Into Asher Street, a narrow street little wider than a lane, and here he swung on to the cart. He picked up the reins, his hands feeling as if there were no strength in them, flicked the horse sharply, and drove at a swift trot along the short street and crossed over the tram-lines in Have- lock Avenue.
The cart bumped over him, bouncing the body on the footboard so that he had to press down on it with his foot to hold it on, then he slowed the horse down to a walk and passed on into the continuation of Asher Street. Here there was a row of cottages on each side of the street, and on the west side, at the end where it ran into another narrow, steep street, there was a high stone wall backing the Catholic church and presbytery.
The sky had cleared, and the grey light had gone and Joe could see a pink glow climbing the thinning clouds out at sea. He had to get rid of this dead bloke soon. There wasn't time now to drive up to the park by the cliffs. Pretty soon people would be getting out of bed and«taking a peep through their bedroom windows to see what sort of a day it was.
He had to dump the body before there were any peering faces at the windows-even with sleep in their eyes people would see enough to know some- thing funny was going on. He'd come this far without discovery-he had to carry it through successfully and then the whole ugly business would be behind him: there would be only the memory left, and in time even that would fade and even if it didn't it would be less disturbing than discovery and the resultant publicity.
He pulled the cart sharply to a halt and swung down. He stood for a moment by the footboard, gazing at the dark heap, seeing it as a mill- stone round his neck if ever he were connected with it. He'd never be able to escape lt. It would make him an identity in the suburb: "Joe Brennan, he killed a man, vou know" ... He knew what it would be like.
He could hear a tram laboring up from the beach, up round the bend into the avenue he'd just crossed. He had drawn in close to the back wall of the presbytery, a few yards from the end of the street, and opposite the side fence of a house. This was right oift in the open, and the body would be discovered bv the first person who came past, but that couldn't be helped-he had to act fast and get out of the way.
He looked quickly up and down the short street, still hearing the tram coming up round the bend over behind the houses then he swept back the mackintosh, put his arms under the dead man and pulled. He fell back against the wall as the weight hit him in the chest, then the stiff, useless legs' had fallen to the ground, the feet hitting the ground with a thud, and he lowered the boi'v.
Joe looked down. It seemed suddenly small now, lying in a wet, twisted heap as it had fallen asleep in the rain, and in the clear daylight the young, smooth face looked very youthful: it was hard to realise that life was finished for one so young. Only the mouth was ageless; you couldn't date the hate and vicious- ness in those thin lips.
Joe stepped over the body and swung up on to the cart.
Through the pine trees at the back of the presbytery he could see the tall tower of the church, the upper half of it bright with sunlight. Joe looked down at the body against the wall, then he raised his hand, and with his thumb made a cross on his fore- head and knew that the prayer was a
fieillsn one: lt was for nlmself and his future. The dead could look after tlie dead
He turned the norse arid drove buck alona, the street At the corner he slowed down and looked back The body Jav huddled against the wall like a dark bundle of discarded clothes.
He looked along the anlet cottages, at the dark blank windows and closed doors and saw the milk jugs on the doorsteps Only then did he remember, with a jolt that left him empty that this was part of Harry's run and that, being late. Harry would not have been along here vet.
But there was no time now to undo what had been done. In a house an- other alarm went off. a light was switched on a blind went up with a rattle Joe turned ouicklv and drove
on . . .
Joe drove into the yard and saw Monty Simmons standing on the dock One look at Simmons' face told some- thing had happened. Keeping a tight rein on himself, being elaborately Casual. Joe drove down to the stables
He jumped down from thc cart as Fred Green the yardman, a weather- beaten, grizzled man in his sixties, who had a perpetual odor of horses and milk about him. came across the yard towards him Behind the yard- man, hips rolling fast, was Simmons, and Joe had the swift impression thev were racing to tell him something he
"Heard the news. Joe?" the yard- man said: "What news?" Jor began to unharness the horse. He found he was praying a<*ain: Oh. God let me
"Young Harrv's found a dead man on his run."
"That right, Monty?"
Simmons nodded. "Yes. Down in As^er Street Probably lust some poor fellow who's had a heart attack or something. There's no cause for excitement."
"Who's excited?" the yardman said "All riiht." Simmons said
Joe said: "Where's he now? I mean Harry."
"I don't know." Simmons said.
Joe reached up and took the folded mackintosh from the seat and put it under his arm He an^ RimroW« beffn to walk back to the office, leaving the yardman muttering to himself
"Harry ran? in !>br>ut fcW*» hwrq acn He was most excited and I knew some- thing wns MTOi" e"»n he f>ld me. He said he'd just found this dead man and he'd Dhoned the pilice and he was waiting for them to come down. He'd probably have to answer a few questions before they'd let him go with his run. I hope he's not long."
"There's no need for von to wait."
"Oh. I'd like to hear about this dead man. it may be someone we know "
As the other carters drove back into the yard, Simmons or the yardman, whoever happened to get to them first, told them the news. Joe sat on a box on the rlo"^ w*nn ll f->» cHmh«*»» sim, his wet sneakers beginning to stiffen on his feet as they driei out. and listened to the comments of the men
It was like a party, each man trying to tell a better joke than the last. But all of them had missed the point, the rc il laugh Joe sat there amused but with no laughter in him. afraid that in a mr.nent someone would tell the Joke that was true . . . Joe Brennan killed him . And everyone would la afh till their sides split. Then slowly the voices faded becoming meaningless, and lie stopped listening.
He wondered wnat they would say if they knew the truth. And then he bas'an to wonder how long it would be before they did know He had rung Pepper, and Pepper had told him he couldn't find the knife then he'd said:
"But don't worry, Joe. Every things gunna be all right Just sit tight and n. body'll worry us "
"Ain't that light, Joe?"
"What's that/ The faces were al) turned up to him.
"Young Hurry probably bowled over the bl.oke himself, with his wild driving."
"Yeah, could be. You snow what he's like."
"Here he is!" someone said, and Harry drove into the yard while the men stood about with expectant faces.
"Righto, Harry tell us all about it " "What you do-run him over."
Harry swung down from the cart "Righto, you funny boys. That ain't any way to talk about this poor devil." His blunt impudent face wore the re- proachful, hypocritical mask of an un- dertaker: he didn't know the man, but the dead deserved respect "He'd been stabbed."
"You mean murdered?" the yardman said.
"That's what the cops think." "Who was he?" Simmons said.
"They dunno. I never seen him around Coogee before He was a young bloke, looked a bit of a dago." He took the mackintosh from the seat of the cart and flung it over his shoulder The name tag hung down from the collar: J. M. Brennan. A good, well worn coat with no brand-new knife slits to mar it. Joe looked down at the folded coat under his arm. It was a compact bundle, with nothing show- ing, but he suddenly began to wonder how he would explain the slits in it
H ARRY was still talk-
ing: "He looked like he'd been in a brawl before they done him in. He musta put up a fight."
Joe said, and everyone seemed to turn to look at him: "What the cops say? Have you gotta see 'em again?"
"Yeah." Harry was full of his new importance; there was to be a repeat performance. "Yeah, I'm to go up to the police station at ten o'clock. They reckon there'll be some blokes out from the C.I.B. They'll wanna ask me some questions. Just stuff about where I was at a certain time if I saw any- thing suspicious."
"Did you?" Joe knew he was talking too much, that these questions should wait, but he had to know now. He felt suddenly bowed down by his ignorance of how much the police knew Any- thing might be a clue to the police; he searched his mind for something that he may have left by the body that could lead them to him, but he could remember nothing.
"Nah." Harry shook his head. Joe, sharp and alive to everything about him, had the idea he was disappointed. "Nothing at all. I was running late and I didn't get down that way till nearly half an hour later than usual. I might of seen something otherwise. The cops reckoned he hadn't been dead long when I found him."
Harry walked across to Joe. "You left me your mack this morning." He held it out.
"Yeah. I didn't notice I had yours till I got outa the yard." He turned away, keeping the folded bundle under his arm: he clung to it tightly. If it was taken from him he was done for. "You ready?"
Harry threw the mackintosh over his shoulder. "Yeah. We better go home. I gotta have a bath before I go up to see the cops." He looked down at the mud-spattered legs of his trousers. "I better send these up to the cleaners. I didn't have time to go home and change this morning."
"Where were you?'' They had begun to walk across the cobblestones of the
yard, waving casually to some ol the
Harry took his tie from ms pocket and flicked it through the air to get the creases out
They walked down the lane, step- ping ovei the puddles that still lav
In the wheel-ruts.
"Where'd you plav?"
"At a place in Redfern."
"How'd vou get on to that?"
"One of my customers introduced me He goes there practically every night He makes a living at it."
"Lucky man And how'd vou do?'
"Oh I'm in front. I been going there some time now. About a month.''
"Winning all the time?" "Yeah."
"Lucky man." Joe said.
They walked on. Odd bits of refuse washed down by the rain, stuck in the gratings of gutter drains.
Jot looked at them and felt again a sudden shiver' of nervousness. Was the knife stuck in one of the gratings In Dudlev Street glinting m the sun and with specks of the dead man's blood still clinging to it?
Harry said: "I wonder if I'll have to go to the inquest on this bloke?"
"Important, eh?" Harry said it with a grin but Joe knew he was pleased "I wonder who he was?"
"I never seen him before. He was a young bloke, about my age. and looked like a dago."
And his hair was long and black and he wore a blue shirt and a dark suit, and his face was bruised wherc I'd hit him . . It was like someone telling you a story you already knew, a story you'd written under the badge of anonymity.
"I don't think he come from around here." Harry said.
"Wasn't there anything on him to identify him?"
Whv hadn't he thought to look? But he knew that subconsciously he hadn't wanted to know It was better that the dead man remained anonymous.
"I didn't look. Soon's I saw he was dead I went and rung the cops. I don't think thev found anything on him But they'll soon find out who he is."
And the stranger's name would be in the papers to-night.
They had walked down CaiT Street and turned into Brook Some young boys passed them, brown and half naked flicking towels at each other, shouting in high, quick voices alive with the freedom of Saturday morning and no school. Harry looked down to the bright, glinting bav and said: "Going down this morning?"
The words came back out of yes- terday.
"I "think so " he said, and knew he would be going down to the beach onl, because he wouldn't be able to sleep
"Think lil come down m'self after I been to the cops Might as well, instead of going home to bed for a coupla hours before lunch. Ii] have a sleep this afternoon."
Thev passed the church, and Joe touched the brim of his hat. The words came un in his mind, out of his child- hood where they had meant nothing,
and he mumb'ed them automatically: . pray for us sinners That was the third prnver in three hours.
Thev had crossed over the bridge, and were approaching the corner of Dudlev Street. Joe looked up at the verandah of Pepper's flat, and was somehow surprised to see it emotv: for no reason he could name he had expected to see Penoer standing there, his face still blank with fear, and staring down at the snot where the dead man had lain. Por a moment Joe hated him. then he relented
Could ne oíame Peppery Weren't they both trying to preserve their respective ways of rife? Peppers desire to live in peace was basically no different from his own-they were lust on dif- ferent economic levels.
They walked past the flats, and then were at the corner Joe saw the grev
concrete on whieh they had rolled and the kerb over which they had tumbled and the gutter where he had almost drowned.
They stepped off the kerb, over the putter and he looked quickly down at the drnin beneath his feet The grating held nothing but an empty cigarette packet and a few smooth pebbles: no knife gleamed in the sun.
They turned into Oberon Street, and some children were playing on the pavement A boy sat on the Jccrb and played with a knife. It turned slowly in his hand and the sun flashed on the blade. Joe stared at it, walking past with his head swinging slowly round on his shoulders, then the boy stood up, turning to speak to the other children, and returned the knife to the sheath at his belt.
They waved to young Tim, playing cricket against a telegraph pole with two other youngsters, and turned into Arden Street Arthur Brennan was sit- ting on the front steps, the morning paper folded on his knees and a scribbling-pad. marked with hierogly- phics of his hopes, beside him.
Flo Brennan had just come to the front door. "Well, come on. for good- ness' sake I was beginning to think you weren't coming home for break- fast. Where've vou been?"
"Joe was waiting for me," Harry said. He was bursting with his news. "And I was waiting for the police."
Flo Brennan was unimpressed. "What've vou been up to now? Pinch- ing the milk jugs?"
"I found a dead bloke." Harry said. "Down the back of the church."
Arthur Brennan looked up, a word breaking through his concentration. "What's that? Who's dead?"
"I dunno who he was," Harry said, and sounded disappointed that he couldn't name the man. "A young bloke looked like a dago. I found him down the back of the church." He paused, then said it very quietly and carefully, loving the moment: "He'd been murdered."
Molly came through the hall and stood beside her mother "What's up?"
"Harry's found a man who's been murdered," Flo Brennan said.
"Well, don't looE so excited about it," Molly said. "You and Dad look like a couple of ghouls. And look at him"-nodding at Harry-"you'd think he'd found a gold mine."
"Don't take any notice of her," Flo Brennan said "Come inside and tell us. all about it. The way she talks, you'd think we were digging the man up out of his grave.''
"I'll finish these fora lists later," Arthur Brennan said "I could do with a cup of tea You can tell us about it while you're having breakfast." He stood up "Coming. Joe?"
"Right behind you." Joe said, and stood up and went down the hall after the three of them angry and afraid, feeling a slow horror beginning to take hold of him. The dead man had chased him here into his own home and there was nothing he could do to escape him.
Joe crossed the road and went down the steps to the beach, feeling the brittleness of sand beneath his sandals as he went down, smelling the cold, salty smell of the concrete foundations of the promenade. .
He crossed the sand, walking through the crowd already on the beach, and walked on till he was in a clear space.
He took off his sweat-shirt and shorts, stripped to his trunks, and it was only then he noticed the long, dark bruise on his side ribs. He stood looking at it for a- moment as if the dead man had marked him in blood, then quickly he lay down on the sand.
There was heaviness behind his eyes, almost pain, and he felt he could sleep if only he could quieten his mind. But his mind, seemed as if it would never sleep again.
He had sat at the breakfast table and
listened to Harry repeat the story of the Anding of the dead man. His mother and father had sat at the table with them, drinking tea while they listened with bright, horrible interest.
Now Harry was at the police station, probably still excited by the interest in what he had to tell, probably still weaving a border round the story. The police would take down everything he said, but then, experienced as they were, they would soon pick the truth out of his story and throw away the rest: they weren't wide-eyed bunnies to be taken in by an excited, runaway tongue: murder was old stuff to them. With a shock Joe realised he had fallen into line with general opinion. He had begun to think of it as murder. He had a queer feeling of treachery, as if he had betrayed himself, had gone over to the other side.
It was Pepper. "Oh. hullo. Bill."
JLEPPER sat down. A dark bruise shjwed as a blue swelling beneath the thin hair along his temples.
"Harry found the body. He's up with the cops now." Joe said.
"Fh? You mean your brother Harry?" "Yeah. I left the bloke down in Asher Street, like I told you. I didn't tell you I'd forgotten that was part of Harry's run. I didn't wanna talk too much on the phone."
"Oh, gee!" Pepper rolled over on his stomach, lying close to Joe. He lowered his voice: "That's bad. That means you gunna keep hearing about it all the time. That won't be so good for the nerves."
"You ain't telling me. I'm sick of the store already."
"Harry's at the police station now?" "Yeah. They only kept him a few minutes this morning when they come down to pick up the body. The C I B. are seeing him now." He looked directly at Pepper. "You didn't find the knife?"
"No. I had a good look, without making m'self conspicuous. But it wasn't stuck in any of the gratings. It musta been washed down one of the drains. Anyway, it was well outa sight so I don't think we gotta worry about it."
"I hope not."
"You ain't "said anything to Harry, have you," he looked anxiously at Joe.
"Don't be nuts. The way he's het up now, he'd shoot it off in no time."
"Well, if he dunno much the coppers won't get much outa him." Pepper tried to sound relieved, but there was no confidence in his voice. "We got nothing to worry about."
"He can't tell 'em much but I got the .jitters just the same. I just wish he hadn't found it, that someone else had found it. I wish I hadn't moved the body I shoulda rung the cops in the first place."
Pepper said quietly: "You can still go and see 'em. Joe."
Joe laughed, without mirth. "It's all right. Bill. You ain't gotta worry-"
"I ain't only thinking of m'self," Pepper said.
"Yes you are Bill." There was no
resentment in ins vote*. He said li
quietly and flatly, as if he didn't mind. "Oh, it's all right I'm thinking about myself. That's why I'm not going near the cops now. You know as well as I do that if I go and see 'em now tell 'em what I done and why I done it. I'd be well and truly up the pole.
They wouldn't believe me. not at first, anyway. And even if thèy did in the end. I'd get a nice going-over before- hand."
"Who was the bloke?" Pepper said. "I dunno. Harry didn't look, and if the police found out they didn't say anything to him. Maybe they know by now."
And tonight when I read the papers I'll know: he'll be So-and-so, the bloke I killed, a man with a name, and every time I see that name, whether it be- longs to him or to someone else, there'll be a memory ... He bunched his fist and thumped it on the sand.
Pepper smoothed the sand before him and sketched his initials with a fat forefinger. "Joe. hów'd you like another job?"
"Working for me. Just moving about with me."
"Waddia mean? Nothing else-just keeping you company?" He had turned to look at Pepper. What was this lead- ing up to?
A fat hand wiped out the initials.
The forefinger began to .trace a date:
April 18. 1897. "That was my birth- day. Fifty this year. I ain't as young as I used to be. not so spry and able to take care of m'self." He began to draw lines under the date. "Yean, keep me company. Be a sorta-well, a bodyguard."
A bodyguard: it had an artificial sound about it. something associated with gangster films and paper-back magazines. There was no reality about it. and yet Pepper's face was serious and he was waiting for an
"What gives you the idea I'd like the job?"
"Well. I dunno. I thought you might. You been around and you got nerve. You were a Commando, so you'd know how to loo'k after yourself They taught you to fight. I don't think it ud be something you'd forget so easy."
It wasn't something you forgot so easily, but you did your best. You'd been trying to forget now for eighteen months, but even now some things came back with disturbing clarity.
"Why? I'll give you twenty quid a week Joe. and you won't have to pay tax on it. We won't enter it in any books. You got no future there on a milk-cart."
"Would I have a future with you, Bill?" Joe laughed, then it died in his open mouth and he was abruptly sober; he'd had a future only yester- day.
"I'd look after you. Joe."
"No, Bill. It might lead me into something like this morning, again. I just wanna go on being the way I am." He was silent for a moment, staring out to sea. "I just hope I can."
* "It ud be an easy .lob, Joe." Now that he had thought of it Pepper saw a bodyguard as a necessity: he had to talk Joe into taking the lob "You might never have any trouble at all. This morning's the only time anyone's ever tried to rough me up."
"And you're scared it might happen again?"
"No." He lied: his hand picked up an empty matchbox and drummed it against the knuckles of the tither hand: knock on wood. "But it's just as well to be safe, ain't it? How about it?"
"No, Bill. Just let me stay the way I am."
He looked across the beach and saw Harry coming across the sands towards
them. He was dressed in slacks and sports jacket, and wore another bright- ly patterned tie of red and yellow. He waved to a group of youths but didn't stop. Just kept heading straight for Joe and Pepper.
Joe wondered why he hadn't gone home to change before coming down to the beach, and he sat up knowing something was wrong. And then he saw the two men five or six yards behind Harry: a tall, lean man and a shorter, thick-set man both in business suits, walking uncomfortably in their shoes across the loose sand.
Pepper picked up his towel and draped it over his head, hiding the bruise on his temple. He said: "Here
come the D's."
Harry said: "Hullo, Bill. Joe. I gotta coupla visitors for you. Detectives-" He turned to the two men as they came up, and laughed. "I forgotten
your names. Anyway, this is my brother Joe."
Joe stood up. He felt suddenly ner- vous and frightened.
The taller of the two men nodded to Joe, then looked down at Pepper. "Hullo, Bill. Didn't know you were a surf god."
Pepper sat up, but didn't get to his feet. He sat at Joe's feet, cross-legged, his hands bouncing on his knees, star- ing up through the dark glasses, his head, and the bruise, covered by the towel. "Hullo, Stan. What's up now?"
"I always thought Coogee was a respectable suburb." He didn't look like a detective. He was tall and lean with a long thin face and a slow bush drawl. Only his companion, a thick- set, beefy-faced man, branded him. "Now they're leaving dead bodies about the streets. Know anything about it?"
"Should I?" Pepper said.
"No," the tall man said. "But I thought Td ask. You know how we like to ask questions." He turned to Joe. almost casually, as if he weren't really interested in him: "We'd like to ask you some, Mr. Brennan. That all right with you?"
Joe could feel everyone on the beach staring at them. This was going to make him something of an identity,
"Sure." The word seemed to rasp out. The tall detective looked about him.
"Well, we seem to be the centre of Interest here. What d'you say we go up to the police station? Oh, by the way, my name's Talbot. This is De- tective-Sergeant Berger."
Joe nodded, and the thick-set man grunted1.
Joe pulled on his shorts and raised his arms above his head to pull on his
"That's a decent sort of bruise you have on your ribs there," Talbot said.
Joe was thankful for the camouflage nf the sweat-shirt as he pulled it over his head: in the darkness he could feel the tight strain come into his face. He pulled the shirt down over his body, and said: "Yeah. I slipped on the cart this morning when it was raining."
"Milk-carting can be a dangerous job, tnen," Talbot said.
"Yeah." He picked up his towel.
"Well, weil see you again. Bill," Tal-
"Yeah, Stan. Make it a social call." Joe, Harry, and the two detectives walked across the beach, threading their way through the crowd as it turned its gaze to follow them. Joe, aware of the curious stares, felt sud- denly angry and wanted to turn and yell at them to mind their own busi- ness. They passed a crowd of long- haired youths, friends of Harry, and one of them said: "Call on me if you
want bail, Joe," and there was a burst of laughter.
"Will you want me again?" Harry said, showing no desire to leave.
"Might as well come with us," Talbot said. "We may think of something else to ask you, when we hear what your brother has to tell us. That is, if you don't mind?"
"Oh, no, I don't mind. I'll come up. Only too glad to help." He had had a leading part so far, and he meant to hang on to it.
Joe and Harry got into the back seat beside Berger. Talbot got In the-front seat beside the chauffeur, and as the car pulled out from the kerb he turned round, resting his arm along the back of the seat.
"You're probably wondering what we want you for, Mr. Brennan."
"Yeah. I didn't expect you. It's the first time i been arrested right there on the beach like that." He said it with a smile, but it was a bait: he wanted to know now, right now, just how much they knew.
Talbot smiled. "It's really nothing," he said. "Just routine stuff. Your brother told us you were a milkman with a delivery run close to his. We thought you might be able to help in this matter of the dead man he found."
Joe had been sitting tensed on the edge of the seat. Now he relaxed, feel- ing relief sweep over him, and sat back in the seat between Harry and Berger. All he had to do was keep his head;
they had nothing on him. And only then, as the relief spread through him, thawing out the cold stiffness of his thinking, did he realise there was really nothing they could have on him. What had he done? Nothing criminal, nothing that couldn't be explained if it did come out in the open. He was building up a feeling of guilt when there was no need for one.
The car turned out of the road that ran along the promenade and slowed at the tram-lines to let a tram pass, then it was gathering speed and they were going up the Bay Road. Joe saw the blackboard outside the newsagent's and caught a glimpse of the chalked words. Coogee Murder.
Joe said: "How can I help you?"
"Well, maybe you won't be able to help us much at all," Talbot said, "But let's leave it till we get to the station,
ing into the kerb in front of the police station. The five men got out of the car and went into the station, past the notices on the outside wall-Wanted for Murder. Wanted for Robbery-and down a short hall to a small room, furnished with a table and some chairs, behind the main deskroom.
A short, curly haired man, carrying a camera, came to the door of the
deskroom as they went past. "Any- thing turn up?"
"Not yet, Bluey," Talbot said. "I'll let you know as soon as something
does. You'll be in on it."
"Thanks." the photographer said. "Try and make it for the early editions, will you?"
"Anything to oblige," Talbot said.
He came into the room and closed the door, and to Joe the room seemed suddenly smaller, confining. He and Harry had sat down beside the large, plain table, and now Talbot sat op- posite them. Berger sat on the edge of the table.
Talbot pushed his hat back on his head and leaned back in his chair.
"Mr. Brennan, you probably know
HEN they were swing
most of the facts about this case. Your brother's no doubt told you all about it. He's given us a very clear pitcure of it." He said it without sarcasm and without looking at Harry, but Joe sus- pected the ? latter had been repeating his embellished story. "He found this man, whose name we don't know yet, in-" He looked enquiringly at Harry, as if it were too much trouble to open the note-book and check.
"Asher Street," Harry said.
"Yes." Talbot looked back at Joe.
"He found this boy there at six-twenty five, approximately. The doctor who examined the body at a little after seven thought it had been dead just over an hour. That fixes the death around six o'clock. Have you any idea where you were then. Mr. Bren-
Joe tried to sit relaxed in his chair, but his mind had begun to stiffen again, frozen by Talbot's question. Con- fession welled up within him, the urge to tell them everything and have it
over and done with, then it died in a moment, as sounds rapped against his too-alert ears: he heard a heavy tread
down the hall outside and the clanging of iron against iron, as if a cell door had been slammed.
"J dunno," he heard himself say, and
was surprised at the calmness of his voice. "Somewhere in Brook Street, I reckon."
"Where's that?" Talbot looked at Berger.
"Runs up past the front of the church. Parallel to the street where the body was."
"Oh. yeah." Talbot smiled at Joe. "My geographical sense is all cock- eyed. I can never remember the names of places or where they are." He reached out a long arm and began to drum his fingers on the table. "Did you see anything at all up there, Mr. Brennan? You know, a car or a couple of men, anything at all that shouldn't be there at that time of morning?"
Joe wanted to smoke, but he daren't attempt to light a cigarette: he couldn't be sure that his hand wouldn't be shaking as it lifted the match.
"I can't remember anything," he said. "Just about then the storm broke, and I was busy dodging that. Some storm It scared the daylights outa my horse."
"Yes, I know what it was like," Tal- bot said. He looked steadily at Joe. "So you didn't see anything, Mr. Bren- nan? Couldn't have seen anything?"
Joe shook his head. "No, I didn't see a thing."
"Well. I'm sorry to have dragged you right up here for nothing. I guess we could've asked you that on the beach. But you never know in our game when you're going to get information. We have to try every angle."
"That's all right," Joe said, and stood up.
Talbot opened the door, then turned back as if an afterthought had just struck him. "How well do you know Bill Pepper?"
Joe knew why they hadn't questioned him on the beach, why they had looked at Pepper first and asked him what he knew about the dead man. Maybe till they had walked on to the beach and seen him they hadn't thought about Pepper; but now, for some reason or other, probably because of his reputa- tion, he was suspect. And now he, Joe. was also under suspicion because of his assocation with Pepper: the dead man ivas binding them even closer together. Talbot had asked the question almost casually, but Joe knew it was the one question that counted with them.
"How d'you mean?" he said.
"Well, are you a personal friend of his?" Talbot was leaning against the door. Joe, sharp and tense again, felt
the casualness was being carried too far. "Do you go around with him?"
"No." Joe was glad now he had re- fused Pepper's offer of a job; the less he saw of Pepper in the future the safer he would be. "No, I only see him now and again on the beach. That's where I met him."
"What about you, Mr. Brennan?" Talbot looked at Harry. "You're not a
close friend of his?"
"No," Harry said. "We both know him. but that's about all. He ain't what you'd call a friend. He's-well, you know how it is on a beach when you been going down there for yeais."
"I suppose so." Talbot stood aside. "Well, that's all. And Tm sorry again to have troubled you. Mr. Brennan. But we may see you again."
"Any time." Joe said.
As they walked aown the hall, the photographer came to the door of the desk room. "Anything doing?"
"Nothing. Excepting we may know the man's name soon. We're having some laundry and the tailor's tabs checked." Talbot nodded his head at Harry. "This is Mr. Brennan. He found the body. You might want a photo of him."
"Yeah," tae photographer said. "How about il. Mr. Brennan?"
Harry grew in stature. "Sure, sure.
Wnereil I stand?"
"We better go outside." the photog- rapher said.
Harry grinned. He walked out into the sunlight, running a comb through his hair, straightening his tie. Joe stood on the verandah.
Then the photographer looked at Joe. "Would you mind standing a little to one side, please? Or do you know -something about the case, too?"
"No." Joe said. "I dunno anything." Alter lunch Joe went in and lay down on Tim's bed. It was a full sized bed. and it was much easier to go to sleep in this quiet room than on tile verandah outside. That is, if he could go to sleep at all. And, heaven knows, he wanted to. He seemed to have been awake for years; he had lived a lifetime since this morning, and the weight of it was dragging on the back of his eyes. At lunch the family had talked of nothing but the murder, Harry telling his story over
He lowered the blind, shutting out the bright sunlight reflected from the white stucco wall of the flats next door, and the room was suddenly cool and
He lay and thought of the one thing that had filled his mind all morning, would fill it from now on till-till when? He wondered how long lt would be before he would go back to the police and tell them what he knew. We may see you again. Inspector Talbot had said; had it been a prophecy? He would be going back, he was certain of that. It was just
a matter of time.
And it would be Harry and the rest of the family who would send him back. He wouldn't be able to stand it if they kept bringing the ghost of the dead man into the house. What a mug he'd been! He'd sought the quiet life, and this was what he'd got. You don't want any bother, Pepper had said. No bother. And here he was with his mind so wide awake it would never sleep again, would always be sharp and alert to hear his own family talking with bright excitement of something that concerned them far more than they knew. It was funny -if anything was funny any more.
He shut his eyes, but his mind was still wide open. The past seven hours tumbled through in swift montage, lit by lightning within his closed lids:
a bus rumbled by, and it was a memory of the morning's thunder. He rolled over on his side, trying to fall over into sleep as if over a cliff, letting go of everything, but it was no use: he remembered the limp bcdy of the dead man lying in exactly the same position as he himself must now be, and for a queer, half-dreaming moment he seemed to be standing over himself, looking down on his own limp, dead body, then he snapped wide awake, clearer and colder in his mind than
He began to think about Connie. He had thought of her several times this morning, but as soon as her image had come up in his mind he had tried to shut it out: he had had some half resolved notion that she must remain completely unrelated to the events of the morning, and while he had thought of the dead man he had tried not to think of her.
But now, with his rapidly growing determination to go back to the police, he knew she could no longer remain apart from the death of the stranger; he realised, with a sudden warmth of feeling, that she wouldn't want to.
k_J»OON another bus rumbled by, and after a time, with his eyes closed but still far from sleep, he began to wait for them, knowing they came at intervals of twenty minutes and counting them. He lay like that while four more buses went past.
After the fourth, he got up.
He showered, dressed, went out to the refrigerator and drank a glass of milk, then went down the hall and out the front door.
"Hello." Flo Brennan looked up from the peas she was shelling. "You didn't sleep long. Dreaming of dead men?"
The street spun before his eyes and blood thundered in his head. Must they keep on hammering at him?
"What's the matter?" his mother said anxiously.
"Nothing." He opened his eyes, blink- ing. "That sun's a bit bright. I ain't properly awake yet."
"I thought you were going to keel over then." Flo Brennan went back to the peas. "Where are you going
"Down to the pub. What time's tea?" "About six. Is Connie coming down tonight?"
Joe walked down the long hill of Arden Street. The sun was still warm and he knew the beach was crowded: he could hear the shouts of the surfers, a babel of light, gay sound, long before he reached the bottom of the hill. A shark-patrol plane went roaring over- head, then its engine cut out as it glided down towards the beach.
He came to a hotel and was about to turn in, then changed his mind and went on down towards the Bay Road.
He turned the corner of the Bay Road and went into the newsagent's. He bought the afternoon papers and walked out of the cool, dim shop into the bright, hot street. Someone spoke to him as he went by, and he said hullo without looking at them.
Joe looked at a front page and saw the small photo of Harry and the stiff y formal caption: Henry Brennan. Then the headlines of the story rose up before him as he raised the paper: Brother of Underworld Figure Mur- dered. He read on, trying to read everything at once, the words tumb- ling at him like a frantic teletype, but when he looked up from the paper the thought in his mind had the definite sharpness of a dagger point: he was in danger. He had killed Tino Ricci,
the brother of Lou Ricci, a gang lead- er, and the story hinted broadly at the possibility of revenge.
There could be no confession to the police now: that way lay danger, an- other of the things he had thought was behind him. The past, only slightly disguised, was catching up with
The Brennan's were having their Saturday night party, Connie was there, sitting on the sofa, her arm tucked in Joe's. Molly's boy-friend Jimmy Gaffney was teasing Mrs. Bren- nan as he always did.
Flo Brennan liked gaiety: a song and a laugh and people enjoying them- selves; she would never grow old. She sat at the pianola now, pedalling away like a six-day bike rider, singing with the lusty lungs of an old-time soub-
Jimmy Gaffney smiled. "There's no doubt about your ma. She's full of
Flo Brennan stood up from the pianola. "Phew! I'm winded. What did you think of Harry finding that dead man, Jimmy?"
"Oh have we got to have him again?". Molly said.
The front door-bell rang, the sound whirring down the hall like some urg- ent alarm, and the room was instantly quiet.
"I wonder who that is?" Flo Brennan said. "Go and see, will you, Joe?"
Joe stubbed his cigarette in an ash- tray and heaved himself up from the depths of the low-slung sofa. He was on his feet, walking out of the room, before the thought struck him that maybe the caller was for him. He saw the evening paper tossed in a chair and the one word in the headline: Gang
He walked down the long hall, away from the warm, friendly light of the room, and as he got closer to the front door he could feel the strength in his hands turning brittle; fear was a taste in his mouth. He tried to slow down: he seemed to be approaching the door too fast, as if he were running down- hill, but his feet carried him on as they had carried him down the hill of Brook Street towards the struggling figures in the rain.
A car went by in the street outside, and against the swift reflection of its lights he saw the two vague silhouettes through the frosted glass in the upper half of the front door. He stopped for a moment with his hand on the light switch, then he pulled down the switch, flooding the hall with light, and swung open the door.
"Good evening." He was a short, slim man with glistening, black, wavy hair and a smile that showed a gleam of gold in his teeth. He held a light grey, snap-brim hat in his hand, and he wore a black arm-band on his well cut, dark grey suit. Behind him, out of the path of light from the hall, Joe could see the dark shape of a tall, heavily built, bare-headed' man who stood with both hands in his coat pockets. "Do the Brennans live here?"
"Yeah." Joe was conscious of the light behind him, exposing him, and he wondered if they would have the nerve to kill him here on his own doorstep. "Can I help you?"
"Could we see Mr. Henry Brennan? Or are you him?" It was a pleasant voice, faintly accented, soft and almost apologetic, and with a tinge of sadness in it: its owner had found little laughter in the years.
"No, I'm his brother. I'm afraid Harry's out." He felt the relief of re
prieve: they hadn't come to see him: they knew nolhing yet.
"Oh." He was disappointed. He seemed lost for a moment as if all his future movements had been planned to start from his meeting with Harry. "When will he be in? Will he be back tonight?"
"Well, heil be pretty late. He's out with his girl."
The tall, heavily bnilt man stepped forward suddenly, ccming fully into the light, and Joe involuntarily stiffened. "Ain't you Joe Brennan? Remember
Joe remembered the heavy, swarthy face with the dark moustache, the bright, merry eyes, the dark head of thick, unruly hair; he remembered, too, the roaring, lusty laughter of the man. and he wondered suddenly what he was doing here
"Happy Collins! Gee, how are you.
Happy?" Their hands met in a clasp, and Joe's almost clung to the other's, trying to add bloom to a friendship that had never had time to completely ripen : this could be an insurance policy, just in case. Just in case: no matter how little anyone knew, he couldn't trust the future.
"Long time no see. Joe. I was begin- ning to think maybe you'd copped it." Vince Collins turned to the short, slim man. "Joe and me were in the same
unit in the Middle East He got me on the boat coming outa Crete, after Td stopped a bit of lead. We used to go on leave together. Good old Tel Aviv, eh. Joe?" He looked back f\t Joe, his face beaming in the light. He hasn't changed. Joe thought, and began to feel safe.
"How do you do. Mr. Brennan?" The short, slim man put out his hand, a small, almost effeminate hand, but Joe could feel the strength in the fingers as he took it. "Maybe* I better intro- duce myself. Vince don't look as if he's going to. I'm Lou Ricci. Maybe you
There was no pride in the soft voice. Lou Ricci had his moments of regret that he wasn't a respectable business man. Five years ago he had suddenly lost interest in easv money, but the habit had been toj strong for him to change.
"Well, yes," Joe said.
Joe could hear the silence m the lounge-room. "Excuse me," he said, and turned and called down the hall: "It's all right." He turned back, and as he did the pianola began again. "I'm sorry I can't ask you in, but mv mother's got visitors. I think you'd find it a bit noisy."
"That's all right, Mr. Brennan," Ricci said. "Thank you. though. No. we just called in. hoping we could see your brother. You probably read in the
papers what happened to"-there was the faintest gap in the voice, as if he had stopped to take a breath-"my brother, Tino."
"I read about it. yeah." Then, com- ing from the heart but knowing it was meant for himself: "I'm sorry."
Collins said: "Lou thought your brother might be able to help us. He found the body, the papéis said Ln¿i wants to find the bloke who done in young Tino. You know how it is."
He stopped for a moment, as if he had just realised he was talking to someone on the right side of the law
Long time no see, he'd said, and the confidences and understanding that were part of a life in a cramped army tent were a long way behind; in those days an eye for an eye had not been murder. "I mean, if Lou can help the police catch this bloke, heil feel a lot better "
"He was only young, too young to die,'' Ricci said "I looked after him
ever since my mother died. He was a good kid."
Joe remembered the vicious, stabbing knife and the cursing, hate-filled voice. Did Ricci really believe that about his
Ricci was still talking, quietly, as If to himself: "He had a steady Job, a good one. He was going to be an engineer. He didn't make his money like I do-gambling, betting on horses, all that. I dunno what he was doing out this way." He drew a deep breath, as if he would never be able to com- prehend what had happened. "I dunno who'd want to kill him."
He looked up at Joe, standing on the step into the hall, and Joe realised with a shock that the man was almost broken by grief: he seemed smaller, crushed into himself by the memory he had just revived.
Vince Collins said: "Tino didn't get around in this game like us. Lou wouldn'' let him. He had plans for him. That's why we're in the dark where to start looking for who done him in. If he had moved around with us we might of had a lead. But he didn't."
"Did your brother see anything at
all?" Ricci said.
"No," Joe said. "No. he didn't see a thing. He wasn't any help to the police at all." Then, as if it were best to come out in the open now: they would learn about it later, anyway: "They had me up there, too."
You?" Ricci said.
"Yeah, I'm a milkman, too. I work at the same yard as my brother. The police thought I might of seen some- thing suspicious this morning on my
"Did you?" The voice was still soft, but thc look in the eyes had changed: just give me something to go on. . \ . The urge for revenge hung in the air like the scent from the few flowers in the front garden. Corsica and the feuds were twenty years behind Ricci, but he still knew only one palliative for grief.
"No. You couldn't see a thing in that storm this morning. I was near where Harry found the-your brother, but I didn't see anvthing."
"So you didn't see anything this morning. Mr. Brennan? Nnbodv fght ing or anything like that?"
SLOWLY joe shook nis
head. "No. And I don't think my brother'll be able to help you any more than I can." It was like closing the door in their face: go away and
don't come buck.
"I'd like to see him. anyway." Ricci said. He put on his hat and ran his hand along the brim to snap it down. The light glinted on the jewelled ring on his little finger. He had come a long way from the narrow street in Ajaccio. All he had left was the inborn desire for revenge: it was like a birth- mark, something that another land and another way of life couldn't wipe out "We'll say goodnight. Mr. Brennan. Sorry to have troubled you." .
"Good night. Joe." Collins put out his hand. Joe. for the first time, was aware that Ricci's grief hadn't communicated itself to the big man; he had talked about Tino Ricci with the detachment of a stranger, and now his smile was as happy and friendly as the old days "We'll have to have a drink some time. We got a lot to talk about."
"Yeah." Joe said. "Goodnight."
Ricci and Collins went down the steps, out the gate. Collins turning to close it and to wave to Joe. and up the street to a car. They got in. started the engine, switched on the lights, and pulled away fom the kerb As they went past the house Joe saw the small white hand wave at him then the street was empty.
He stood for a moment, smelling the scent of the flowers in the garden and hearing the faint tap tap tap of a moth against the hall light.
He closed the door, put out the light and went back down the hall, knowing he hadn't seen the last of Ricci.
Joe and Connie walked down the hill of Arden Street. Arthur and Flo Brennan had gone to bed a half-hour before, and Molly and Gaffney had been sitting close together on the lounge, looking as if they wanted to be alone. So Connie, had stood up and said she'd better be getting home.
"You tired?" Joe said.
"Not that much. Why?"
"Let's walk down to the prom."
Connie had her arm in Joe's. "What's the matter with you tonight, darling?"
"Eh? Nothing. Why?"
"You've been quiet all night. You've seemed as if you've got something on your mind."
"Have I." They were all beginning to notice it now. First Harry, now Connie, tomorrow the whole world He remembered the phrase: murder will out. It hadn't been murder but the idea was still the same: you couldn't keep death quiet.
"Have you been thinking about what we talked about last night?"
"What?" Last night: had there been anything to think about, to worry about, before this morning?
They found a seat at the top of the reserve and sat down. Joe's arm around Connie.
"Well?" Connie leaned back against him and turned her face up for his kiss. But he didn't kiss her; he just drew her closer and rested his chin on her head.
"Look, darling, you have got some- thing on your mind. What is it? Come on. tell."
He turned his head and looked at her.
"Can't I help you, Joe, whatevei it is?" She had never seen him like this before.
Should he tell her? Would it be fair of him to ask her to share his worry? Would it help him at all to get the secret out of his system, to tell it to someone who could sympathise with
"What is it. darling?"
"I dunno whether you can help." he said "There ain't much anyone ca.i do."
"Then there is something?"
"Yeah." He was silent again, reluct- ant to draw her into the deep, swift river of his own plight. In his mind he could hear Talbot's voice-"maybe weil see you again"-and when Ricci had left he hadn't said goodbye: everything now was just at the be- ginning. He knew suddenly he needed her as a weak man needs a staff, and they were bound together despite th« shattered dream: he could not go on alone. "Dari. I killed that bloke Harry found."
"What?" She stared at him for a moment, her hand tightening on his.
His fingers dug into her shoulder T mean it. Con. I killed him."
"Oh. God!" She relaxed limph against him. "How did it happen? The papers said he was stabbed. Darl- ing you wouldn't-" Her voice trailed off. withered by the horror that rose in her mind: she remembered the newspapers' descriptions of tile stabbed and battered body, the callousness of .the crime.
"It was an accident. He stabbed himself." He kept his arm tightly about her, as if now he had confessed his secret he must protect it. he must keep her to himself.
"But it said in the papers-" It was as if she were trying to have him denv
what he had told her. "Your mother i said Harry told her-" *
Auger made his voice sharp: she flinched as if he had struck her. "Never mind what Harry or anyone said! I told you-it was an accident. Don't you believe me, Connie?" It was almost a cry for help; he suddenly felt lonely and afraid, as if she had deserted him.
"You know I believe you, Joe. But I just can't imagine you killing anyone, even "if it was an accident. Were you fighting? What happened?"
He told her everything, reciting it with the sharp clarity of a frightened memory, telling it as if it were hap- pening before his eyes as he told it.
"But why didn't you tell the police? I don't understand why you moved the body at all Why don't you go and tell the police now? It was an accident. They can't touch you for that."
"I haven't finished yet. Who d'you think that w'as come to our place to- night? It was Lou Ricci."
"Lou Ricci?" The name meant noth- ing to her at first, then she remem- bered. "You mean the gangster, the dead man's brother? What did he
"He said he wanted Harry. What he wanted was the bloke who killed his brother."
Connie said: "You mean he wanted to kill you?"
"When he finds out I'm the one he s looking for, that's what he'll do."
"Did he say he was going to kill someone?" She was talking a language that was strange to her; it was almost beyond her imagination to conjure up a picture to fit the words she spoke.
"No. He didn't need to. I could feel it there in him, just as plain as if he'd
said it." '
"Won't the police be able to give you protection?"
"They might for a while. But he'd wait." He looked at her, and she saw the pain of worry chiselled deeply into his face; in the dim light he seemed to have aged suddenly. "We can't tell anyone, dari. Ever."
She felt for his hand and held it "Why didn't you ring the police in the first place, darling?"
"I didn't think I'd ever need to ex- plain that to you I thought you'd just know."
"Know what? Am I being dumb or something, darling?"
"No, I suppose not Maybe I'm the dumb one. i dunno Maybe I don't even understand myself."
He was talking in riddles: she felt frightened, as if there were another, more terrible secret still concealed. "Understand what. Joe? Please tell me. What are you trying to say?"
"I think I'm trying to tell you what I've tried before. I'm trying to tell you why I'm like I am, why I think like I do. But it don't seem to be much use -I keep running up against the fact that you've never been through the same things as me. I keep telling you about how much I want security, but you've got a different idea of security to me. Maybe that's because you've never known what insecurity is. Before the war I couldn't get a job and then I joined the Army. But after a while I started to find out I'd just run into another sort of insecurity. Oh, I had a job, got my board and keep, every- thing found. But it was still insecure -I never knew if I'd see tomorrow. And then I met you."
She pressed his hand.
"I started to think about security again-you and me, ana the future we'd have. I fought the last part of the war just for us two. I wanted to get it
over and done with, have it all behind me for good, the killing and the not knowing about tomorrow and-oh. the whole lot of it. All I wanted was to come home to you and the things we talked about in our letters." He turned and looked at her. "I don't suppose any of that adds up to you, dari. But anyhow, that's why I didn't phone the cops first thing this morning. It reminded me of the past, and I was going to see it didn't catch up with us Well, it's caught up with us. and I don't see us ever getting away from it."
She sat beside him in silence, then she said: "What about Bill Pepper?"
"He'll never help us. He's scared for his own skin."
She suddenly broke. "Oh, darling, what are we going to do, then?" She fell against him, and his arm closed about her. #
' Nothing." he said, and knew it was the only thing they could do.
EN the alarm sounded Joe hadn't had enough sleep. He and Connie had sat down there in the reserve till well after midnight, and it had been two o'clock before he'd got to bed. Now here it was already four o'clock. He started later Sundays be- cause there were no shops to serve.
When he had gone down the hall and switched on the light in the bed- room he wasn't surprised at what he saw: Harry's bed hadn't been slept
He picked up his clothes, switched off the light and went out to the bathroom.
The wind had increased by the time he had left home, walked down through the moaning, lonely streets, and was approaching the milk yard.
He stepped off the footpath and crossed the road, his face side on to the wind, his eyes narrowed against the vicious, flying grit, and he had almost walked into the car before he saw it.
It was parked by the kerb, beyond the illumination of the street light farther down, a dark, sleek shape, quiet in the wind-disturbed darkness, menacing as some waiting preying
He pulled up sharply, turning his face away from the wind, and the voice said: "That you. Joe?" He recog- nised Vince Collin's voice.
"Yeah," he said, and stepped up to
"Awful morning, ain't it?" Collins said. He sat behind the wheel.
"Yeah." Joe said. He looked beyond Collins and saw the small, dark figure huddled against the far door, the light grey hat pulled well down over the face as if the eyes were scared of some sudden glare bursting out of the darkness. "Hullo, Mr. Ricci."
What did Ricci want here at this time of morning?
"Hullo. Mr. Brennan." The voice was still soft. "Is your brother coming to work this morning?"
"Yeah." Ricci hadn't believed him when he'd said Harry could tell him nothing.
"Yeah, he'll be along."
"He didn't come with you?"
"Sometimes he stays with his girl and then comes straight on here." Something told him there was no need to mention the two-up school; the less they knew about Harry the better.
"Does he usually get here about now?" He hadn't moved, a dark, still shape against the far door: only his voice was alive.
"Maybe he's inside now."
"We been here." a white hand cam« up in the darkness and was held close to the invisible eyes; despite th« wind Joe imagined he could hear the ticking of the watch, "just over an
"Oh, he ain't arrived, then."
"Weil wait for him." The wind moaned beneath the car.
There was nothing he could say or do; he felt helpless, manacled "Well, I'll be getting on."
"So long. Joe." Collins said. He had been sitting quietly behind the wheel, as if he had been told to keep silent.
"See you again. Mr. Brennan." The pale shape of a hand came up in a slow wave.
Joe walked round the car and down the street towards the lane He had almost reached the lane when he heard a car turn in at the top of the street, swinging quickly round the corner ard coming down with the wind towards him. He stopped and looked back, thinning his eves against the wind The dark limousine at the kerb was silhouetted against tne lights ol tlie approaching cir. then the lights had swept by it and it had disappeared suddenly in th*- bl ickness beyond the approaching glare
The car swung in to pull up just beyond the lane, and Joe recognised the yellow body of a taxi. A d > ir swung open and Harry got out. He leaned forward as if speaking to someone in the back of the taxi, then suddenly the lights of Rieci's car were switched on, blazing ahead to throw the taxi and Hurry into bright relief For a moment everything was stat e in the blazing light Harry, the taxi, the silent houses on both sides of the street Then Rieci's car began to move slowly down the street.
Joe stood in the middle of Mie pave-
ment, cold arid weak, then he opened , his mouth and yelled. Then he saw the startled face of Bill Pepper staring through the back window of the taxi. Rieci's car slowed down abruptly, as if a foot had involuntarily trodden on the brake, then just as suddenly
it swung out from the kerb round ' the taxi and went speeding d ram the
Harry spoke again into the back of the taxi, swung the door shut, and stepped b ick The taxi turned round in the street, swinging in a tight, swift circle, and went back uo the way it had come, its motor racing as it went past Joe as if there were some frantic haste to be gone from here.
Joe, the lear slowly draining from him, knowing he had expected some- thing that hadn't eventuated and yet not quite knowing what he had ex- pected feeling again the we ik ess of relief as he had come to feel it several times in the last twenty-three hours, leaned against the fence at the lane entrance and waited for Harry
"Oh. hullo." Harry, walking into the wind, had almost turned into the lane before he saw Joe. "What a rotten day."
"Yeah." They walked down the lane. "Who was that you come home with? Bill Pepper?"
"Yeah. He picked me up at the school. Funny I ain't ever seen him there before."
"Yeah. How'd you go last night?"
Harry put his hand in his pocket and held out a handful ol notes. "Thirty-eight quid. Wait'll I start building on that, sport. I won't be driving a milk-cart much longer."
Joe said: "Lou Ricci was out to se« you last night. That was him in the car that drove past yr-x. as you got
outa the cab."
"What did he want? I think he had Bill seared. He seemed in a hurry to get away "
"He just wanted to know if you knew
anything about his young brother's death. He's looking for the bloke who killed him."
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him I didn't think you'd be able to help him much. I'd stay outa his way."
"He won't get anything outa me. What do I know? Heil probably be at the inquest-heil hear everything I know then."
He walked across to the stables, swaggering a little, his arms held wide and jauntily, still full of his success of the night and king of his own small world. Joe looked after him and wished for even half of his brother's confidence . . .
When his round was finished. Joe hurried down to the beach to find Connie.,
He stood at the top of the steps, and from there he could see her sitting along in their usual place on the sands and looking towards him.
"Hello, darling." He took off his shirt and shorts and sat down beside her, and noticed the heaviness about her eyes and the tight, strained look of her face.
"Hullo, dari. You look as if you haven't slept."
"I haven't." She rolled over on her stomach and lay close against him as he sat looking down at her. He put a hand on the brown smoothness of her shoulder. "Oh. Joe I'm worried."
He pressed her shoulder. "So'm I. If this keeps up lil be grey by my next birthday. Would you marry an old
"If his name was Joe Brennan. I lay awake all night, wondering what we could do." She had taken her place alongside him in the trouble, he noticed the plural pronoun and he pressed her hand.
"I saw Ricci again this morning."
Her hand dug into the sand beneath his. She turned her head quickly and he could see the fright in her eyes. "Where?"
"Outside the yard. He was waiting in the street for Harry."
"For Harry?" For the moment she had forgotten; fear and worry had clouded the clear, lively mind. "What does he want him for?"
"He evidently thinks Harry can tell him something. It looks as if he don't intend leaving any stones unturned."
"Darling." She turned her hand over so that her fingers entwined in his. "Do you think heil find you out? I get terribly frightened, thinking what he might do to you."
"Hullo." Bill Pepper said, standing above them.
They looked up. "Oh. hullo, Bill." Joe said. "You dunno Connie, do you?"
"Pleased to meetcha." Pepper stood as if lost; he had wanted to talk to Joe. but he hadn't reckoned on a third party. He had been annoyed that Joe hadn't phoned him last night when the papers had published the name of the dead man. and once he had thought of going up to Joe's home.
"Siddown." Joe said. "That is, unless you're with someone?"
"Waddia know, Joe?" Pepper put on his sun-glasses, but Connie, looking at him. knew that the eyes did not relax behind the dark, blank lenses. "How'd you get on yesterday after you left me?" He turned to Connie. *T thought the cops had come to arrest him. He probably told you. Everyone on the beach thought he was gunna be had up for something. How'd you get on, Joe?"
"All right. I couldn't tell 'em eny thing." Joe looked straight at Pepper and dropped his voice. "Lou Ricci was out at our place last night."
Pepper's hands clutched his knees, and his plump, round body straight- ened, seemed to harden.
"It's all right," Joe said. "Connie knows. I told her abjut lt."
"O.K.. Joe," he said. He turned to Connie. "It's bad, ain't it?"
She nodded She suddenly felt sorry for him, his fear was so apparent: he carried it with him like a fever. "It's worse now that Ricci has put in an appearance."
"What did he want. Joe?"
"He wanted to see Harry. But Harry wasn't home last night, so I talked to him. He dont suspect anything yet he .just thinks Harry might give him a lead. He was waiting for him this morning outside the yard."
"Was that him in that car?" Pepper's voice was almost a squeal. "He musta seen me! That was why he didn't stop. He'll start to-"
"Shut up. Billi" Joe sat up.
Pepper flushed and was silent for al- most a minute.
"I'm sorry, Joe," he said.
"Righto," Joe said, and wondered how long it would be before his own fear would be so craven. "Let's forget it .
Why'd you come home with Harry this morning? Why'd you have to pick this morning of all mornings?"
"I dunno. I was just coming away from the place when he come outa the door I did it on the spur of the moment."
"Does Ricci know you own the joint?" Joe said.
"Yeah. I think so. Why?"
"Nothine. I was just wondering. 1 wonder why he drove off this morning when he saw vou were in the cab?"
"I dunno. It gimme a shake last ni<rht when I got the papers and read it was his voung brother you'd-" His voice died away; he squeezed sand out of his hand. "I started to think about what it could all add up to. Joe . . . how about that job I offered you yesterday?"
Joe looked at Pepper. "No. I didn't want it yesterday, and that was before Ricci came on the scene. I don't want it now. Bill. It would only be putting a price on my future as well as yours." He stared out to sea. to where the bright, flat light put a dazzling sheen on the far. deep water; and the past was in his voice as he said: "Right now I dunno how much my future is worth. I dunno if I got one."
JLHE Sunday news;; iners
had made quite a story of the killing.
Gang war was seen as the cause of the murder, and the police were urged to bring the murderer or murderers to justice before there was an outbreak of revenge killings.
Joe lay on his bed on the front verandah, reading the stories, reading them too quickly, and having to gb
back over them.
Tim wa? out playing somewhere, and Joe and Harry had the place to them- selves*; Joe could hear Harry Inside, singing to himself as he dressed to go
The car slid quietly into the kerb. Joe, still reading the paper, did not see Ricci and Collins till they had opened the front gate. He sat up.
"Hullo," he said, and Knew his voice had no welcome in it.
"Hullo, Mr. Brennan." Ricci stood at the top of the three steps leading up to the verandah: Collins was just clos- ing the gate behind him. "Is your
-Yeah," Joe said. "You want him?" "Please," Ricci said.
Joe got off the bed and walked to the front door. "Hey, Harry!"
The singing abruptly stopped.
"Someone to see you."
Harry came down the hall.
Joe stood back from the door and
gestured towards Ricci. "This is Lou
Ricci said: "Hullo, Mr. Brennan. I been trying to catch you. I been un- lucky up till now."
He was smiling easily, holding out his hand, but Harry, putting his hands in his pockets, said shortly: "What can I do for you?"
"You found my brother's body?"
"Yeah." There was no sympathy in Harry's voice. "But that's all I can tell you."
Collins had stepped up on to the verandah beside Ricci; the small space seemed crowdéd by the four men. Joe, standing against the wall, feeling it pressing against his shoulder blades, had the feeling of being hemmed in.
Ricci said: "You didn't see anything else?"
"No," Harry said. He looked im- patient.
Ricci was saying: "You didn't see any knife near Tino? Or something he might of been stabbed with?"
"No. I didn't see anything. He raised his chin, shoving it out above the hand at his throat, and his look of arrogance was pronounced almost to the point of insult. "As soon's I saw he was dead I went and rung the cops."
Ricci said: "You didn't see anything else? A car or a coupla men-you know, anything that shouldn't be there at that time of morning?"
"I didn't seen a thing," Harry said. "I dunno any more than I told the police."
"I haven't been to the police." There was a tinge of contempt in a soft voice. "And I don't think you'd better tell
'em I been here."
"What's the matter?" Harry said.
But Joe had cut in: "It's okay. We won't let on. We don't wanna see any more of the cops than we have to."
The papers drifted off the bed and rustled along the tiled floor of the verandah. They finished against Joe's feet and he stood among the head- lines: Police Suspect
Ricci twirled the hat on his hand;
he had spun it like a roulette wheel before each question. "Mr. Brennan, how well d'you know Bill Pepper?"
"Who, me?" Harry said. "Why? What's it to you?"
Oh, Joe thought, stop being so tough. Harry. "We dunno him well at all." he said. "We've just met him on the beach. And sometimes Harry haS a game at his two-up school. That's all."
Ricci looked back at Harry. "That all Mr. Brennan? Nothing else?
"You heard Joe," Harry said.
"You don't do any little jobs for Pepper?" The hat spun on the hand "Something to earn a little extra money?"
Harry's temper blazed in his eyes. "What is this? A third degree?
"Righto, Harry," Joe said. "Break it down." He turned to Ricci. "We dunno anything. That's fair dinkum. We dunno any more than you do."
The hat had stopped spinning. Ricci held it for a moment, then slowly, de- liberately, he put it on and ran his hand along the brim. Joe standing with his back to the wall, feeling more solid and real pressing against his shouders, looking out on the street and seeing people strolling carelessly in the sun was aware of the menace of murder.
Ricci's voice was softer than ever: "I'm gunna find who killed Tino."
He turned and went down the steps, Collins hesitated for a moment, then winked at Joe and went down the steps after Ricci. Joe and Harry
watched the car slide away from the kerb.
Harry said. "What a type»"
Joe turned slowly, and just as slowly said: "Yon mug."
"Waddla mean?" Harry said. "What's the matter with you?"
"What's the matter with you, you mean. Why'd you wanna get so tough with him? Couldn't you strung along with him?"
"No." Harry grew a little bigger. "Whv should I? I don't like his sort, artd I don't want him hanging around here "
"He's a bit too big and tough for us. Can't you get it Into your skull who he ls? He ain't one of your street-corner toughs. He's-well, he's too big for us to rub against. I don't wanna finish up-" His voice trailed off, and he felt suddenly weak again.
"Aah!" Harry disgustedly waved his hand. "You got the jitters for nothing. He won't worry us again. You see."
Joe sat down on the seat. He felt weary and hopeless, knowing he was still far from the end of things. Ricci would be back, as surely as tomorrow's sun: he hadn't said good-bye. "Righto. Let it rest."
Harry stood for a moment looking at him, seeming to bulk against the sun- light as if he had suddenlv found new stature, then he shrugged his shoulders, almost contemptuously, and went back
"Hello," Connie said, and came in the gate, closing lt behind her, shutting out the rest of the world. She came up the steps on to the verandah. "What's the matter?"
"What else?" The sun was reflected from the windows of the houses oppo- site: they blazed with bright, yellow light, and he shut his eyes against the sudden glare. "Isn't that enough?"
She sat down beside him.
"Ricci's just been here again."
"Oh." She seemed to slump In the seat beside him. "What did he want this time?"
Harry came along the hall and out the front door. "Hullo, Con. How's tricks?0
"So-so," Connie said. "See you later."
They looked after him walking down the street, cocksure and unafraid, able to beat the world.
"How did he take to Ricci?" Connie said.
"He didn't. Come on, let's go in- side."
They gathered up the newspapers and went into the house and down the hall to the lounge-room. Connie sat down on the lounge, and Joe lay down on the floor at her feet, a cushion under his head.
Connie said desperately: "Joe. we can't go on like this. We've got to do something."
He rolled his head wearily to the side. "Yeah, but what?" He laughed dryly in his throat. "It's funny, isn't it? I started out just wanting a quiet life for us. A quiet life! And now-"
He looked at her for a moment, then he said: "I'm scared. More scared than I ever was in the war. It was different then-you didn't think about it, but you knew your number might be up any day. People dying any minute, any day, was a part of what was happening -you got used to it. you even got used to the idea that maybe you'd die, too. But I didn't expect to come back home and find m'self still wondering when my number might be up. The worst of it is I can't do anything about lt. That's the hardest part of the whole mess-I can't do a thing about it."
She said: "I think we should go to the police."
He looked at her sharply, with a sort of frightened caution: for a moment
he thought she Intended betraying him. Then he relaxed, his hand cupping her cheek again. He was getting to be like Rlcci, trusting no one.
"And what about Ricai?"
"Couldn't the police look after him? Wouldn't they give you protection if you told them how it was? They wouldn't let a murder happen if they knew about it beforehand." She realised with a sudden icy shock that she was talking of the possibility of Joe's death.
Joe was gazing at the ceiling. He laughed; the sound was harsh In the quiet room. "Hàven't vou heard there's a police shortage? Who'm I to deserve special protection?" He laughed again, less harshly, almost as if the laughter might turn into weening. "Young Tim said lt: a nobody." He looked back at her. "We couldn't do it dari. It's bad enough as it is, with the two of us worrying and scared. But if we told the police it would all come out in the open, and then Mum and Dad would start worrying. It would Just go through this place like the fra; Everybody wor- ried, waiting for someone to come home to say I'd been found in a lane with a knife in my back."
They heard the thin, Jerky whistling and the footsteps in the hall and Tim came into the room.
"Hello. Tim." said Connie. "Where've you been?"
"Up the road, at Smithy's."
"What's that you've got?" she asked.
AlM held up the knife; it glimmered in the room like a short, thin shaft of light. "I -just bought it off Smithy for two bob."
Joe sat up quickly. "You won't be able to have that! Give it to me!"
"Nuts." Tim said.
"I tell you, it's dangerous!" Joe could feel Connie looking at him, and only then did he realise his voice was ner- vous with his shock and fear. He tried to quieten himself. "Look. Tim, you better hand it over. lil give you the two bob for it. Mum ud have a willy if she knew you were playing with a thing like that."
"Gosh, lil be careful." Tim turned the knife over in his hand. "It's a beaut. Marni] let me have it if I'm careful with it."
"You know she won't." Joe felt in his pocket and drew out a two-shilling piece and a shilling: "Here. lil give vou three bob for it." And then: "Where'd you find it?"
"Smithy found it. in a drain down in Dudley Street. He lost a cricket ball down there and he hadda pull the grat- ing off and reach down for it. He said this was stuck in a hole at the bottom of the drain."
"Let's see it." Joe held out his hand. Tim reluctantly gave him the knife.
"I wish I could keep it," he said.
"Here's the dough. You know Mum ud take it off you as soon's she saw lt, and you'd get nothing. You're making money now."
"I'd still rather have the knife."
Tim looked down at the knife lying in Joe's palm, cold and bright in the warm, yellow light. "I wonder if that's the knife the bloke was stabbed with?" To Joe, the light, childish voice, the voice of his own brother, had a horri- fying edge to it. "Harry said-"
"You been reading too many comics," Joe said. The knife was like a weight in his hand. "You don't wanna start thinking those sorta things or we'll have the cops down here making a nuisance of 'emselves."
"Well, it could be the one they used. There's some specks on it that might be blood." He stood above them in the
room, young and Innocent, a small boy on the outskirts of murder.
Joe looked down at the kntfe, opening his hand and closing it again quickly. "That's rust, you bunny. Haven't you heard of red rust?"
Tim was beaten.
"Righto, so forget those murder ideas. We don't want you being inter- viewed by the cops. One hero in the family is enough. Now go and buy some ice-cream and forget all about the knife. Go on, buzz off." He put his Wand in his pocket and drew out an- other shilling. "Bring us back some ice- cream, too."
Tim went down the hall. Joe and Connie looked at each other, then she looked down at the knife.
Joe lay on the bed, his hands be- hind his head, staring at the tallboy in the far corner of the room. He gazed steadily at it. through the smooth, veneered doors to the plain, unvarnished interior. The knife was there, in the top drawer beneath his shirts, hidden from the light but still shining in his mind. His eyes travelled slowly upward; on top of the tallboy, pushed well to the back, lay the folded mackintosh. When the next rainy morning came, Harry would ask for it. and he had no idea how he would be able to persuade Harry to continue with the mackintosh he now had.
He was aware of footsteps down the hall, the slide of his mother's slippers and the heavy tread of men. They went past the closed bedroom door, and on to the lounge-room and he heard the murmur of voices. Then his mother came back down the hall and knocked on the door.
Did he imagine it or did she sound worried? "Yeah?"
She opened the door and put her head round. "There's some detectives here. They want to see you."
We may see you again . . . Joe knew now he had been waiting for them since Saturday morning. It was almost as if they had made a date. "Okay. Ill be out."
He put on his dressing-gown and slippers, ran a comb through his hair.
Inspector Talbot and Sergeant Ber- ger stood up as he came into the room.
"Afternoon, Mr. Brennan," Talbot said. "I'm sorry we've had to disturb your sleep like this."
"That's all right." There was an awkward silence for a moment.
Joe tried to make his vence sound casual: "Something's turned up?"
"Well, in a way. Not much, but any lead is worth following in a case like this." He took the pipe from his mouth and the smoke drifted away from his head. "We've got reason to believe that Bill Pepper had something to do with it."
"Oh?" They hadn't come for him. He felt something akin to excitement,
it was too strong, too uplifting to be relief; he almost winked at the photo on the pianola and wanted to rush
out to tell his mother not to worry.
"Young Ricci had no criminal record, but we don't believe he was out here in Coogee on a social call. We've covered the ground pretty thoroughly -he knew no one out this way. He came out here with a definite purpose and we're pretty sure he came of his own accord."
"How do you And out all these things?"
"Tricks of the trade. They're pro- fessional secrets. Anyhow, we now think the man young Ricci came to see was Bill Pepper."
"Have you asked Pepper about it?"
"Yes, we've just come irom there. Bill says we're on the wrong track altogether. Well, he would say that. Bill doesn't want to get mixed up in any more bother."
Joe felt growing confidence go from him. If they suspected Pepper of being connected with the killing, why had they come to see him? Had Pepper said anything? Had he switched their atten- tion from himself to Joe, trying to save his own skin? Again he wanted to have everything over and done with. Tell 'em everything and put paid to the whole business. Tell 'em . . . And then the words came back out of yesterday: I'm gonna find out who killed Tino.
Talbot said: "We've got a few more
things to check. We're really only Just
getting started now."
"How did you get on with the people who live down in Asher Street? Didn't none of 'em see anything?" That had been worrying him ever since he'd driven out of Asher Street on Satur- day morning.
"None of them saw anything and none of them heard anything. The body might just as well been dumped in a street of empty cottages." He blew the smoke away from his face. "Mr. Bren- nan, you told use the other day that Bill Pepper is just a beach acquaintance of yours. Is that true?"
"Why would I wanna lie about it?" "Yes, why should you?" Talbot said, and tapped his pipe into an ash-tray.
"And how does your broth«- fit in with Pepper?" Talbot leaned back in his chair.
So it was Harry they wanted. Or was lt Pepper? Or . . . Whom did they want? It came home to him that they didn't know whom they wanted. "Just like he told you. He's only a beach acquaintance, too."
"Are you sure?"
"Why don't you ask him?"
Talbot seemed in no hurry, and when he spoke his voice was slow and even as ever. "Mr. Brennan, we don't like this job any more than you do. I don't like going into the homes of people and throwing questions at them, upsetting them, making them dislike us. We do it because we have to. You never knew Tino Ricci, and he prob- ably doesn't matter a hoot to you. I didn't know him myself, so I can't say I miss him. But the fact remains that there's a murderer walking about the streets of Sydney somewhere, maybe even here in Coogee, and it's our job to catch him before he commits another murder-we have no guarantee that he won't. Now will you help?"
"All right. But what you got against Harry?"
"We've got nothing against him." Talbot said. "We've got nothing asainst him. But he said on Saturday morn- ing that he didn't know Pepper off the beach. And yet yesterday morning and again this morning he was seen with Pepper in a cab."
"Who saw him?" Joe asked indig- nantly. "Are you following him?"
Talbot smiled. "Professional secrets again, Mr. Brennan."
"It musta just been coincidence," Joe said. "Harry ain't mixed up with Pep- per. I know that."
"I hope you're right," Talbot said. He stood up. "We really came to see your brother. You might tell him we were here, and why. Young fellers can get into a lot of bother by mixing with the wrong sort of people. Bill Pep- per's not a criminal, but he knows a lot of people who have records. If your brother hasn't anything to do with Pepper, I'd advise him to drive home with someone else."
Joe stood up. "lil tell him," he said, and wondered what advice Talbot could give him.
Next morning on his way home after his round Joe was coming up the road towards Dudley Street when Bill Pepper came out of the flats where he lived and crossed the road almost at a run. "I been waiting for you. I thought you were never gunna get here. lil walk up
to the top of the hill with you." Pepper fell in beside Joe and they crossed Dudley Street and began to climb the hill. "The cops were down to see me yesterday."
"Yeah, I know."
Pepper looked sharply sideways at Joe, and he seemed to catch his breath for a moment. "How'd you know?"
"They told me. They come up to see Harry after they left you."
"What they say?"
"That they thought you knew some- thing about young Ricci."
"That's what they asked me."
Joe said: "Lou Ricci was out at our place again on Sunday afternoon."
Again Pepper looked sharply at Joe. One hand came out of a pocket and drummed against his side. "Yeah, I know. Harry told me."
"Why you been seeing so much of Harry?" Joe said.
"I just wanted company on the way home, that's all." Pepper had a shaky truculence in his gaze, and Joe felt a sudden surge of anger.
"You wouldn't of offered him the job you offered me, would you?" he said, and knew instantly he had scored with
a blind shot.
Pepper's gaze dropped. He looked down at his hand as he took it from his pocket, then he looked back up at Joe. "No. Joe. I haven't. I was gunna. He's a bright kid, and he looks like he's got plentya guts. And I could trust him, I think. But if you say so, it's off."
"It's off, Bill. Can't you see it'll only complicate things still more? And stay away from him for a while. Let him come home on his own." The im- patience had gone from Joe's voice, and it just sounded tired now. "Try and see it my -way, Bill. It's bad enough being mixed up in this mess m'self. I don't want the rest of the family drawn into it. Let 'em keep what they got. It ain't much, but it's more than you and I've got."
"Peace of mind. Bill, that's all." "That's all!"
Bill sighed. "I'll see you again, Joe. Be good." He put his hands in his pockets and turned and went back down the hill.
JOE poured the milk
into the jug and set it back in the box beside the kitchen window. There was a smell like stale cabbage water some- where. -It was still dark here at the back of the house, and he had his torch switched on. The narrow, white beam seemed to accentuate the darkness, closing it in around him. and once
more he got the uncomfortable feeling of being alone and unable to see what was going on about him. It had been like that several times this last couple of mornings, suddenly aware of the darkness and what it might hold.
He ran quickly out Into the street. He was getting to be as bad as Bill Pepper. Jittery Joe. Soon he'd be asking for someone to ride round on the cart with him to keep him com- pany. Maybe he should have taken the job Bill had offered him; then they could have kept each other company.
Joe took the horse's head and walked down the hill of Brook Street and over Dudley. He pulled up, went round the back of the cart and refilled his can, then crossed the road to the block of flats on the corner. As yesterday and the morning before, he couldn't prevent himself from turning his head to look at the spot where he and young Ricci had fought, and he had the same
familiar weakness in the spine as Saturday morning caught up with him.
It took him only a few minutes to serve all the customers in the flats.
Then he turned Into the flats where Bill Pepper lived. A low stone wall
backed by a narrow strip of lawn, separated the glass doors of the foyer of the flats from the street. Joe pushed against the ornamental iron gate in the wall. It swung back about a foot before him, then abruptly came to a stop against something that cushioned it slightly. Joe pushed again. Joe took out his torch and flicked it on.
The bright, hard beam threw the grotesque shadows of the gate across the spreadeagled figure of Bill Pepper. He lay on his back, arms wide flung his legs drawn up and his feet press- ing against the gate. His clothes were
dark with blood.
Joe put down the can and squeezed through the narrow opening of the gate. He knelt down beside Pepper, bringing the torch close against the plump face. It was pale now, the line of freckles almost black against the skin, the mouth open in awful agony, and the bright eyes staring up, hard and frozen as marbles.
He switched off the torch and knelt for a moment, waiting for the cold trembling in his limbs to stop.
Then he stood up and looked towards the flats. A small pilot light glim- mered in the foyer behind the glass doors. He took one step towards the doors, then stopped. Nobody would be moving about in there for at least an- other hour. They wouldn't be coming out here to stumble on this grim, horrible sight. And. more than any- thing else, he didn't want to be tb" one to tell Mavis Pepper what had hanpened.
He turned and vaulted the low stone wall. As he landed, his sneakers slipped on something oily, and he almost lost his balance. He stopped and switched on the torch, then slowly he directed the beam back along the pavement to- wards Dudley Street. There it was traced In a long line of blood. Bill Pepper's vain, desperate effort to reach home before he died.
Joe switched off the torch, crossed the road, and went in a swift run down the hill of Dudley Street to the phone
Joe was slumped In a deep chair in the lounge-room. The radio played softly, music brushing softly against his mind like a gently rising and falling tide, but he was no more aware of it than the other sounds that now and again penetrated the quietness of the room. It was rainine outside now, a steady, grey drizzle that had washed the color from roof-tops.
"I wonder how- his missus took it?" Harry said. He was stretched full length on the lounge, his hands clasped behind his head, the morning paper lying on his stomach.
"What?" Joe raised his head.
"I wonder how Bill's missus took it' Was vou there?"
"Yeah." Outside in the kitchen Flo Brennan was washing up the breakfast dishes. A bus rumbled by in the street and the house vibrated. Joe sat among the normal sounds and remembered the scream and the sobbing of the earlv morning. "It was awful."
It had been worse than that, fat worse, but he knew he'd never find words to describe it. He ¡lad rung the police and had then gone back up the hill to the flats and waited till the police arrived.
Rain had begun to fall as the patrol car turned out of Carr Street and came up towards him. and he stood there waiting, slowly getting wet, but glad he had left the mackintosh on top of
the tall-boy at home.
Mavis Pepper had heard the car draw up outside the flats and had lain in
bed listening to the murmur of men's voices at the front gate. She had got up, put on a dresing-gown, and gone out on to the front verandah and looked down through the grey light on the group of men at the gate. Their faces had swung round and up as she screamed, and someone had said: "It's his wife!" but she had heard nothing but her own scream and the long moan of pain as she slid into blackness.
Joe had been the first to run through into the foyer of the flats and up the stairs to the first floor, but- he had had to wait at the door of the flat till a detective had come running up to open it with Pepper's keys. They had revived Mavis Pepper, and then the woman from the next flat had come in, frightened and horror-stricken, but doing her best to hide it and be com- forting.
Joe had gone downstairs again and stood on the step just outside the front doors. The police had thrown a rug over Pepper's body, and one of them had come on to the step, out of the rain, and begun to ask him what he knew. The detective had looked up, surprised, when Joe had given his name, but had said nothing and had then gone on making notes.
The detective had closed his note- book and stepped out into the rain again. Joe had stood listening to the shocked grief that seemed to be tear- ing its way out of the woman above
Harry said: "Was Talbot and his
"He'll probably be up to see you. Gee, I find it hard to believe it's hap- pened to Bill. He was a harmless old
Plo Brennan bustled through the room carrying a vacuum-cleaner, and she was half-way down the hall when the doorbell rang. She went on and thev heard her open it, and then she
"This is probably them," Harry said. Talbot and Berger came into the room. They both wore trench coats, but only the shoulders had been dark- ened by rain, as they had run from the police car to the front door.
Joe stood up. "Hullo. I been expect- ing vou."
"It's getting to be a regular thing." Talbot said. "We'll have to see about paving you a retainer."
"I could think of better ways of making a living," Joe said.
"Siddown," Harry said. "Make your-
self at home."
"This is going to get your family some notoriety, you know," Talbot said. "Between you, you seem to be making a habit of stumbling over corpses."
"We do it as a sideline." Harry said, then slapped a hand down on his knee and looked at it. "Sorry, that wasn't verv funny."
Talbot glanced at him. then looked back at Joe. "I've copied down all the main details you gave Sergeant Lucas this morning. You found the body at roughly five-thirty. You went straight down and rang the local police station. You waited fdr the car. Pre- vious to finding the body you hadn't see anything suspicious. Is there any- thing you want to add to that?"
There was a lot to be added to it There was the beginning of the story, the two struggling figures in the light- ning-slashed darkness of Saturday morning, and the steady progression of incidents that had led up to this morning's tragedy, and even that was not the climax of the story; that was
still to come.
There were the memories he had wanted to forget and the peaceful future he had sought and the cynical
fate that had killed off two men who meant nothing to him, and had left the shadow of their death to darken his life. There was Ricci's revenge and Connie's fear and his mother's bliss! ul ignorance of the trouble in her house and his own shattered illusion that a man could plan a life for himself.
"No," he said. "That's the lot."
Talbot looked at Harry. "Is there anything you can tell us, Mr. Bren-
"I dunno any more than what Joe's told me." Harry said. He sat on the pianola stool, leaning back with both elbows on the closed keyboard of the pianola; bright yellow and salmon ringed socks showed beneath his hitched-up trouser-legs.
"Did you see Pepper last night?"
"No." » "When you have been with him has he said anything about being scared of
"No," Harry said. "We never talk much-only about racing and horses. But I can't remember him mentioning anything that ud give you a lead."
"Did he sometimes seem to you to have something on his mind?"
"Well, yes," Harry said. He looked across at Joe. "I'm gunna tell 'em about Sunday morning."
"You might as well tell 'em the lot," Joe said, but knew it would be only half the story. He searched for the courage to tell everything, but couldn't
TALBOT looked at him,
then back at Harry. "I hope for your sake you two haven't been holding out
Harry said: "We've had a coupla
visits from Lou Ricci."
"Why didn't you tell us about those?" "I haven't seen you since he was here," Harry said.
Talbot looker at Joe. "And what held you back, Mr. Brennan?"
Joe looked at Berger: his sliver pencil was waiting for his answer. Then he looked back at Talbot. "I didn't want us to get mixed up in any bother. Ricci didn't threaten us, but he made it pretty plain he didn't want us to let you know he'd been visiting us."
"What did he want?"
"He wanted to see Harry. He Just wanted to know if Harry knew any more than was in the* papers."
"What was this about Sunday morn- ing?" Talbot looked back at Harry.
"Well, Sunday morning Ricci was waiting in his car outside the milk yard. Joe spoke to him on his way down the street. I was in a cab with Bill, and when I got out at the yard Ricci's car come down the street towards us, then all of a sudden lt put on a spurt and went past us and went on down around the corner. Bill seemed to get the wind up, and he went off like he hadda catch a train."
"He didn't say anything?"
"No. Just good-bye, that was all."
"How many times has Ricci been
Joe said: "Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, and last night when we were out. I bumped into him down the road, but I only spoke to him for a coupla
"On any of these occasions when you saw him, did he ever threaten anyone?"
"He said he was gunna find whc killed his brother," Joe said.
Talbot said: "The other day, Mr Brennan I asked you to help us, and you said you would. It seems yoi meant only up to a certain point. 1 could kick up a row and make it tougr for you because of your concealing ol evidence. But I think your own con- science should be making it tougl enough for you right now. If you hac
told us about Ricci, Bill Pepper might
still be alive."
Joe was still sitting relaxed in his chair. He was tired and there was a sad, sick feeling that Pepper was dead, but all the pent-up fear of the last few days had gone, as if it had died with Pepper. Everything till now had had the tight, binding confinement of an endless rope wound round him; there had been no way of escape, and he hadn't been able to see any possi- bility of it unless someone else started
And now someone had started it. It was a tragic simplification, but Pep- per's death had somehow produced a sharp, simple clarity in his mind that saw the end of all this as something about to happen soon. He didn't know yet what the end was going to be, but it wasn't worrying him now as it had been. It seemed sufficient just to know that it was coming, and soon.
"You think Rica did it?" Harry said. "It's not my place to go around say- ing what I think," Talbot answered, "I've got a job to do, and once that's done I leave the opinions to the jury. But I'll say this - we're looking for Lou Ricci, and if he should happen to call on you again, we'd appreciate it if you got us on the phone as quickly as possible.'
"Don't you know where he lives?" Harry said.
"We've already been there. We've got his cobber, a man named Collins, in custody. But he can't - or won't - tell us where Ricci is."
"D'you think Ricci'U pay us another
visit?" Joe said.
"No," Talbot said. "I don't think so. I think when we catch Ricci he'll be on his way out of the country. I think he's finished what he intended doing. I know Lou, known him for years. He had a lot of bad points, but, at that, he wasn't as bad as a lot of people thought him. Lou was on the wrong side of the law, but he wasn't a killer. He had a debt to pay and he's paid it."
"You sound a bit like you don't blame him for wnat he's done," Harry said.
"No," Talbot said. "I wasn't think- ing about Dlame. But if he did do it I think I might understand why."
Joe and Harry got to tneir feet. The four men stood lor a moment, then Talbot looked at Harry.
"Pick your companions carefully, son. We've done some checking on you over the past coupie ol days, and we know now you were only an acquain- tance of Pepper's, just as you said. But just take it as a warning. You might have been with Bill when he got What he got this morning." So just watch out who you go around with. You may be tough and independent, but you'll find in the long run you can't control your own destiny. That's a bit of advice from someone whose job is studying people. It's yours if you want it son."
Joe was surprised at the quietness in Harry's voice. "Thanks. lil remem-
Flo Brennan turned down the radio, and the finale music faded to a dis-
tant murmur, and they could hear again the oeat ol the rain against the windows.
"I don't know what Coogee's coming to," Arthur Brennan was saying. "At one time this used to be just an ordin- ary seaside suburb. Now I don't know. Two murders in the streets in a few days. You begin to wonder if there's such a thing as law and order. It makes you that way you wonder what's going to happen next. 'Specially with this man Ricci still on the loose. You said the police know he killed Pepper.
Tou'd think they'd moved a bit quicker and picked him up before he could disappear."
"You're beginnihg to talk like some old spinster," Harry said.
"Well, your father's right," Flo Bren- nan said.
She stopped knitting and looked about at the others. "At one time you could be pretty sure that most of the gang fights were in Darlinghurst or Surry Hills or down around the Har- bor. Now they're spreading out here into the suburbs where ordinary people like us live. This man Ricci's a gangster. Coogee's no place for the likes of him and any arguments he wants to settle.
"Quite without Knowing it, innocent people might get caught up in these things, people who just want to mind their own business and go on living their own life. There's Joe and Harry already involved as witnesses. That means it's some interference in their lives."
"it's Harry's biggest moment to date," Molly said. "He doesn't mind."
"Hey, you-" Harry began.
The front-door bell rang and they sat in silence for a moment as its sound died away in the hall.
"Who's that, on a night like this?" Arthur Brennan said.
Harry went out of the room and down the hall, and they heard him open the
They heard him coming back down the hall, but he didn't come right to the lounge room "Joe! Someone to see you."
Joe felt Connie's hand, lying on his arm. tighten on hts flesh. He pressed her shoulder again, then stood up.
"You'd better ask mem in, whoever lt is," Flo Brennan s. id. "You can't talk to them out on the verandah on a night like this."
"Yes, bring 'em in," Arthur Brennan said. "Satisfy her curiosity."
Connie said nothing, but just sat looking up at Joe with a white, strained look her face, then he turned from her aiid went out of the room and down the hall to where Harry stood just outside his bedroom door. In the bath- room Tim was splashing the water and singing a school song in a rather pleas- ant soprano voice.
Harry said: "It's Ricci's cobber, the big, dark bloke. He asked 'specially for you. Want me to come out with you, just in case?"
"Itu be all right. I know Vince. I was in the Middle East with him."
"Well, give a yell if anything starts." Harry went back down the hall to the lounge room.
Joe went on to the front door.
"Hullo, Vince." he said. "What's on your mind?"
"Hullo, Joe." In the light from the hall all the laughter and vitality seemed to have gone out of Collins'
"Would you like to come in?" Joe said. "It's pretty awful out here."
"No. thanks. I'd rather see you alone. Could we have the light out?"
"This is fair dinkum. Vince? You ain't trying to put one over me?"
"I'm trying to help you. Joe." He took a hand out of his pocket and brushed the hair back from his fore- head; the gesture was full of weari- ness. "Put the light out."
Joe switched off the light and stepped out on to the verandah beside Collins. The rain hissed on the top step, but it was dry where they stood.
"What is it. Vince?"
"I tried to get you on the phone - I'd rather done that. But I couldn't find you in the book."
"No, we ain't on the phone."
Collins sat down on the verandah seat. He put both hands in the pockets of the raincoat and leaned his head
back against the wall. "I'm tired! It seems years since i had a good sleep. I been on the go since Saturday, ever since the cops come and told Lou about young Tino. Riding around In the car with him till all hours of the morning, trying to find out who killed his rotter of a brother. And you ask me did I think this was hard work! I been with the cops all day today. They didn't let me sleep, either."
"Yeah, Inspector Talbot and his cob- ber. Berger, were here this morning. They said they'd picked you up."
"They were the two who rooted me outa bed at eight o'clock this morning. I'd been with Lou till two o'clock, and when I got home I couldn't go to sleep, thinking about what he told me. I'd only been asleep a coupla hours when
Talbot woke me."
"When did they let you go?"
"Coupla hours ago. I finally con- vinced 'em I didn't know where Lou was. But I think they're tailing me. That's why I wanted to ring you, in- stead of coining here. But it couldn't be helped. I hadda lake the chance."
"Well, come on, Vince." Joe could feel impatience fretting at him like a raw nerve; he clenched his hands and shoved them deep into his trousers pockets.
"Lou's out to get your young brother. The one who just answered the door."
rain across the front of the verandah, and Joe felt the thin spray dash coldly against his face.
"Harry? What's he got against him?" "He thinks him and Pepper did in young Tino. He's got Pepper. Now he's gonna finish the job."
He'd been half-afraid of this when he'd talked to Pepper But he said: "How the blazes does he mix Harry up in this? He's off his nut."
"Look, Joe." Collins' voice echoed his weariness. There was more than just a physical tiredness; he sounded as if he wanted to slop thinking, too. "I been riding around with Lou, living right alongside him. every hour since Saturday morning. Ever since he learned about Tino. Oh, I've known him for a coupla years, but I never really knew him till these last few days. You dunno how he felt about that kid. Personally. I had no time for him, but Lou never saw him the way I did. He was just mean and vicious, and he had no intention of being an engineer, like Lou wanted him to be.
"If he'd lived he'd finished up with a much worse reputation than Lou's got-and all they say about Lou ain't deserved, believe me. But Lou thought the sun shone outa his young brother, and it wasn't my place to put him wise. When the kid died I think a bit of Lou died, too."
"Yeah, but how does Harry fit Into all this?"
"Well, I dunno whether Pepper killed Tino or not. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. I don't care very much. I'm willing to bet that if Tino was near Pepper he was up to no good, and he got what was coming to him.' I know for a fact that he'd been in one stick-up, and I wouldn't be surprised if he wTas in another. But anyhow. Lou connects your brother with Pep- per. He found the body, he knew Pepper pretty well-we tailed 'em home from the two-up school on Sunday and Monday nights-and Sundav when we come here your brother didn't seem to wanna tell Lou anything.
"Oh. I know it ain't much to go
on. but Lou didn't reed much. He's been that wav since Raturdav morning that he was beginning to look cock
tE wind whipped the
eyed at the whole thing. His idea of revenge had him pretty well twisted up Inside." " "
So this was the beginning of the end the way it was all going to work out. But this wasn't a solution. It wasn't even an end. It would be just the beginning of the misery that up till now had never touched the family, the grief and sense of tragedy that he remembered from those other times and that had never belonged to this house, the verv thing he had prayed to be avoided. Joe felt bewildered and a little sick, feeling a fear that had nothing to do with himself but with the rest of the family, and he sat dow-n on the seat beside Collins.
"When did you learn all this?" he said.
"I told you I was with Lou till two o'clock this morning. He told me what he was gonna do, and told me I was on my own from now on."
"He trusted you a lot. didn't he? Didn't he think you might go and spill it to the police?"
"I'm not like that. Joe. I don't pimp on friends."
"Yeah, but he was gunna murder someone. Didn't that mean anything to you?" He looked down towards the corner where the rain swept across the licht, and made the first confession. "He was gunna murder someone who had nothing to do with it."
Collins looked at him for a lon» moment, then he said: "I guess you can't see it my way. Joe. I wasn't concerned about Pepper. I didn't know him. Lou was my friend, I had a lotta time for him. and I was sticking bv him. I got to see what he was like since Saturday morning He hadda get even for Tino's death and if he hadn't I think he'd finished up killing himself. These dagoes are funny people, Joe."
"Well, why'd you come and tell me?" Collins took his hands out of his raincoat pockets, clasped them to- gether, and leaned loiward, resting his elbows on his knees.
"I ain't forgotten you got me off the beach on Crete," he said.
Joe looked at him. then he said: "Anybody would have done it, Vir.i-e I just happened to be near you."
"Yeah, well, I still ain't forgotten it. That's why I come to see you. I dunno your brother, and I dunno whether he had anything to do with Pepper and young Tino, but the fact remains he is your brother, and you wouldn't want him to finish up on the end of a knife in some lane. I don't reckon Tino's worth two bodies. Lou's only got half his pound of flesh, but heil have to make that do."
"Thanks, Vince," Joe said. "It's-" "Skip it," Collins said, and stood up "I owed it to you."
"Howil you feel if I go to the cops about this? Won't you feel you've
pimped on Ricci?"
"I dunno. In a way I suppose I will But my conscience ud worried me more if I read your brother had copped it and I hadn't come to tell you what I know. Maybe I'm a bit twisted on my ideas of friendship. Joe, but I like tb pay off the things I owe."
Joe stood up. Por a moment he thought of telling Collins everything then just as quickly he decided to let
"D'you know where Ricci is now?"
"No," Collins said. "I think I seen the last of Lou."
"You got any ideas where or when he's likely to have a go at Harry?"
"No. - I dunno. I thought he'd of tried to get the two of 'em on the same night, but something musta gone wrong."
"Harry didn't come home from the school with Pepper last night. Maybe
that upset his plans a bit. You think he might be hanging around here now?"
"I dunno. He might be. I just hope he ain't. I rather he didn't know I been to see you. But I think he'll have his crack at your brother pretty soon. He can't afford to hang around Syd- ney too long, Prom the way he was talking I'd say he was gunna beat it outa the country and try and go home
"What're you gunna do?"
Collins turned and looked out into the wet. swishing night. "I'm think- ing of going home. too. I come from Wagga. I ain't seen the old man and the old lady since before the war. I got a bit of cash in the bank. Maybe I can buy into something back there, a service station or something like that. I used to be a fair mechanic, once."
Collins waved a hand r-J went down the steps into the min. Jot ^jod at the too of the steps, the rain spraying into his face, and watched him till he had gone past the light on the corner and the white raincoat was lost in the wind-swept. Dourins darkness
There were footsteps down the hall and the light was sw'tched on
"I was getting a bit fidgety." Ham said, standing iri the doorway "Every- thing all rieht?"
Joe turned and inked at him He was silent for a moment then he said: "Yeah, everything's okav He's just ¡roñe."
"What'd he want?"
"He inst some owl to say good-bye. H^'s g-Mn? back to the bush."
"T didn't know you knew him that we'l."
"We oren orettv rhiek while we were in the armv But I ain't seen him si"ce the Middle East "
"The familv didn't like it when I told 'em who it was Neither did Connie."
"They're getting excited over nothing He ain't seen Ricci since last nieht . . . Ask Connie to come out here, will you?"
"What did he say about Ricci?"
"Nothing much. lil tell you later. Just ask Cannie to come out."
"All right." Harry said.
Harrv went back dywn the hall, and Joe walked alang the verandah and lay down on his bed
He hadn't told Harry why Collins had called, and even now, trying to marshal his thoughts into some sort of order, he wasn't nuite sure whv he had kept quiet. It had been instinctive, so-nething that had to do with the desire to protect Harry from himself To have told Harry someone was going to murder him would not have had the effect of scaring him He would either have scoffed and asserted his belief in his ability to look after himself, or he would have wanted, there and then, to go out and look for his intended murderer. Either way he would have laid himself open to a danger that Joe knew should be his own
Connie came to' the door "Joe?" "Here Put out the light."
She switched out the light and came along the verandah and'sat down on the bed beside him "What is it. darling? Your* mother thinks you're a bit cracked, wanting to sit out here on a night like this. What did he want. Joe? Collins or whatever his name is?"
He didn't answer for a moment, just lav looking at her. full of a bitterness and despair that had completely fatigued him. wearied him beyond any hope. There was nothing for it now but confession, to go to the police and tell them everything and then, if they believed him, to take his chances with Ricci.
"He just come out to .say Ricci was on his way outa the country. It looks like our troubles are over." He wondered why he lied.
"Ricci did kill Pepper?"
"Yeah." And that was all she need know-for the time being, anyway. He hadn't been fair, taking her into his confidence in the first place.
"It does look like the end "of it. doesn't it?" she said.
She kissed him longingly, then she said: "Darling, how do you feel about the way it's worked out?"
"You mean about Bill being mur- dered? And me keeping quiet about what I know?"
"I don't feel so good. I keep thinking of Bill lying there just inside his front gate. I try not to think of it. but it ain't any use-I don't think I'll ever forget that trail of blood from the
corner to his sate It-well, it sorta reminds me that Bill loved his life just as much as I love mine And now he's dead and I got off scot-free. He might still be alive if I'd gone down on Situr day morning and rung up the police." And I might be dead instead, and there would have been no threat to Harry. "That's the bit that really worries me." He put his hand on her throat and felt the pulse moving beneath his fingers. "How do you feel about it? You want me to go to the police now?"
She lay staring up at the dark roof of the verandah, then she turned to- wards him. "No. Joe I'm selfish, but I can't help it From now on, I want just the two of us to be alone I want the whole thing finished and done with, so we can be married and have our lives together."
And that was that: he had to find some other solution but confession
J'-e instantly came awake from his
troubled sleep as soon as the alarm began to ring. He reached across and switched it off, then lay in the quiet darkness. The rain had stopped and the wind had died away; the early morning was still and, ii seemed to him. almost unnaturally quiet
T TELL, this was it. This
was the morning he was going to go through with what he had thought of last night after he'd come to bed. May- be it wasn't the best solution, maybe it wasn't a solution at all, but it was the best he could think of. the one thing that finally reduced the whole business to a showdown between himself and Ricci, with no others involved.
He had lain awake for a long time last night, going back over everything rmht to the very beginning, to the mo- ment he had begun to run down the hill through the rain to the two strug- gling figures on the corner, and in the end he still hadn't convinced himself he wasn't to blame for what had hap- pened since then. It was strictly be- tween himself and Ricci now. If Pep- per were still alive, maybe he could have called him in on his side, but Pepper wasn't alive, and each time he thought of that long trail of blood he felt that the blame for it rested in his own lap.
Sure. Pepper had been the first to suggest keeping quiet about the whole affair, but he couldn't blame Pepper for his own agreement to the idea. He had a mind of his own, or so he kidded himself, and he could have said No if he wanted to. But he'd gone through with the scheme because he'd had some cock-eyed notion he could run his life without interfering with others. Well, he'd been wrong.
You could have your dreams, those rose-colored bouts of isolation up there in the attic of your mind, and no one need ever know of them, but bring them out into the daylight, try to
make realities of them, and they spread out and touched others, the people you loved, the people you hated, the whole world. Pepper had been killed and now Harry was t ill ea tened and his mother was on the brink ot tragic grief and all because he'd cherished a dream that had been impossible.
And so this idea had come to him, after he'd taken Connie home and had come back to bed and had got in be- tween the sheets and had lain there in the darkness, while he searched painfully for an end to all this.
He wasn't scared, at least not to the extent of being incapable of clear thought. He knew when the final moment came, if it came, there would be no fumbling hesitancy about what he might do. When he went out to meet Ricci this morninng it would be just the same as those other mornings when he'd moved out to meet the Jerries or the Eyeties or the Nips. They were ail one with Ricci, excepting that in tiiose days you were expected to kill
Maybe nothing would happen at ali Maybe Ricci wouldn't be waiting this morning. But Collins had said he wouldn't waste any time. If he didn't put in an appearance this morning you could almost bet that he'd decided he'd had enough and was already on his way out of the country while his luck still held.
It was the possibility that Ricci might not turn up again that had decided Joe that this plan was a good alterna- tive to confession. If Ricci had left Syd- ney, then the whole case was finished, and no one but himself and Connie would ever know that the full story had not been told, and not even Connie would know about this last chapter. And if Ricci did turn up-well, he still hadn't convinced himself that the affair was anybody's but his own. He just hoped that if anything happened to him. Connie would understand why he had gone alone to meet Ricci.
He slid quietly out of bed and began to dress He'd brought all his working clothes out here last night, and there would be no need at all to go into the house. Harry would sleep through till his mother got out of bed at seven. By then, if anything was going to happen, it would be all over.
He finished tying the laces of his sneakers and stood up. He stood for a moment thinking about the knife in the tall-boy inside, wondering if he should go and get it. Maybe Ricci would listen to him, would understand what had happened, but then maybe he wouldn't, and there was no percentage in going unarmed to meet a man w h ise aim was murder Maybe this was a fool thing he was doing, but there was no need to be foolish.
But if he went in to get the knife he might wake Harry and that would be the end of the scheme And then he remembered something he'd seen one of the blokes do when they'd been caught in a brawl with some Wogs in the Birka. He spread out his hand- kerchief on the bed and took the change from his pocket, four or five pennies, half a dozen florins, four shillings, some halfpennies, and knotted them into the corner of the handker- chief. He felt the weight of it. swung it through the air. then he was ready.
He picked up his hat and went quietly
down the steps and out the gate and made his way through the dark, lonely streets to the milk yard, walking in the middle of the pavement, taut with the old feeling of the raids into enemy territory, every muscle ready for quick movement, the corners of his eyes sore from straining to see too far and too
But he saw nothing he hadn't seen every other morning he'd walked d :wn here; he walked down through familiar
surroundings, tensed and expectant for something that belonged to other lands and other times. Something that he'd thought was behind him for ever.
He went down the lane and into the yard. Monty Simmons stood on the dock.
"Where's Harry?" Simmons said. "Late again?"
"Yeah. Don't worry about him." He didn't feel it was necessary to explain to Simmons that Harry wouldn't be along this morning.
Joe loaded his cart and drove out of the yard. He had done Harry's run once or twice before, as a relief, and he knew the general plan of it if not all the customers. Just how much Ricci knew of the run was something he didn't know, but the only way to find out was to go over the whole route. If Ricci was still in Sydney, still intent on completing his revenge, he'd be waiting somewhere along these dark streets that Harry traversed every morning.
The next hour and a half was the longest time Joe had ever lived through. Nothing had ever seemed so long, and he felt almost relieved when he turned into Asher Street and saw the small, thin figure waiting by the presbytery wall at the end of the street. He should have known this was where Ricci would be. It was the one place that Ricci knew for certain was on Harry's run. And, probably the main reason for his being here, there would be some deep satisfaction in avenging his brother on the spot where his body had been found.
Joe drove slowly along the street, sitting tense and erect on the seat of the cart, staring ahead at the small figure growing into the shape arra features of Ricci as he got steadily
Joe gently pulled the horse to a halt "Hullo. Mr. Ricci."
Ricci walked round the horse and came down to the footboard of the cart. "Hullo. Mr. Brennan. I didn't expect to see you along this street Don't your brother usually serve along here?"
"Yeah, usually But not this morn- ing."
"Where ls he? I wanted to see him." A faint breeze moved in the tall pines in the presbytery garden, a soft rustle behind the soft voice.
Joe looked down at him. Ricci stood with one hand in the pocket of the camel-hair overcoat he wore. Beneath the light grey hat, tilted back as he looked up. the dark eyes were dull and a little bloodshot. There was a dark stain of growth on the chin and cheeks of the olive-skinned face, and the lines round the mouth seemed to have deep- ened. He stood looking up at Joe, his purpose written indelibly in his face.
"You're waiting for the wrong Bren- nan, Ricci."
There was no look of surprise or puzzlement in the tired, black eves; the smooth dark face was like a mask that had been set to display only one- emo- tion. "Yes? I don't understand. Mr. Brennan."
"I killed your brother," Joe said, and it was like finding his voice after hav- ing been dumb for a long time; a great weight slipped from him. and he wanted to go on. to tell the whole story, to have Ricci understand and let them both go their separate ways in peace.
Ricci said nothing for a moment. Somewhere a cock crowed, and a tram went down past the end of the street and round the curve of Havelock Avenue down towards the terminus. The hor'e stamped a hoof and moved rçc.i-" ~]v between the shafts.
1 i the mask cracked: a line ap pt i«j between Lhe eyes, and when he
spoke the soft voice sounded a little bewildered. "You mean you killed
"It was an accident. He tried to stab me with a knife and I nadda look out for m'self. It was just bad luck for him. I didn't mean to do it He'd held up Bill Pepper-"
"Get down.' The soft voice hadn't changed. There was only a stiffening at the elbow of the arm that dug a hand deep into the pocket of the overcoat.
"You don't believe me?"
"No. Mr. Brennan You're trying to tell the same story Bill Pepper tried to tell Tino wasn't like that. Get down. There was amost a plea in the soft voice. There was no fierce exulta- tion or savage, cursing hate as Joe had half-expected. There was only a deep heavy sadness, as if the grief would last long after the cause of it had been avenged. "I liked you. Mr Brennan. You, I never thought-"
"I told you, it was an accident Ain't there any use telling you that? Way would I wanna kill your brother? I'm a peaceful bloke, Ricci. Don't you-" But it was useless, and he had known all along it would be
The soft voice almost screamed, the hand came out of the pocket, and Joe rose up and léapt. His ieet hit Rice: on the chest and they crashed to the ground. Joe sprawled back towards the horse ao it reared, and rolled clear just as the hoofs came thudding back on the roadway right beside his head. He continued rolling and came up on his feet as Ricci came up at him from the ground.
The thin, long knife swept up in a swift lunge, and Joe stepped to one sida and swung the knotted handker- chief with all his strength. The knotted end landed with a dull thud on Ricci's upper arm. and Ricci's open mouth sud- denly snapped, shut and a moan came through his clenched teeth
He staggered back against the wheel of tue cart and hung there for a moment against the spokes, staring at Joe. hatless, and with a strand of dark hair hanging down over his fore- head, and the knife still clenched in his hand.
"Come any closer, Ricci, and I'll smash your skull!" wondering if he would, wondering if what he felt was hate or bitterness or such despair that he no longer cared if another man died; he had been inoculated with violence, shown the blueprint of murder (the thumbs in the throat, the bayonet in and out parallel with the forearm, the grenade tossed high and accurately), and the old habit still clung. "Why don't vou listen? I didn't wanna kill-"
-"- *-ICCI drew a deep breath as if the numbed arm was still paining him, then suddenly he had re-> versed the knife in his hand, raised his arm -and jerked it. There was a flash in the low sun just appearing above the house-tops, and Joe flung up his arm.
He felt the dull pain that suddenly became sharp, and the knife was quivering in his forearm, the handle of it bobbing up and down, and the blade burning in his flesh. He reached up with his other hand and drew out the knife and as Ricci came rush- ing in towards him he knew there was only one way to finish every- thing. The time and the place didn't mean a thing, and there was still only one answer to the man who meant to kill you.
He held the knife in front of him, and Ricci ran right on to it. He fell against Joe, and Joe. full of
' an almost unbearable, bitter despair,
seeing the end of tile dream in his action, heaved upwards Rica's eves opened wide with surprise that turned quickly to agony, and his mouth opened for a scream that never came Then the dark head fell forward the small bodv seeming to collapse into itself and as Joe let go the knife Ricci slid slowly to tlie ground, grief and revenge and 'life going out of him in a long, moaning sigh.
A red-headed youth came round the corner He stopped abruptly, and for a moment Joe thom ht he was going to turn and run. He looked down at Rica, lying on his face with the knife buried beneath him then up at Joe.
"What happened? Is he-?'
Joe looked down at the blood on his hands. "It was me or him." he said, and the words had a familiar ring': they echoed in his mind, down a iong corridor that stretched from this morning back to Saturday morn- ing, and on to other mornings, at Missim. at Retimo, at Peneios Gorge right back to the first morning of war at Bardia. It seemed that this was the end in a long succession of battles towards peace, and even now he couldn't be sure that he had
"Will you stay here a minute?" he said. "I'll go and ring the police."
"Well, hurry up," the red-headed youth said and beat a fist against an open hand. "I don't wanna get mixed up in anvthing."
Joe turned and ran quieth along the street, wiping the blood from his hands with his handkerchief as he ran feeling it still running from the wound in his forearm He crossed the tramlines and went on towards Dudley Street. He stopped for a moment on the corner and 'ooked back
There were the horse and cart the small, limp bundle in the middle of the roadway, and the tall, thin figure of the vouth standing in a nervous attitude a few yards from it. There were the still-quiet houses with the empty milk fugs and cans on their doorsteps, the tall, dark pines, and behind them all the church tower rising into the clear morning sky the top of it bright in the morning
He stared hard at the scene, taking it all in with a perception that would photograph it indelibly in his mind, wondering if this really was the end, if the jury would understand when he told his story and pronounce him Not Guilty if the dream could still be achieved and the past be defeated
He turned and went quickly along to the phone box. He dragged open the door and stepped inside. He scanned the notice on the wall and found the number he wanted. He undid the knot in the handkerchief and took out two pennies.
He lifted the receiver off the hook, paused for a moment. Then with a finger that shook slightly he dialled FX4132. He heard the buzzing in his ear, then a voice, impersonal and a little tired, said:
"Randwick Police Station."
The locale of this story belong» to reality, but the people in it belong only to my imagination. Anyone who sees himself here U mistaken. -Jon Cleary
Printed by Conpress Printing Limite« for th« publisher. Consolidated Press Limited. 1*8-174
Castlereagh Street. Sydney.