Read Thought Crimes Online

Authors: Tim Richards

Tags: #ebook, #book

Thought Crimes (9 page)

‘I'm keen to do whatever I can to further the interests of the resort.'

‘If we said that supervisors consider you to be highly ambitious, would that surprise you?'

This second loaded question sends him reaching for the glass of water. As he does so, he sees that he is trembling. What's more, the interviewers are slipping in and out of focus.

‘I'm more interested in how they assess my capabilities,' he tells them.

Hendo says that Hizu is believed to be highly capable, before asking if he sees himself wanting to move into administration.

‘I'd like to gain a wide range of experience before considering that possibility.'

‘If gaining experience meant spending time at the Sydney office, how would you feel about that?'

Hizu says that he's happy to perform any duties that will broaden his education.

‘Are you aware of the recent suicide attack on our Sydney office?'

‘No, I'm not,' Hizu answers, fighting hard to suppress a need to swallow.

A longish pause follows, with the trio shuffling their documents before Jacko asks if anyone has ever tried to recruit him to work for an organisation that might be adverse to the resort's interests.

‘Other than guests, I've only known staff. If a guest spoke of that, I'd report it.'

‘What's your opinion of Norichi?' Ken asks.

The question is impossibly loaded. Even to attempt an answer carries danger. Hizu would like more water, but his glass is empty.

Sweat is trickling down his chest.

‘Norichi's very dedicated.'

‘Have you ever seen him use a guest's mobile, or act in a way that was unusual?' Hendo asks.

‘Unusual?'

‘Taking photographs, or collecting water in jars?'

‘No.'

‘Naturally, this is in the strictest confidence,' Ken reminds him.

Hizu nods.

‘When is your medical?'

‘Monday.'

‘I'll get Billie to take you to the clinic now,' Jacko tells him.

‘You look awful.'

Hizu manages to nod at the three blurs.

‘Relax, you've done well,' Hendo confides.

At the clinic, with his temperature tipping thirty-nine, doctors test for meningitis. Hizu will remember little of the two days that follow, just the sharp pull of the drip, and drifting in and out of consciousness.

By the third morning, his temperature is normal, and he feels well enough to eat. A nurse echoes the doctor's belief that he's had a virus.

‘I've got my medical on Monday. If I'm not fit, I'm up shit creek.'

‘Don't worry.'

Hizu would like to believe that he has no worries, but it's difficult to sort the effects of the illness from the usual flood of anxieties.

‘There was a woman here to visit you.'

‘A woman?'

‘Very pretty. Nobuko. She was worried about you.'

By that afternoon, the doctors are satisfied Hizu is fit for release provided he takes things quietly and stays off duty till after his medical. A nurse tries to persuade him to take a cart back to his apartment, but, after seventy-two hours in bed, Hizu likes the idea of a twenty-minute stroll in the sun.

Nearing the guest blocks, he sees Suzette walking Max not far ahead, and has to consider whether to raise his pace to catch them, or to drop back to make sure he won't. Just at that moment, the dog takes off after a pelican.

The big bird swoops and turns, goading the barking dog, before shifting course to fly low over the ornamental lake. Though he sees the looming danger, Hizu is powerless to intervene. Suzette screams for Max to come back, but the dog gallops into the water and swims after the bird, yelping for all it's worth. It's then, with Hizu hurrying to the scene, that Norichi appears from nowhere to rip off his shoes and tie.

Without hesitating, Nori throws himself into the lake, and begins to swim strongly as he can while keeping his head above the surface. He covers fifty metres soon enough, but, with the bird still hovering above him, Max is reluctant to be dragged to the bank. As Nori struggles to loop his hand through the dog's collar, his head bobs below the surface, as it will twice more before he hauls the hound back to its distressed owner.

‘My god, you were so brave. That bird wanted to drown Max.'

After helping the exhausted Nori to his feet, Hizu prevents Suzette from kissing him.

‘I'm going to shout you barramundi and Grange,' Suzette tells Norichi, but her thoroughly drenched hero cannot share her joy. He knows that it's all been for show, and that Max will be dead soon enough.

‘Fuckin' dog's fucked everything,' he whispers to Hizu.

The evening before the medical, Hizu receives a text from Missy to say that he has placed fourth among the thirty-two who sat the written exam. He will be awarded a high distinction.

Thrilled with this news, Hizu takes a glass of Barossa white out onto the balcony. This being an unusually clear night, he has no trouble locating the major constellations. In doing so, he recalls the long journeys he used to make to get the best possible observations. One of the few things his father left him was an old telescope passed on from his own father, and even now, having travelled so far, it is the stars that remind him who he is, and where he is.

Eager not to lose sleep, he swallows a tablet before bed, and no sooner does his cheek hit the pillow than he finds himself leaving a drunken party with the delicately pretty Nobuko. If he wants, she will travel to Australia with him. Hizu tells her that he wants that more than anything. Yet no matter how tenderly she kisses and strokes him, he is unable to get hard. Finally, her desire gives way to tears, and there is nothing he can do to stem this flood of grief.

So it's a relieved Hizu who wakes to sunlight streaming through the narrow gap between curtains. It's all fine. Once Permanent, he'll convince himself that he has what it takes to satisfy Nobuko. Everything in its own time. It's only when switching on the bed lamp that he sees the crimson ring on his pillow. Dragging one hand across his lips, Hizu reaches into his mouth to locate a tooth that comes loose in his fingers. He's tempted to pinch himself, but he knows the truth. All the dreams the future once held now sit bloody-rooted on his trembling palm.

THE GREASE

According to his payslip, Dave was security officer, the man at the door, the one who said who spoke to Vas and who didn't. But Dave's first responsibility was greasing Steve. Dave thought you could never have too much grease. If there wasn't grease on flesh that was already greasy, you weren't ready.

As manager, Vas should have decided readiness, but Vas was a con artist. He didn't know bullshit from dogshit. So mostly it was Dave. Dave saying, Just a bit more, Stevo. Just a bit more.

If Steve asked Dave about the grease, what he really wanted to know was if he was ready, if he was up for it, and when the grease man told him that he needed more, what Dave really meant was that another two or three minutes fussing over the grease might make all the difference.

Steve was a kid. Hungry, talented as fuck, but he'd never seen half the things Dave had. Steve wasn't to know how useless Vas was. You had to know the game to know what a manager should do for you, and no kid ever knows the game till he's been pissed on by dicks that shouldn't have been trusted in the first place.

That's life. You only learn to value trust after someone's fucked you over.

But security men can't interfere. It wasn't for Dave to tell the kid to be careful with Vas. Vas hired Dave in the first place. And Dave knew the main reason he got the job was that he could be trusted not to white-ant Vas to the young blokes.

With the second bucket nearly empty, Steve was looking good, well-greased, just about ready. But now the kid wanted to know where his manager was, and Dave didn't want to say straight out that he didn't know, because this was one time when Vas had no excuse for not being there.

It's going to be OK, isn't it, Dave?

Too fuckin' right it is. I wouldn't waste good grease on someone who didn't have the stuff.

Of course, just then, Stevo wanted to take a shit, which was the worst time, because it undoes the value of a greasing. A less experienced grease man might have let him take that dump, but Dave knew the benefit of a tense gut. You can make a skittish colon work for you. Better to take his mind off the urge.

So he told Steve his theory about how the best were always greased by the best. You name any of the big stars, anyone from any era, and the blokes carrying their grease buckets were the best in the trade. That can't be coincidence. It's attention to detail. Respect for materials and contingencies.

No man who knew greasing bought his grease straight off the shelf. All the top greasers had their own mix, with secret ingredients. And you never start greasing till your grease has exactly the right viscosity. A chemist can't judge that for you. It's a gift. You can't teach it. Grease is in the knowing.

Dave hadn't always been so confident in his mix. That's why he'd been happy to call himself a security officer, and turned down offers to grease for other young turks. He knew his hands were good, that he could grease with the best of them, but he couldn't be certain about the grease. Would this new mix stand up? When Dave told Vas that he was one hundred per cent sure, he was bullshitting.

But now it felt good, real good, just that slight crackle between his fingers. Sound means more than feel. All the top men said that.

When the grease is right, it crackles on the second stroke, or two in every three.

Dave was feeling the sound when he heard Vas talking panic on a mobile just outside the door. Knowing Steve could hear Vas, Dave slowed the motion of his fingers so the fear wouldn't catch on.

It's feelin' good, Dave. Real good.

Steady, boy. Steady now.

He could barely see Steve through the grease, and he couldn't hear the crowd above the crackling of his fingers working the grease. This was the critical point. The best greasers know when to say enough, to cut out on the verge of transcendence.

Mate, it's getting close.

Easy, kid, I'll tell ya when you're there.

But it feels strong, Dave. Real strong.

Tooright it does.

I'm bloody ready for it. Right now.

Yeah, you're lookin' good, Stevo.

Am I ready, Dave?

As ready as you'll ever be.

ON THE MAKE

Very few modern buildings reach out to embrace you, but the R.K. Howarth Building is an exception. It somehow manages to trap light and turn it into a communication of human warmth. Sam always meant to ask about the architect. He felt sure the architect would be a woman, just from the building's ambience. If she were alive, he'd write to tell her that approaching the R.K. Howarth Building always filled him with a profound sense of embrace. No architect could be unhappy with that. Sam should ask someone. The foundation stone didn't mention the architects. Just R.K. Howarth and the original bequest. Howarth had won a Nobel Prize for something. Medical research probably.

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