Extract of new novel, Hitchike

Hitchike by Margaret Hickey

Chapter 12

In Sydney, the sun shone and the people were a brighter breed; their teeth whiter, their postures more upright, their lycra more logo’d. On his way from the airport to the suburb of Bronte, the taxi driver gave him the drill; the natural beauty of the harbour, the Opera house, the warm weather as opposed to that dreary and sad southern city. Marcus upheld his side of the old bargain, gave a valiant defence of the place he now called home. He cited the café culture, the pubs, the music, the crowds at the AFL games. The taxi driver responded; the jacaranda trees, the lack of gang violence, the opera house. Marcus rallied with the city laneways he’d never seen, the art gallery he’d never visited, the food he didn’t care about but by god it sounded good, and one day he would go to them all. He talked with a new emotion about the war memorial, the beautiful parks – but once the Sydney taxi driver turned onto Ocean street, in what must have been a neatly timed drive – all thoughts of competition were forgotten. Bondi Beach, so blue and beautiful you’d want to shed your own skin and become someone else. You could cry at such a site – the surfers, the bikinis, the sand, the water, the sky, the sea, the sky. At Bondi beach, all arguments were rendered useless.

‘The Yarra?’ Marcus whispered, but the driver knew he’d won and outside a two storey, white house with large windows and a view to die for, he took his fare without a word. Marcus asked him to return in an hour – by then he’d have some more arguments, although that looked unlikely on such a street, on such a day.

Marcus knocked on the door. It was a pleasure to knock on such a door, a black shiny door, heavy, with a gold knob. He knocked firmly and sharply, the sort of knock such a door demanded and the door was opened by a man who you’d expect to own such a door. ‘Officer Grevine?’ The tall blonde man reached out his hand, ‘Eric Farrer, Suzanne’s other half.’ The two men shook. Looked into each other’s eyes, weighing the upbringing, the potential, the worth of the other.

‘Is Suzanne in?’ Marcus asked, following Eric Farrer down a long hallway, on a long rug with long photographs of beach scenes and beautiful poor people on the wall.

‘Not yet, she said she’s on her way. Got held up with that interview in Women’s Weekly’.

Suzanne Miller, discussing the faults of the force again. It was becoming de-rigour. Marcus wondered if anyone ever went on record to say how wonderful the force was. How helpful, how clever, how hardworking and diligent. He thought. Thought hard. Ran a blank.

‘She’s putting a lot of focus on this crime,’ Marcus said.

‘Would you like a beer?’ Eric had opened the door to some sort of fridge in the wall, a huge glassed cabinet filled with wine bottles, beer and gin.

‘No thanks,’ he said. ‘On the job.’

‘Of course.’ Eric opened the door of the miraculous cabinet and took out a beer, one of those honeyed boutique things, unscrewed it, took a large swig. He gave a look of apology, nodded toward his perfumed drink. ‘You don’t mind do you? Been a long morning.’

‘Of course not, carry on.’ Marcus wondered why he said, ‘carry on’, as if he was in some British crime show – the poor cop come to interview the rich manor owner. What the fuck was this, Midsomer? ‘Been in this place long?’ he asked.

Eric put down his beer. ‘Two or three years. Came up from Melbourne for Suzanne’s work – never looked back’.

Marcus braced himself. Remembered the numbers for the MCG crowds, the names of the alleyways, all the roof top bars.

‘But you know,’ the other man was saying, ‘I really miss Victoria.’

Marcus thought: well blow me down.

‘Miss the footy, the skiing in winter..’

‘You barrack for Melbourne?’ Marcus asked. Smug.

‘No, Western Bulldogs.’

Marcus thought: you think you know a man.

Eric sat down in an arm chair with cushions, lots of them, too many, big and fluffy and covered in blue patterns. He sunk into the chair and gestured for Marcus to sit on the other armchair, equally loaded with useless accessories.

Marcus sat. He sunk. He thought; now this is life. This is what I should have done. Been rich and good looking with a tv star wife and an impressive front door.

‘I suppose you think Suzanne is going a bit far with all this bringing up the past,’ Eric was saying. ‘I’ve told her just to let go a little.’

‘It’s her right, she clearly thinks that justice hasn’t been properly served.’

‘Well you’re right,’ Eric said. ‘But surely there’s limits on what can be done now. Her uncle’s been dead for over 30 years.’

‘Were they very close?’ Marcus looked over Eric’s shoulder to a large inground pool, complete with a waterfall. A Flamingo pool toy drifted past. Sydney.