After working extensively in nursing and clinical
psychology Carole took up a research position with the Commonwealth Government
She is now writing full time which she has wanted to do for many years.
Further down the main street there used to be a methadone clinic and needle exchange until pharmacies took over the dispensing of methadone. The needle exchange remained but most of the rooms in the clinic were used by a counselling service which was staffed by volunteers. Their main qualification was to have survived a troubled history which allegedly gave them the insight to show others how to do the same. They provided a twenty-four hour service as at night people contemplating suicide phoned in for support.
On the corner of a side street there was a large two-storey brick building which at some time in the past had been coated with plaster and painted white. A fast food outlet occupied almost half the ground floor. Next to that was Venus Rising, a sex shop with a bland exterior and a sign ‘Adults Only’ over the doorway. It sold items which purported to heighten sexual pleasure to people who took notice of the propaganda in popular magazines. The third shop in the complex was occupied by a pawnbroker who had been there for many years. The outside was dimly lit but the closed sign on the door was visible. It looked deserted but in the back room a violent argument was raging.
“This is only half of what you owe!” The voice was hard and menacing. “I gave you eight weeks to repay your debt in full. You agreed to my terms when you borrowed the money. When do you intend to pay the rest?” The other man was sweating profusely. He tried to explain his position in a conciliatory tone.
“It’s the best I can do at present. I will get you the rest as soon as I can.” He stared at the other man’s hands as he constantly played with the paperknife which he kept on the desk. It was made of stainless steel with a thin blade and a sharp tip. He couldn’t make out the pattern on the crosspiece at the top. The man’s long fingers caressed the blade as though it was a living thing.
“There are a few more items I can sell but you know what the market is like. You have to get the right buyer if you want a good price. I have to avoid any suggestion that I need to sell them quickly.”
“You came here begging me to lend you the money which you said you needed urgently. You didn’t explain in any detail why you had to have it and I wondered why. I can only assume that it’s something you don’t want to come out. You owe me and I’m giving you your last warning. Get the rest of the money as soon as you can and there’ll be interest to pay as well. I have other people to think of.”
There was a long silence before he went on in a less aggressive tone.
“Can’t you borrow from a bank or a credit union?”
After some minutes his visitor reluctantly answered.
“I’ve already borrowed all I can.”
“You have a home. Take out a mortgage.”
“I’ve already done that.”
“So sell that home and move to something smaller.”
“It’s a large mortgage. I’m having trouble paying the interest. My equity isn’t substantial and I have to be careful that I don’t give the impression that I’m in financial difficulties.”
“What do you have to sell?”
“I’ve already explained the situation. There are a few things I’ve collected.”
“Then you’ll have to get the money another way. Can’t your daughter help you?” The other man was appalled at the suggestion.
“She’s not to know about it. I don’t want her to be involved.”
“You are in debt. She is already involved. What is she prepared to do?”
“What do you mean?”
“There are many ways she can earn extra money.”
“She is not responsible for what happened.”
“Wouldn’t she be prepared to help her father in his hour of need?”
“I said that she is not to be involved. This is my problem.”
The other stood suddenly knocking a brown envelope off the desk. He moved quickly so that he was almost touching the man, menacing him. “This is Kings Cross. There are many ways she could get money if she was obliging. There’s a massage parlour in the next block. She could earn a heap of money if she pleased the punters.” His tone was deliberately offensive. “Of course if she has scruples about that she could donate a kidney. That would be worth a tidy sum. Or she could take a trip on someone’s behalf and carry a small parcel in her luggage. She wouldn’t have to know what was in it. That can be arranged. Of course she wouldn’t want to be caught. Other countries think some things are a crime.” He laughed.
The man who was in debt had been getting increasingly agitated at the offensiveness of the suggestions and the contemptuous tone of the other. Finally he lost control. He lashed out repeatedly with his fists to make him stop. The man stumbled back a few steps and tripped. He fell hitting the left side of his head on the edge of the desk. His visitor stood looking down at him for a few moments. Whatever his injuries, he hadn’t killed him. He turned abruptly and left by the back door.
Several hours later Benjamin Harris shuffled into the room. He had knocked timidly on the door but to his surprise it had opened to his touch. There was a single light in the room and the man he had come to see was lying on the floor. He hesitated.
“Mr Silverstein, I’ve come to repay the money I owe you.” There was no response from the man on the floor. Benny realised that his words were slurred. He had had a few drinks. He was a little nervous. It was only a week since Jomei Onoko, Jacob Silverstein’s sidekick, had called on him and threatened to break all his fingers one by one unless he repaid his debt very quickly. Benny drew himself up to his full height which wasn’t substantial and spoke slowly and carefully enunciating each word.
“Mr Silverstein, I’ve come to pay back the money I owe you.” There was still no response. Benny swallowed and went a few steps closer. He could see Jacob Silverstein’s chest rising and falling but his breathing was laboured and he was making a strange noise. He seemed to be asleep or drunk or something. He decided to speak more loudly.
“Mr Silverstein, it’s Benjamin Harris. I’ve got the money I owe you. I want to pay you back.” There was still no movement. Benny was so frustrated he felt a few tears in his eyes. He had found the money. Of course there had been some luck involved.
Benny never kept money for long. It didn’t go too far. That day he’d gone to the TAB to put a bet on the Melbourne Cup and had decided to take a trifecta. When he got to the window to place his bet he heard the man in front say 3 and 8. Benny didn’t have much confidence in the horses he chose. They always seemed to break down or still be running when the winners passed the post so he decided to change his selection, but he needed three horses for a boxed trifecta.
A distant memory chanted that three eights were twenty-four. With relief he put what he had in his pocket on 3, 8 and 24. When the race was run he found that he had picked the horses which came first second and third in the Melbourne Cup. The trifecta paid handsomely. He had enough winnings to clear his debt with Jacob Silverstein.
Now he didn’t know what to do. He had the money, all of it. He had to pay it back before it melted away like it always did, a little bit here and a little bit there. It wasn’t fair that Jacob Silverstein couldn’t take the money and let him off the hook.
Benny was more than a little inebriated and he did something he’d never have the nerve to do when he was sober. He bent down and shook Jacob Silverstein by the shoulder. His head fell a little to the side but he didn’t open his eyes. He shook him again but he still didn’t wake up. The noise he was making breathing was quite strange. Benny shrugged. He had done his best, he really had. He resolved to try to keep the money intact and come back as soon as he woke up in the morning. He closed the door behind him as he left.
The third person who entered didn’t stay very long at all. After checking that Jacob Silverstein couldn’t retaliate in any way, the person picked up the paperknife lying on Silverstein’s desk, pushed him on his side, felt for the indentation in the back of his neck at the base of the skull, positioned the paperknife carefully at a right angle and then shoved it in with force.
The shadowy figure observed the body for a few minutes before going to the desk to the computer which was already open. All the records were systematically deleted, the recycle bin emptied, the program switched off and the lid closed. The two-drawer safe set in concrete in the corner was securely locked so the contents couldn’t be checked. The person closed the back door into the alley when exiting the building.
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