понедельник, февраля 25, 2008

The Case of the Missing Money

It was time to get up.

Time to ratchet the old eyelids skywards, ease the cheesegrater throat with a Holiday, lever the old bones off the backseat of the Cortina, and figure out who the hell was sitting next to me, exuding menace and gripe.

Sure, it was time to get up, but the old eyelids were in no mood for ratcheting, the old frame spoke powerfully against leverage, and there was no Holiday to be found. I decided to give the whole upgetting a miss.

‘Jago,’ said a voice. ‘Hey Jago. Time to get up.’

And with that, the old cheesegrater decided to get things underway, easing out a cough somewhere between broken glass and sandpaper. I rolled over and squinted up into the morning light.

‘How are ya, Jago?’

It was Sammy the Squib. Or Spiv. One of the two.

‘Nice joint, Jago.’

I levered the old frame up and ever so gently away from Sammy, and cast a bleary look around for the old hat, found her crushed and crumpled were the old noggin had lain. I biffed her back into some sort of respectable shape, planted her on top, glanced at Sammy, and hacked up a half-smoked Holiday from somewhere down the old gullet.

‘Looks like it’s my lucky day, Sammy,’ I said. ‘Got a light?’

Sammy flamed me up and said: ‘Mine too. Nice joint. Set you back much?’

I took a drag and scoped the streetscape. Not much movement out there, but plenty of sunlight. Maybe it wasn’t going to be such a lucky day after all.

‘Whaddya want, Sammy?’

‘My money,’ he said. ‘Fitty bucks, Jago. Been gone some time now, but I want it back.’

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Yeah. Fair enough.’

‘By midday, Jago,’ said Sammy.

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Yeah. Fair enough.’

‘Be seeing you, Jago,’ said Sammy. ‘Be seeing you in Summerworld.’

‘Dare say,’ I replied. Sammy got out the Cortina and vanished. I flicked the rest of the Holiday onto the floor of the car, tumbled the old corpse out onto the street, assembled it vertically, fixed the old hat, and regarded the woman bearing down upon me.

‘What the hell are you doing in my car?’ she said.

I glanced back at the Cortina, but it turned out the Cortina was in fact a Subaru. Not my lucky day at all.

* * * * * * *

The first thing to establish was a schedule, so I checked the old time on the mobes. Quarter to twelve. Best, I figured, to hit up Sammy with the cash quick smart. But when I scoped the old wallet to see the reddy situation, I saw only a couple of supermarket dockets, a business card for some local café where a bloke worked who might be able to hook me up with some hot sheila maybe or probably not, and a band-aid. A poor start.

I hit the streets in rapid mode, feet pounding the footpath in that casual lope I like to call ‘clock’s a-tickin, ribs a-kickin’. I can cover 400 metres in about two minutes using c a-t, r a-k, and my best estimates figured the nearest ATM to be the Commonwealth around the corner. I was figuring no worries, but I figured wrong.

First I had to brush past a woman pushing a pram – no mean feat while c a-t, r a-kin. Then some wanker coming the other way on a bike had us both this wayin and that wayin, but I dodged him sweet and left him for a fool. Then some little punk thought he’d try to take me down with the old ‘pretend I’m walking the same way’ ruse: a quick elbow to the back of the head sorted him out. Then I realised I’d been going the wrong way the whole time, and, after a brief confabulation with self to correct the course, I retraced the old steps reversewise, executing a pram hurdle on the return leg.

It was going to be close.

There was nobody at any of the ATMs – sure sign of a trap, but I had no time for that now. I fumbled the old wallet out, scrambled through the plastickery to find the old bank card, and took a moment to check the time.

Five to.


I’ve tackled ATMs before and only been beaten once or twice. This one put up a stiff fight: only grudgingly accepted my card, then demanded the access code. I won’t lie – a bead of sweat dripped off the old brow as I worked furiously to crack the code. Finally the combination came to me, I punched it in, and retrieved fifty bucks from the vault.

Now it was on for young and old – particularly old. Some sneaky old biddy had parked her arse right up mine, ready for the quick pounce, but I had half a step on her. A quick start-stop, start-stop got her guessing, and before she could gather herself, I was past and into the Summerworld.

Sammy was sitting near the pool table with a pot and the form guide in front of him. I slid the fifty across.

‘Ta, Jago,’ he said. ‘Good bloke.’

I gave him the old upthumbs and winkjob. Another satisfied customer.

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