Money, Contacts and Grace
Dave's feet swung back into his car, a thumping shoulder forcing him onto the passenger seat from the driver's spot, slamming car doors kerracking around the pub's car park that Dave had just parked in. The pub faced an ebony crater that in sunlight became blue sea, the yearning voices produced by the crater's collapsing waves melancholic like the voices of the dead.
Those voices didn’t affect the sky's vast loop of infinite blackness.
The thumping-shoulder cop half-applied the handbrake and said: “There’s a problem.”
Applying the handbrake firmly, Dave expanded his cheeks, looked away and blew out.
“It’s getting a yellow sticker,” the cop said, a mechanic's approval now required to get the sticker removed, the roadworthy car now "unroadworthy."
The pen the cop wielded was toothpick-like in his giant paw, the form he was filling out illuminated by the car’s interior light, his concentration suggesting he was undertaking a difficult task.
“Your licence,” he snorted.
Then: “You’ve got forty-eight hours to get this thing looked at.”
Peter, who had been in the passenger seat, was waiting outside.
“You lot,” he told a cop, “should be arrested for perverting the course of justice.”
The cop grabbed Peter’s wrist, marching him off to a police car, the onlookers rewarded with the thrill of disaster.
The cop shoved Peter into the police car and yelled: “You shut the fuck up!”
Through the police car’s open window, a plain-clothed policewoman howled: “What’s your fucking name?!”
“He just told me to shut up,” Peter replied.
The snowy-haired policewoman’s tortured, emerald irises glared above the black leather she was wearing.
“Your fucking name, you fucking cheeky bastard!” she yelped. "Or I'll punch your fucking lights out!"
Her eyes spewed bitter astonishment, Peter absorbed by her psychotic anguish.
He indicated to Dave that Dave enter the pub where their friends were waiting. The rich local residents wanted that noisy pub shut down. It horrified their Friday nights.
“Your name, you bastard, or I’ll punch your fucking lights out!” the woman screamed.
Imagine saying that to someone you've just met at a party, Peter thought.
“Robin Stanley Todd,” he lied, “of fifteen Stubbs Terrace, Daglish, April 4th, 1960. Serial number 624 8651--.”
She ripped the door open and bellowed: “Out!”
A cop pushed him into a police van. Two Englishmen were in the van.
“Welcome to Perth,” Peter said.
“A pleasure to be here,” one of the Englishmen said.
The van’s interior was oxygen depleted, air, freedom and justice now significant.
A uniformed cop was beside the van.
“Excuse me, officer,” an Englishmen said, tapping on a window.
The cop stared suspiciously at the man.
“Can you open the front doors?” the Englishman asked. “We’re going to die in here.”
The cop opened the doors. Peter felt relieved: a non-sadistic cop! Remarkable!
The back doors suddenly got flung open. A man, struggling against four cops, got a foot against the end of the van's floor, forcing the police back, the men staggering as if on a rolling deck, the arrested man writhing in his tormentors' arms, his eyes’ smallness magnifying his eyes' sharpness, his protruding neck tendons like steel cables, the police trying to force his head down, the head not budging.
A cop screamed: “You fucking idiot!”
The black-leather woman karate-chopped the man’s right shoulder, causing him to stumble, the police picking him up and hurling him head-first into the van, the man screaming: “Cunts! I haven’t even had a fucking drink!”
“Join the club, mate,” an Englishmen said.
The man muttered: “Bastards!”
Peter realised he could be charged with anything: law-sanctioned thugs incarcerate the innocent until expensive mercy arrives, if you can afford it.
Street-lights flashed by after the van left. The muttering man moved his bruised shoulder, trying to ease the pain. A debate about oil-price fluctuations didn't diminish the mutterer's discomfort. He mumbled: “Kereist....fuck....cunts.”
Opposing injustice guarantees imprisonment in most places.
The van stopped. A white building glowed in the darkness. Van doors got slammed as the three cops in front got out, the walloping suggesting disdain towards the Noise Abatement Act.
An Englishmen said: “Keep talking.” He thought their conversation about the world's economy would soften the cops’ attitudes.
“No,” his friend snapped.
Exactly, Peter thought. Being an educated smart-arse now would only bury you further.
The van’s back doors got ripped opened. Scornful faces glared into the van.
“Out!” a cop scoffed.
You're guilty until money proves otherwise.
Uncertainty fizzed in Peter’s temples. These arseholes could invent anything, he thought. Only cash discredits inventions.
Everything felt surreal, like his brain was separated from his body. A handcuffed man got shoved through a door ahead of them. The man’s head shot up, as if he was in pain, his open shirt flapping as he walked.
Inside, a woman with black hair and arching eyebrows, glittering with jewelery, was having her details taken by a young, plain-clothed cop who kept saying: “All these decent citizens here on a Friday night; it’s just terrible. Terrible.”
The smiling cop’s eyes glowed maliciously, his closed mouth a crooked line that bent even more when he smiled.
Peter was pushed into an office of desks and grey cabinets and instructed to “sit there.” The cop who had weakly applied the handbrake sat at the desk facing him.
Peter’s responses to questions were recorded. The awkward probing of big fingers on a keyboard by Handbrake Applier made Peter think: Talentlessness increases criminality: A survival mechanism.
“The charge?” he asked.
The cop looked up, not having yet reached that part of the form, random-charge creation his speciality.
“Drunk and disorderly,” he replied, “and using obscene language.”
“What language,” Peter asked, “did I use?”
The cop glanced over his shoulder at the other cop and said: “You said: ‘We’re not going to take this shit.’”
Both cops nodded in agreement.
“Why didn't you arrest that policewoman then?” Peter asked. "I have to say her language for such a charming lady was disgraceful. And don't you think you should hand yourselves in as well---"
"Shut the fuck up!"
The form filler glared disdainfully, before asking: “Do you want to make a statement?”
The cop had reached the form’s vital part, his eyes unable to hide his desire that Peter say: “Yes,” so Peter said: “Yes.”
A flurry of movement ended with three cops sitting behind a desk in front of him. One of the cops grabbed a notepad. Handbrake Applier snorted: “What is it?”
Peter smiled at their crazed expectation.
“Prepare yourselves," he said, "for a landmark comment on amoral randomness.”
Handbrake Applier’s black eyes hardened with scorn.
“Get on with it,” he sniped.
“I declare,” Peter began, the cops noting away, “that attempting to shove a claustrophobic individual, of quite phenomenal strength, and I must say, with an astonishingly defiant pig-headedness towards injustice, into a tiny van already occupied by three-----”
Handbrake Applier smashed his pen into the desktop. His bewildered eyes seethed with frustration, their whites like balls of fury.
“But,” Peter wailed, “I haven't finished!”
The thumb tip and an index finger on his right hand united in “astonishment.”
“Shut the fuck up!” Handbrake Applier yelped.
"I must say your language is frightful," Peter said. "My grandmother will be deeply shocked when I tell her about this. No doubt members of her church group will come here demanding that your linguistic levels rise above the prehistoric."
Handbrake Applier smacked the desk with the palm of his right hand. Another cop charged towards Peter, shouting: “You shut your fucking mouth or I’ll punch your fucking head in.” The angry cop’s green eyes, inches from Peter’s face, resembled the policewoman’s. Peter thought: Maybe they’re married? Imagine the kids!
"You're so beautiful when you're angry," Peter said.
He got pulled out of his seat and pushed back down the corridor under intense fluorescence to where the plain-clothed cop was smirking, top lip raised, like smelling something putrid, while saying: "Terrible. Just terrible."
People on benches before Smirker were reading or staring or whispering to their lawyers, lawyer lips near clients’ ears. A man leant forward, elbows on his knees, hands clutched together, his eyes flashing around like drops on a hot stove. An elderly, uniformed cop behind the counter beside Smirker had a round, avuncular face and a broad nose. His fluffy, grey eyebrows resembled an amiable grandfather's. He asked Peter: “What’s your offence?”
He was filling out papers for the court.
“I haven’t,” Peter replied, “committed one.”
“Sorry–ah–where were you taken into custody?”
“Does location have any bearing on charge?” Peter asked.
The avuncular face looked up, stumped. Peter considered him to be civilised so he said: “They accused me of being drunk and disorderly and using obscene language.”
Smirker's smile resembled a joyous stain.
“Such decent citizens,” he said. “You’d think such decent people would have better things to do on Friday nights, but, no.....”
Smirker’s head-shaking accompanied that smug stain. The elderly police sergeant maintained his pleasant neutrality.
“What will my wife say when I tell her about all these decent citizens here on a Friday night?” Smirker remarked.
The jewellery-laden woman, now having her details taken at the counter by the elderly police sergeant, said: “You've got a wife?! You?! Oh, I know why,” she quipped, spinning to face everyone, “he regularly visits the Fremantle Dog’s Home.”
The elderly cop fought to eliminate his mouth’s titillated twitching. Hot-Drop Eyes looked down, hiding his delight. A lawyer slapped his right knee and guffawed, his chin lifted up by an upper-cutter of cutting wit.
“Let me know when the inevitable divorce proceedings begin," the woman said. "I could use a good laugh.”
The lawyer released another crack of titillation. The elderly police sergeant's lips got forced together to stop howling delight from breaking free.
“Sit down,” Smirker said, “unless you want to be charged with something else?”
Peter was taken by Smirker into the fingerprint room and told to put his “little fingie-wingies” onto a pad. Smirker exuded a disturbing, manicured order that seemed designed to keep something wild in check: black hair, fine and silky; grey jacket; blue shirt, his smarmy smirk a mark of malicious humour. Peter thought: Attraction creates infinite points between sadism and masochism, minds adapting to aid reproduction. Biology maximises the furnace required to enhance its cause, maximising weird transactions, therefore failures, failures increasing the incidence of doomed transactions, this increasing the probability of reproduction: disturbed bitch marries sadistic arsehole in transient union of warped minds.
A uniformed cop, with roaming, suspicious eyes and tree-branch arms, thrust Peter into a cell with a shove in the back. Ushers should do that, Peter thought, in the National Theatre.
The keys hanging off Shover’s belt clinked as Shover stalked the corridor that divided the cells that lined the passageway that Shover patrolled like a tiger in a long, rectangular cage, his black eyes leering at the caged animals that faced him.
Fluorescence bathed Peter's cell with garish luminosity, the toilet, a hole in the floor, partitioned off by a low wall. The shutting gate had clanged behind him; keys rattled to lock the door, incarceration completed with entrapment's classic clanking.
The eeriness of not belonging behind bars invaded Peter like a repulsive certainty. His crimes weren't so easily categorisable, their punishing usually not resulting in the limiting of physical freedom. This crime of detesting injustice meant death in many places, Peter grateful that this wasn’t theoretically the case where he had been born. But reality may have been different. The realisation that he had been previously distanced from reality created new considerations.
Prison cells supposedly house the dangerous; but the really dangerous have the power to kill with no threat of imprisonment.
Peter felt a weird displacement, a soft creature in a hard world: until you experience reality, you dream.
A prostrate man hissed: “Kerreist!” His back arched up; the vertebra fell slowly back towards the floor, the man’s face carved with scrolls of hurt. His lips resembled stretched wires. Pain bolts shot up his spine; again the black shot up; again he hissed: “Kerrreisttt!” He was the guy the cops had shoved through the back door handcuffed.
When Peter got shoved into the cell, this man had gasped: “Painkillers! Perleeeease!”
“No!” Tiger Key Holder Shover had yelled, slamming the gate shut.
Key Holder patrolled like a feline fearful of territorial intrusion, the injured man pleading: “Perleeeease…..”
“No!” Key Holder shouted.
“What happened?” Peter asked.
The man spat out the words before his mouth contorted. Pain, engraving vertical lines into his forehead, created a flesh accordion that expanded and contracted with the agony song spilling from his mouth.
“A car accident?”
“Yeah. I thin---ink….broken pel…vis.”
Involuntarily, his back arched; he said: “Jeeesuzzz...,” his face screwing up.
“Chased,” Peter asked, “by the cops?”
“Yeah…Gawd!...Skipped probation. The last time.....didn’t…Ahh!...show up.”
His hands clamped his face as his back arched.
“I went every two weeks,” he continued, “for two years! Every time except the laarsssst.....”
A snoring drunk, splayed out on the floor, head propped up against a wall, looked as if he had fallen through the roof, like discarded meat.
“And now,” the injured man added, “it’s back to Fremantle for another two years.”
“Jesus,” Peter said, “one more time and---”
“I knee ohhh!”
Fremantle Prison had been condemned by Amnesty International. Prisoners got raped and murdered there. Under the parole system, if the convicted reports to a police station every fortnight for the allotted time of the parole and hasn't broken the law again, then they're set free. A woman must have been involved, Peter thought. Only an irresistible babe could have caused this.
Peter tried to attract Key Holder's attention, but Tiger seemed uninterested in sainthood.
“Excuse me,” Peter said.
“What?” Tiger expunged.
“Can you,” Peter replied, “get this guy something?”
Sometimes grace frees the innocent; but Tiger only expunged air, unbelievable that that twit facing him thought he, Lord Tiger, would help some arsehole who had caused the police to risk their lives in a car chase, the previously pursued wincing in agony on the cell's floor. Let that cunt suffer. The bastard deserves it.
Tiger continued prowling, jangling keys playing repression's song, his black eyes like anti-lights within the cells' fluorescent glares, Tiger staring at the animals his colleagues had captured to feed into the mincer of the conviction machine.
“Thanks, mate,” the injured man muttered to Peter.
The dosing drunk snorted in moments of wakefulness. The bald patches between the drunk's long strands of blonde hair suggested that some of his follicles had been ripped out in a fight. The man the police had fought to throw into the van was imprisoned on the other side of the passageway, staring ahead, his eyes soured by outrage. The Englishmen had paid bail. They would return the following morning to plead guilty before a magistrate, paying their twenty-five-dollar fines, their attitude more philosophical than that of the wiry fumer’s. Those Englishmen accepted that injustice reins.
The injured man's face resembled contorted Plasticine. His teeth hung like stalactites in his rectangular mouth. Each cop used a protecting facial expression to avoid acknowledging injustice: Tiger–suspicion; Smirker–amused smugness; Handbrake Applier–hate; his associate–outrage; female cop–aggressive bewilderment; elderly, uniformed cop–agreeable efficiency; each trained to ignore ethics to avoid communication, ensuring convictions and hence promotions.
Cold bacon and eggs got served at sunrise, the drunk’s red eyes striking against his snowy hair–what was left of it–this probably his only meal for the day.
Someone, deposited into the cell late the night before, whose face beamed out happy cheek, inquired if “Saint Henri’s claret" was "available to assist this tour de force of culinary sublimity.”
On hearing this, the blonde drunk produced an amused smirk; then his face returned to its deadpan acceptance, the lower jaw slowly champing.
The Joker’s playful eyes indicated that he thought everyone had some worth. Frozen waves of curly hair adorned his scalp. His eyes oozed with a disregard for this game that others took so seriously. Entering the cell the night before, he had said to Tiger: “Organise the barrage, will you, Higgins? There’s a good chap.”
After eating, the “prisoners,” over two hundred men, were taken to an exercise yard, the products of the previous evening’s police work, the Joker pacing around the perimeter with the blonde drunk, everyone else seated. Friendly chatter erupted under a blue sky, birds chirping, a tree rising over the wall, the sociability suggesting that the police had randomly arrested a section of a crowd in a football stadium–a slice of life nabbed to create convictions. Every profession looked represented; there's probably even a lawyer here, Peter thought.
The pleasantry suited the day’s bathing light. It seemed as if a party was unfolding behind a high brick wall–a barrier topped by glass and barbed wire. The wall may have been erected to keep gatecrashers out, not to keep the arrested hemmed in, for an easy togetherness of acquiescent pleasantry filled that space of brick and concrete, materials whose dryness reflected the mentality of those who had organised the "party."
The Joker cleared his throat loudly. Some people stopped talking. Projecting that sparkle in his cheeky eyes, he created silence by announcing: “Gentlemen….your attention.....please.”
He and the blonde drunk continued circling, everyone watching and waiting.
“Gentlemen,” the Joker continued, “thank you for your precious time. I appreciate how busy you all are, even if the police don’t.”
Someone boomed out a blast of hilarity.
“Thank you,” the Joker said. “Someone always appreciates that observation."
That comment led to more hilarity.
The Joker then said: "Gentlemen....the man you see with me today achieved last week before our good friend, Magistrate Hudson, a distinction that few would even consider possible, let alone achievable, for in these very chambers, at nine-fifteen in the morning on the 17th day of January 1980, wearing exactly what you see today, the same distinguished apparel that John here has worn on every occasion while facing our honourable judiciary, and with the same phlegmatic stoicism that you see here, that philosophical stance against injustice that has made John a legend in the annuals of Western Australian legal history, with his chin held high, awash in the waters of noble rectitude, he got convicted for the six hundred and thirty-sixth time, a record number of convictions for one individual in the state of Western Australia, all for drinking.”
Hands slapped against legs, faces crinkled; mirth flew over the wall like artillery rounds of joy.
“And, gentlemen,” the Joker continued, the record-breaking drinker smiling sheepishly, “just when John's name became etched into the annuals of consumption and legal history–not often an individual is a God in two distinct fields–John was asked by Magistrate Hudson why he drank so much to which our illustrious compatriot here replied: ‘Your honour, I only drink twice a year–winter and summer.’”
Faces, covered by creamy smiles, rocked back and forth, good cheer drowning out the chirping birds.
During the Joker’s pronouncement, the record-breaker’s head had been bowed, his shoulders like the ridge of a rough hill. The proud embarrassment upon his white-purple face made Peter feel pity, horrible certainty running through Peter that Peter didn’t belong in that place, horrible certainty that the drunk did. He probably needs, Peter thought, repugnant guardians, like the frazzled end of a waving tentacle that’s strongly connected to a hard past that’s seeking the source of its initial misery, the only comfort he understands. This probably frees him from injustice's anguish.
Peter felt gratitude swirling from the place where his talent existed, that secret place that protects. The few places in which Peter did belong were harmlessly refreshing, not like this, this experience making, by comparison, his secret places even more valuable.
In groups of thirty, they were ordered into a wood-panelled chamber to face a magistrate. The chamber’s respect-inducing grains were supposed to create humility before the law. Grave-eyed pacing occurred on a red carpet that reflected the passions within. A man with fizzy hair, and a sensitive, appealing disposition, winced when claiming that the police had clobbered him with telephone books. The cops, he told Peter, had rushed into his house looking for drugs. A detective had shoved a warrant into his face. Other cops had swept in, peering into corners, opening drawers, lifting carpets. His girlfriend’s eyes had ejected fear and surprise. The police had been after cocaine. They had separated the couple, firing the same questions at both, the police hoping their source had been good. The man told Peter: “They planted cocaine on me. Now I’m going to get sent to Fremantle.”
Peter “heard” a gargantuan silence. The man’s eyes beamed paranoia. The source of this man’s fear sunk into Peter like a foul weight. Fremantle! He’ll be raped. Possibly murdered, sent to hell because of police "evidence", insufficient cash to pay a sharp lawyer, indicating he couldn’t have been a real drug dealer.
“Good luck,” Peter offered, with a sincerity that caused the suspected drug dealer to say: “If I have any luck I’ll get two years; but four is what I’m going to get.”
Peter patted him carefully on the shoulder before entering the court, a brown space, suitably dour, packed with people. The magistrate’s face under sheep hide glared contemptuously, a rare feat, Peter thought, in facial expressions, like someone who has to wade through sewerage to reach their car. And he, Peter thought, is affronted, like he's been victimised by injustice. This pretence of victimisation rekindles childhood when comparisons are purely subjective.
He can’t be, Peter concluded, Magistrate Hudson. Hudson must have a paternal curiosity as to why all these harmless individuals end up before him–a man ignorant of police criminality. This magistrate believes you should be here. You have no right to oppose corrupt police. This could have appeared on a mahogany panel above this magistrate’s head.
Maybe he’s called “Fremantle Frank”, Peter thought. Or maybe: "Mad Maximum Max"?
“Robin Stanley Todd,” the magistrate began, booming titillation suddenly dominating the room’s solemnity, “of 15 Stubbs Terrace, Daglish,” staccato chuckles filling the chamber, “you are charged with being drunk and disorderly, and urinating in public on Marine Parade in Cottesloe,” the quiet room inundated with detonations of joy, “and using obscene language; how do you plead?”
Peter saw Dave’s brother’s face emitting satisfaction rays. Mike was a court journalist.
“How,” the magistrate insisted, “do you plead?”
“Not ger – ger – il – ter – ey,” Peter managed, fighting laughter.
It was like being back at school.
Cold scornful cement seemed to harden in the magistrate’s dimples.
Peter was told to reappear the following week for a hearing before a jury, the room silent again. He recalled the groans that had woken him, the shouts of pain, the sweat-faced demands for relief in the form of an injection, the blonde drunk’s red-eye slithers having trouble comprehending the antics unfolding before them. Tiger Key Holder had been replaced by someone devoid of unjustified suspicions, who got an ambulance to take away the injured man.
“Quick! Quick!” the injured man had kept saying, pleading for painkillers.
Grace, money and contacts, not justice, Peter thought, rule.
Outside, Mike's smile was bright like the light.
“Fantastic!” he said. “Bobbie ‘Dodge’ Todd, on his tod, dodged the dodgy Bobby Todd.”
“And tomorrow when I head east,” Peter replied, “it’ll be: Todd dodged the dodgy Bobby Todd by fleeing over the Darling Hill to escape the Old Bill.”
Peter was going the following day to the east coast over The Darling Range. Relief made him feel as if his life had been extended by decades. A man being removed from a police van had hunched shoulders, like an illness was stopping the arrested man from moving normally.
Now it's his turn, Peter thought, to experience the injustice virus.
“I feel healthy again,” Peter said. “The immune system’s ability to resist the plague of injustice depends upon influence and money.”
"So," Mike asked, "you won't be around for the trial?"
"No chance. I'm not coming back for years."
He wouldn't be chased interstate for his offence.
Two years later, when he came home, his father said, suddenly remembering in the middle of a story he was telling: “Oh, yes, they chased you for not appearing in court, but don’t worry, a friend of mine in the CIB took care of it. Anyway, when this woman laughed......”