Bad Debts

Lire ebook Bad Debts
Auteur: Peter Temple

Bad Debts
I’m in deep shit. Can you meet me in the carpark of the Hero of Trafalgar in Brunswick? It’s off Sydney Road. Seven o’clock tonight? I wouldn’t ask only I’m shitting myself, okay? Cheers.
    The man said it was Saturday, 25 July, 3.46 p.m.
    There were no more messages, just a lot of silences and disconnections. Danny McKillop? The name still meant nothing. I rang the number. No answer. I put on Mahler, made a beef stew, opened a bottle of wine, rang my sister and listened for half an hour. The day passed.
    On Monday, Cameron Delray, the small man’s enigmatic footsoldier, picked me up at Taub’s Cabinetmaking in Fitzroy. It’s in Carrigan’s Lane, a grubby one-way that runs down to Smith Street, Collingwood. Cam blocked the street with his Kingswood. I was at the back of the shop making myself useful, ripping some ash for a bureau carcass. I switched off the machine with my knee and took off my helmet.
    Cam gave me a nod and walked over to where Charlie Taub was fine-tuning some clamps on a George III writing table.
    ‘G’day, boss,’ Cam said. ‘How’s the apprentice coming on?’
    ‘Not bad,’ said Charlie, taking the long-dead cheroot out of his mouth and looking at it. ‘Five, six years, he’ll make a joint that fits. Then I’ll sell him the business and retire.’
    I was taking off my leather apron. ‘Retire at ninety?’ I said. ‘Premature, that’s what they’ll say. Best work still ahead of him.’
    Cam said, ‘Get along without the boy for a bit?’
    ‘I’ll try,’ Charlie said. ‘Fifty years on my own, if I’m ready yet I don’t know.’ He gave me his appraising look from under the exploding grey eyebrows. ‘I blame myself,’ he said. ‘Introducing you to Harry Strang.’
    I said, ‘Don’t torture yourself, Charlie. People have introduced me to a lot worse than Harry Strang. By a factor of about three thousand.’
    ‘Horse business,’ Charlie said. ‘Never met a man it didn’t ruin.’
    ‘I should be so lucky to be ruined like Harry Strang,’ I said. ‘I’m scared Harry’ll die before he ruins me.’
    ‘Material possessions,’ Charlie said. He lit the cheroot with a kitchen match and coughed for a while, waving the smoke away with a hand the size of a tennis racquet. ‘Material possessions he’s got. Otherwise, a ruined man. Ruined.’
    Cam’s Kingswood smelt faintly of expensive perfume. The radio was on. An ABC voice, rich with authority, was saying:
    The Premier, Dr Marcia Saunders, today defended the six hundred million dollar Yarra Cove project.
    Approving the project, which will transform a large section of the west bank of the Yarra, was one of the new government’s first acts.
    Dr Saunders said she and her party had for years in opposition called for a number of large Melbourne developments to be given the go ahead.
    The Premier’s voice, hoarse, slightly too loud, the voice of someone you interrupt at your peril, followed.
    The previous government was so obsessed by its

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