Read The Big Whatever Online

Authors: Peter Doyle

The Big Whatever (3 page)

BOOK: The Big Whatever

I walked quietly down the side of the house to my room above the garage, drew the blinds before turning on the light, sat down at the small table and took the paperback out of my bag.

So Cathy and I went back to the Castle. We made love. Crazy acid love. Cathy knew everything and did anything. Mad sweet bad Cathy, who'd gone to Vietnam as a nurse, become a go-go dancer, made a pile as a booking agent, yet somehow come back to Australia stony broke. Cathy who'd smoked opium with soul brothers in the fleshpots of Saigon, who'd spent 1966 in Paris with the anarchists. Cathy who knew everything. Cathy who RUINED MY GODDAMNED LIFE. The sad truth, my young hellions.

But back on that night, all was warm and soft and dark, and I was the most blissed-out cat in the world.

We slept until two the next day, made love again – slooooooowly – then slept some more. I woke up with the sun low in the sky. Whoa – bad, weird, too bright, wrong-time late afternoon vibe!

I lit a slim joint and got my head nearly right. I was sitting there propped up in bed, slowly coming to, grooving on the early evening sounds when the phone rang downstairs and I heard Cathy's voice.

Half an hour later, Dutch Harry was waiting for me in the lounge room, listening to a Miles Davis record, drinking white wine from a flagon. Big, red-faced, long-haired, wild-eyed.

“At last!”

“Hiya Harry. Where's Cathy?”

“Out there. I'm here with money, my friend.”

“Oh yeah?”

yeah!” He waved a roll of notes in front of me. “You got weed? Like, a pound.”

I scratched my head. The phone in the kitchen went off again. Cathy picked it up on the first ring

“It's for this guy I know,” Harry said. “He might even go for two pounds if you can get it.”

“I'll make a call,” I said.

Out in the kitchen, Cathy was smoking a cigarette.

“What does
want?” she said quietly.

I held up one finger, then two.


I shook my head. “Pounds. Who was on the phone?”

“No one.” Cathy went out of the room.

I rang Alex direct, breaking protocol slightly – Johnny normally dealt with him.

Alex, better known as ‘the Greek,' didn't seem to mind. He wasn't holding now, he said, but something might be on a little later. He'd make a call, ring back in five. He was oddly nervous.

I left Harry playing records and drinking his flagon, and went upstairs to wait. It was warm, so I opened a window. Cathy was lying on the bed. I lay down beside her and put my arm out to her, but she reached over and lit a smoke.

“How much money has Harry got?” Cathy said.

“Why do you ask?”

Downstairs the phone rang. I ran down, got to it in time. The Greek. He was onto something. Afghani hash. Really good, he said, but we'd have to be quick – it had just arrived, and it was all happening that afternoon. A hundred an ounce, minimum purchase half a pound.

Jesus, big amounts. “I can't manage that,” I said.

Cathy had followed me into the kitchen and was waving at me.

“What's he say?” she whispered.

“Hang on a minute, Alex.” I cupped the phone. “Hash. He's got ounces. Good gear, but eight ounces is the minimum buy.”

Cathy bit her thumbnail, then whispered, “Tell him we'll take it.”


But she was gone.

“Alex,” I said into the phone. “Just wait another second.”.

Cathy skipped back into the room. “Harry wants the hash. Better than weed. I can flog the rest.”

I looked at her.

“Go on, tell him. I'll ring my buyer.” She put her head down and gave me that look. “This will work out for us, Mel.”

“All right,” I said to Alex, “It's on.”

He told me to meet him in Oxford Street in an hour.

I took Harry's money and sent him away, told him I'd ring him as soon as I had the gear.

When I went back to the kitchen Cathy was on the phone again. She waved me away. I hesitated. She turned around, whispered, “Mel,

I stood there and looked at her.

She said, “Hang on” into the phone, covered the mouthpiece, fixed me with that incredible gaze and whispered calmly, “Listen, babe, why don't you go fill your station wagon, check the oil and water and all that. We'll do this deal. We'll get some nice cream off the top.” She gave me a deliciously evil smile. “And then let's take a long, long drive.”

“Where to?”

ever. This is it, Mel, right now. No time to waste.” She stepped up closer to me, laid her hand on my chest, let it slip down below my waist, slowly, and said, “You for it?”

Christ, was I for it? She had me. Those beautiful legs, that auburn hair, those breasts, that wonderful devious mind, they all had me, and I was GONE GONE GONE. I didn't think about where we were heading. I didn't think about the trouble I was making for myself. Like the fact that officially Cathy was still hooked up with Johnny, my lifelong best pal and a beautiful soul, but maybe not the smartest cat in the world, nor the most honest, to tell you the
truth (Sorry Johnny, if you're out there, but I'm just telling it like it is). No, I was lost, and I didn't think or care, and even if I'd known we were setting off on a GHOST HIGHWAY DEATH TRIP I probably still would have gone. That, my friends, is how fucking crazy Mel Parker was.

So I took the car and tanked up while Cathy cooked up her crazy bitch's brew.


When I got back Cathy was ready. She wore jeans and an old collarless shirt, no makeup, hair tied back. That pony tail – man, I could write a fucking book about the way it bounced.

“All right,” I said, “Let's go.”

She shook her head. “First things first.”

She rooted through her shoulder bag, brought out a pill
bottle, tipped out four purple hearts.

“Here you go, lover boy,” she said and dropped them in my palm, then tipped out another four for herself.

I washed the stuff down and my goddamn brain
I knew in my head and in my heart that everything would be cool, that whatever was to go down, there was no wrong move for us, no mistake, no false step.

But we don't know what lies before us, and if we did know, would we do anything differently? Plenty to ponder there, my young lonesome travellers. Me, I wasn't doing
thinking that night – I was just reading the charts, playing my part, not knowing the arranger had scored a coda of pure mayhem for Crazy Daddy Mel Parker. Right then, I was blowing the sweet solo of the angels.

We drove to a big old house in Paddington. Cathy had me wait in the car around the corner while she ran in. She came back five minutes later smiling, waving a fat envelope in my face, “Got money, baby!”


She shook her head. “Mugs,” she muttered. “Forget 'em. Let's go.”

I stopped just before Taylor Square. Alex was outside the Oxford Gate, chewing on a shish kebab. Long curly hair, a thick beard, patent leather shoes – he looked half spiv, half hippie. I tapped the horn and he strolled over. He eyed us slowly – baby, we were
– and then told me to drive to Bondi Junction, park near the corner of York Road and wait.

We drove along Oxford Street, my hands white-knuckled on the wheel, teeth grinding. We turned into York Road, parked and waited.

After fifteen minutes the Greek came to the window, leaned over, nervous. “Five ounces?”

I nodded.

“Give me the money. Take your car out of the way around the corner. I'll bring it to you there.”

“I'm coming with you.”

“You can't.”

“No try, no buy.”

He looked at me hard, then shook his head. “Jesus, all
. But you'll have to give me the tax, just the same. Park the car. Don't bring the girl.” He walked off.

“He's desperate,” said Cathy quietly.

I took Cathy's money, put it with Harry's, counted out the necessary, put the rest in my back pocket.

Alex was waiting at the corner. We walked a couple of hundred yards down the road to a nondescript semi with an unmown lawn. He knocked quietly. Thirty seconds later he knocked again. The door was opened on the last knock by some long-haired Rasputin cat. We went in. Two bikeys with bandit moustaches, a straight-edged, short-haired bloke, a surfie, and a bearded guy were sitting in the lounge room. There were open cans of beer on the coffee table. No one was speaking.

“Take a seat,” said the long-haired bloke. “They'll be here in a minute.”

I sure didn't feel like waiting. I glanced at the bikey blokes. They looked like trouble. The smaller one saw me staring.

“What's up your arse, grandpa?”

I said to the Greek, “Fuck this, if there's no dope I'm going home.”

There was a knock at the door and Rasputin got up again.

I heard the door open and two or three voices. Rasputin came back in, then he and the surfie disappeared into the kitchen. The surfie came back a minute later, gave us the thumbs-up sign, gestured for us to wait there, went back to the kitchen. I got up and followed him in. The Greek, behind me, whined, “Mel!

The kitchen reeked of greasy, pungent hash.
hash. Sitting at the table was a guy named Drew, a shifty piece of
work, ex-private school, disgraced playboy, widely regarded as a slime and rip-off merchant. In front of him on the table were blocks of hash wrapped in cellophane, each about the size of a half-pound pack of butter, and a cutting board, a knife, a set of chemist's scales. Somebody was noisily taking a leak in the toilet. Drew, who didn't like me (and who, for the record, I didn't like in return), glanced my way then back to the scales, on which sat a big cube of hash.

Rasputin was over at the kitchen bench rolling a joint. “I said to wait outside, man.” He started walking towards me, shepherding me out. “I'll bring a smoke out to you.”

At that point the back door opened and Cathy walked into the kitchen holding my Smith and Wesson.

Okay, you're wondering why would mellow cat Mel Parker own a fucking roscoe? Well that's just how it is, all right? I've never hurt anyone with it, not really, but it's helped me out of more than a couple of tight corners.

So there was Cathy, holding my pistol. As steady as you like, too. Of all the things I was thinking right then, the main one was that she was fucking magnificent.

The room became very still, everyone staring at Cathy. She pointed the gun at Rasputin and then at Drew. She said to me, “The dope any good?”

“What are you doing?” I said to her.

She ignored me. To Rasputin she said, “Light that joint and give it to me.”

He did. She inhaled deeply, still holding the gun in her right hand. She kept the smoke down for a good while, let it out slowly, took another quick toke and passed it to me.

“My compliments to the cook. Get it, Mel, and let's go.”

“What?” I took a toke and passed it to Alex.

Johnny Malone came out of the toilet buttoning his fly. He looked at Cathy, the gun, the dope, then at me, and stopped, his face expressionless.

The bikey came in from the lounge room, clocked the crazy tableau and said, “The fuck's this?”

Drew stood up from the table, took a step towards Cathy. She lifted the gun at him, gave it a shake. He grinned and took another step. She shot him in the middle of the chest. He fell like a sack of cabbages, a hundred and ten percent dead.

She pointed the gun at Rasputin, then the bikey. The surfie had seen enough already. The others piled into the kitchen, and stopped. Cathy stood there holding the gun like nothing much had happened.

“We're taking the dope,” she said. “We'll leave one block. You can divide it up among yourselves. Gratis. You can tell your people we took it all, if that helps.” She pointed at the body on the floor. “Mel, check his pockets.”

There were three fat rolls of twenties in his kick. Cathy motioned for me to put them on the table. “A quick whip-round now, boys,” she said, pointing the gun from one to the other. They slowly emptied their pockets. Every man present had been set on scoring, so the money pile was not inconsequential.

The Greek said, “Jesus fucking
” He looked at me and shook his head. “Oh no.” He flopped onto a kitchen chair. “This is so heavy.”

With her free hand Cathy separated a roll of twenties from the money pile and put the rest in one of the bags of dope. She pushed the role of twenties towards the stunned dope fiends.

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