Read Through the Cracks Online

Authors: Honey Brown

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense

Through the Cracks (6 page)

BOOK: Through the Cracks
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W
hen Adam woke, Scotty was standing in the doorway, eating an apple. He was dressed in tight jeans and a T-shirt. His hair was slicked back. His face was small and pale and he was wearing wire-framed glasses. Adam knew it was Scotty because it was the same wound-up voice he’d heard talking to Billy.

‘Thought you were never gonna wake up. I have to go down to a van. If you pinch something, I’ll know. I don’t care if you shoot through, just don’t take none of my stuff when you do. By that I mean clothes too.’

He glanced at Adam’s feet. He took another bite of the apple, chewed open-mouthed. Frowning, he moved his gaze up Adam’s body.

‘How long you been sleeping rough?’

When Adam didn’t answer, Scotty took another bite and turned away.

‘You can have an apple,’ he said over his shoulder, his mouth full, ‘and you can turn the TV on, but that’s it.’

Scotty went out through the kitchen. There was the rattle of keys being taken from the board of hooks and the click of thongs, the squeak and slam of the back door. Adam listened to him walking away. It was amazing how much he could hear. He pulled up the bedsheet curtain. The window was wide open. Warm air floated in. Adam walked tenderly on his sore feet into the kitchen. He hadn’t noticed the tall red toolbox by the fridge before. It was on wheels. Each drawer had a lock. Adam took an apple and sat at the kitchen table. He thought about Monty and Jerry, tried to picture their new home in the daytime. Adam touched his fingers to his lips as he chewed. Green apples were so tart they made his eyes water.

Adam compared the situation now to that of being in the backroom. Aside from the sights, sounds, smells and colours, things weren’t so different. He couldn’t get up and leave. He had nowhere to go. He couldn’t guess what was going to happen next. All he had was the chair under him, the table surface, the lino against his feet, his body and his thoughts. There was safety and familiarity in that. Comfort in that. At most, Adam could give a little something of himself over to the inanimate things. He touched and rubbed the table edge, grazed his knuckles on the clean, shiny surface, brushed the pad of his thumb on the discoloured foam poking through a split in the cushioned seat. It felt good doing that. Even if he was only trusting
things
, not people or situations. It was better that than trusting nothing. Adam was able to sink into the realness of his nail scratching the brown apple stalk. It became everything for a moment. Uncomplicated. A world of sorts. Where very little happened and there were so few elements that it was impossible to get hurt. No matter where he was, in the backroom or outside of it, he could focus in and settle down, concentrate on small things, block out the rest. Until everything was simple and it all made perfect sense.

Scotty came back with a meat pie in a white paper bag. He made Adam a glass of orange cordial. The drink and pie were new to Adam. He could tell Scotty realised this. The man’s frown deepened. He was over at the sink and kept glancing across. The phone rang. Scotty dried his hands and answered it. He leaned against the wall.

‘Oh yeah. I know. Oh right. Okay. Oh yeah. Not like that one we saw the other day? Nah. Yeah. Gotta tighten them bolts after a bit. I reckon too.’

There was a knock at the door. Scotty clicked his fingers and pointed down the hallway.
Fuck off
, he mouthed.

Adam took what remained of his pie and went down to wait in the bathroom. He sat on the edge of the bath. The spider hadn’t moved. Adam finished the pie and placed the white paper bag on the ground. He rubbed his tongue along his teeth, eyed the toothbrush and toothpaste on the shelf. In the kitchen Scotty was talking to a woman. She had a husky, laughing voice. Adam wiped the flaky bits of pastry off his face. The back door banged shut. It was quiet.

Adam stayed in the bathroom. He sat against the wall, knees up, facing the bath. He thought of ways to save the spider without touching it. He used the white paper bag to sweep the spider up the side of the bath. He sat back down and watched it crawl off behind a piece of lifted and rotted skirting board.

B
illy came back dressed in a new set of clothes, tight black shorts and a white tank top with a wide blue stripe across the chest. The sneakers he had on were the same as before. Adam didn’t mean to, but he stared. It was as though Billy wasn’t the same boy who’d walked into Adam’s father’s lounge room. He wasn’t that much taller than Adam. The bristles on the sides of his face were gone. His lips were large and soft. A curly lock of hair cupped his earlobe.

‘Kid, you’re staring.’

Adam looked away.

Scotty was standing in the hallway. He jerked his thumb towards the lounge room. ‘A word?’

Billy winked at Adam.

Although they spoke in lowered voices Adam could hear them from the kitchen.

‘That kid’s not normal,’ Scotty said.

‘He’s all right.’

‘No, he’s not. What’s the story with him?’

‘He was hanging around.’

‘Something’s not right. He’s not a street kid. He’s not a runaway.’ Scotty’s voice dropped further. Adam strained to hear. ‘You can see he’s not right.’

‘That’s not very nice.’

‘Don’t be a dickhead.’

‘We need to hang out here until tomorrow.’

‘No way.’

‘You won’t even know we’re here. We’ll watch TV, we won’t eat.’

‘Stop fucking around.’

‘I need a pair of shoes then.’

‘No.’

‘You reckon you feel sorry for him, give him a pair of shoes.’

‘Why are you turning into such an arse?’

‘I walked him all the way here, right? I could have left him where I found him, and, let me tell you, where I found him wasn’t great.’

‘I’ll give you a pair of shoes if you swear you’ll take him somewhere. Take him to that joint down near the old pool. Do that and then come back here.’

‘Yeah, all right.’

‘Come on, Billy, that kid needs help, don’t fuck around.’

‘I said all right.’

‘All right then.’

As well as Scotty’s sneakers, Adam got a pair of socks, a pair of tracksuit pants and a faded black T-shirt. The sneakers fitted okay. The clothes were baggy. Billy crouched and pushed Adam’s fingers away when he saw that he couldn’t tie the laces.

Billy and Adam walked out through the front gates of the caravan park. Adam realised how close they were to bushland. Streets and roads, shops and houses extended all the way up to the base of a tree-filled hill. They began down the sloping pavement, away from the bush. Billy lit a smoke.

‘It’s all around that Joe died of a heart attack. Cops can spread something like that, though, so everyone relaxes and starts to talk. It’s gotta be like we weren’t there, that’s the best way. Yeah?’

‘Will someone move in there?’

‘Hey?’

‘Will someone move into the house?’

‘I dunno. What sort of question is that? Some relo will get it, I guess. Whoever moves in isn’t going to be your long-lost aunt or uncle, if that’s what you’re getting at.’

‘Will they bury him?’

‘Of course they’ll bury him. Are you upset he’s dead or something? Don’t give them nothing, kid, not even when they’re dead. Every word out of their mouths is shit. They lie so you don’t know up from down. Whatever bullshit he told you, you’ve gotta forget it. Do you want a smoke?’

Adam shook his head.

B
illy stole a car. It was parked in a quiet street. They hung back a moment before walking up to it. It was old and yellow. The seats were covered in grey fabric. He reached in through a small side window to unlock it, fiddled under the dash to start it.

‘Zippy little thing,’ he said as they drove off.

Adam wound his window down and looked at the houses and the shops. He looked at the yards. They went past a school. The buildings were narrow and low. It had a cricket ground and a playground. Children were outside. It was a hot day. Above the sound of the traffic were the sounds of the children’s squeals and shouts. Billy was talking, names and places, words, explanations, things Adam didn’t understand, said too fast to try to grasp. As Billy spoke he kept glancing across, frowning at Adam the same way Scotty had. He knew. Anyone who really looked could spot it, couldn’t they? The way Adam didn’t belong. But what could Adam say to change that? He doubted his lips would make the shapes or that his tongue could form the words; if his head could barely think of the things his father had done, how could he find a way to speak them? And how would saying them help? Adam was pretty sure an explanation would only push Billy away.

Billy fell quiet. He pulled the car into a narrow street.

They got out and shut the doors.

‘Those shoes all right, kid? Need me to tighten the laces? We’ll get you some better gear, hey? You’re real pale. You feeling all right? You need food. You need some sun. We’ll get you sorted. Watch your step.’

A gust of wind met them as they rounded a corner. The pavement was uneven and littered with empty bottles and cigarette packets. Houses here were joined together, with no front yards. They came to a busy road and waited before crossing it. Adam watched the traffic. He looked at the people who came to stand beside them. One woman had a towel over her shoulder and thongs on her feet, wearing nothing but a bikini and an open shirt. Once over the road Adam saw the reason for the woman’s way of dressing. They were at the beach. It was down some steps and across a strip of grass. The ocean was louder in real life than on TV. Windy. They didn’t go to the water. They stayed beside the road. Adam moved across and walked near the railing, keeping sight of the sand and the sea. Beach air smelled of fried food and traffic. Birds drifted and floated above the waves. Billy tapped Adam’s shoulder. He pointed behind them.

‘That’s the city.’ In the distance were the tops of tall buildings. ‘You seen that before?’

‘No.’

‘What about this?’

Billy stopped by the railing and leaned out over it. Adam held the rail and peered down. Below was a sandy pocket tucked away from the rest of the beach. Music drifted up. Naked people were lying on towels. Being nude clearly didn’t bother them. They were stretched out and relaxed. There weren’t many naked bathers, not compared with the people along the water’s edge. Adam’s mouth grew dry. Blood pulsed behind his eyes. He blinked a dizzy spell away. Billy nudged him.

‘You haven’t seen that before either, I bet.’

‘No.’

‘Watch this.’

He put two fingers in his mouth and whistled down. ‘Cops,’ he called through cupped hands.

The sunbakers sat up and reached for their tops, they wriggled into their shorts and bikini bottoms. They shaded their eyes and looked up. Billy pulled away. Adam quickly straightened. Billy laughed and swiped Adam’s head.

‘Come on.’

They walked along a street lined with shops, chairs and tables on the footpath. Billy and Adam then turned down a side street, and into an alleyway. It smelled of rubbish. Flies buzzed around the tops of bins. Seagulls sat in a row along the fence.

‘I told you Scotty’s a good guy, and now I’m telling you this guy isn’t. Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you alone with him. Don’t say nothing, don’t get nervous, don’t fuck it up. We can stay here until we’re sure everything’s all right.’ Billy shrugged. ‘It’s worth keeping low for a day or two. I hate this prick, but what can you do, yeah?’

Adam hoped keeping low involved getting a drink. He knew he should be concentrating more on the things Billy said, but with so much information it was difficult. Whole sentences melted the moment they entered Adam’s overheated head.

They started up a staircase made of mesh and iron. Adam used the handrail for support. The ache in his lower back had returned.

The bottom floors of the shops were busy, the top floors weren’t. The steps finished at a glossy black door. It opened into what Adam first thought was a large storage area. Framed pictures leaned against the walls. Paint-splattered sheets were spread out on the floor. Then he saw, over by the windows, a long table with paint pots and brushes on it. An easel. Fans spun overhead. Billy closed the door.

A man came out from a room down the back. He had a thick beard and woolly hair. His shorts were baggy and his shirt was loose. He was fat. There was a spray of green paint across his shirt and dots of green on his legs. The man opened his arms.

‘Watch this,’ Billy murmured out of the corner of his mouth. He grinned and said, ‘Vern, you big fucking bear, how’s it going?’

They embraced. Billy whispered something in the man’s ear. He turned his back on the man, winked at Adam.

‘I’ve missed you, William.’

‘Well, I fucking hope so. What’s not to miss?’

For a while it was as though Vern didn’t see Adam. His eyes were fixed on Billy.
William
. When Billy walked to the windows, Vern went too, passing right by Adam, not looking at him, not even a glance. Billy crossed his ankles and leaned against the window frame. He watched the cars and people down on the street. Some of the paintings in the room were of boys in poses very much like Billy’s, at that same window, perhaps. Only when Billy pointed at Adam did Vern switch his attention.

‘That’s Adam. He’s quiet. He needs a haircut.’

Vern smiled gently. There was nothing to read in his eyes. It was Billy he wanted to be looking at.

Vern led them down to the room he’d first come from. It was a kitchen, with a couch squeezed in against one wall and a narrow bed against the other. Takeaway containers covered the table and were scattered on the floor. Vern began clearing away the mess. He kept apologising for it. Billy sank down onto the couch and tipped his head back. He closed his eyes. Vern continued to clean up. Adam perched on the couch beside Billy. Soon the bin was full and Vern had to squash the rubbish down to fit more in.

‘Hey,’ Billy said, without opening his eyes, ‘enough already. Leave it.’

Vern stopped and left the kitchen. He shut the door behind him.

Billy sighed. ‘You’re right, aren’t you, kid, if I have a sleep? You’re good?’

‘Is there a way I can get a drink?’

He answered with his eyes closed. ‘Turning on the tap has always worked for me.’

BOOK: Through the Cracks
12.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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