As I hide behind an industrial bin, over yonder in the community bank Bill’s still noisily firing away at all and sundry with that Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun of his.
Man, God alone knows how he’d managed to smuggle that damn weapon into the country. He’s been shot in the hip by a heroic security guard, a man who a few moments later had accidentally shot himself in the knee with his own pistol and promptly fainted.
Bill appears to going out in a blaze of die-hard truculence, but he’s really trying to draw attention away from me.
It’s not going to work, however. Three hundred metres away from the community bank, two police Tactical Response officers are approaching me, although they don’t know it yet, using standard two-by-two, cover-encroach, cover-encroach, leapfrogging formation. If they stick with this effective time-tested tactic they’ll soon eventually corner me.
I have been a good girl.
I went to church, studied hard, collected tadpoles, sang in a choir, did my homework, got my exercise books be-splattered with stick-on stars. You remember that goody-two shoes with double ponytails who sat erect in the front of the class and whose handwriting was as flawless as electronic cursive? That was me.
I even read the Gospels, back before the Da Vinci Code addled the credulous. I read Christian scripture, both heretical and orthodox. After Christ was executed for sedition, his elder brother James took over his movement. Saint Peter and Saint Paul went crawling on their hands and knees to this man. Check it all out in Galatians; it’s in the New Testament; it’s in your local library. It’s probably got my fingerprints all over it.
And while being a trusting teenage virgin with braces nothing horrendous happened to me. No brain-dead teachers, no wicked sadistic nuns, no socially-inept paedophiles, none of that. Most of the nuns I met were hard-working intelligent individuals who at times seemed half-embarrassed by much of their church hierarchy’s pointless doctrines. My parish priest was a good man who welcomed everyone equally. He read TV Week avidly, he kept budgies, he set up a toolshed behind his house where children could go and he would help them fix their bicycles.
He could say silly things (“I love crosswords, but not cross words”); he could say insightful things (“Just ask any parliamentarian to actually spell ‘parliamentarian’ and see how far you get.”)
I have been a strong girl.
“Girls are weak, throw them in the creek; boys are strong, like King Kong,” the boys at my primary school had sung, but I was accepted by the Royal Military College Duntroon for officer training. I learnt how to abseil over a hundred metres of sheer cliff face, how to force-march tens of kilometres with a fifty-kilo rucksack on my back, how to break-and-make a Steyr AUG assault semi-automatic, how to slowly squeeze the trigger of a bolt-action sniper rifle as good as Lee Harvey Oswald on a sunny October day.
A lot of the time I did all of these things with nothing but adrenalin in my gut and fear in my mouth.
During training I enjoyed the sneers of men (“Those veins on your biceps, c’mon, is that sexy?”); I enjoyed the sneers of women (“Get real, men only respect feminine women, no matter what they might say to your face”). I passed second in my class, along the jolly and merry way being blessed with two perforate eardrums, a dislocated ankle and a lacerated anus. I got a tattoo of Yakuza dragon on my upper left back to commemorate my graduation.
I have been a loving girl.
He was a Captain, married to a general’s daughter. He had a dangerous smile like young Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. He had eyes as green as the Caribbean Sea on the Discovery Channel. He had a sense of humour that could have cracked open an old Greek widow and make her beam like a giddy-wild five-year-old child.
He had a slabbed body as hard as road train tyres and I did worshipfully do sweet obeisance to as much of it as I could. I lick-flitted his eyelids, breathed into his ears, smeared his lips raw, nibbled his nipples. I blew him out like a professional; greasing my hands and churning his member clockwise and anti-clockwise while suckling on the proud bulb of his glans. “Arise, my beautiful one,” as it says in the Song of Solomon. “Arise, and come with me.”
I have been a sad girl.
I was drummed out of the army when a stray message on a mobile phone prompted the wife of my beautiful Captain to marshal Daddy’s considerable official malevolence to swiftly deep-six my promising military career. My Captain held the fort, of course; the last I heard, he’s a Major now.
You on Civvy Street get excited over movies with computer animation; you get excited over rock stars who handle electric guitars. In the Army, we’re handling ordinance and weaponry that would make a psychopath ejaculate cross-eyed. Excitement is in the air and drugs are everywhere. Marijuana, ecstasy, amphetamines, whatever – I’d done them all before, strictly party-time, of course. Stripped away from a regimental social framework, however, I didn’t take drugs any more, I did them.
All the numb stuff hurt the most. The casual and bland humiliation of the job agencies, the insecurity of having to lie to Centrelink just get anything, the dial tone on a wide-open phone, the blindness of whole nights of soundless television, and beers and beers and beers of sheer boredom. I did drugs to put me asleep, I did drugs to wake me up.
Within two years, I was addicted to heroin.
The escort agency was a middle-sized one. There were hardcore big-titted blonde bitch-faces who croaked and smoked too much, and who didn’t know how to do much else. There were part-time exercise instructors whose hard-won healthiness had left them with chronic injuries. There were Asian chicks with delusions of Catholicism and wildly oscillating gambling debts. There were Nordic backpackers who didn’t say much and who left after a few weeks. There were talkative university goddesses, most of them Law students, who babbled on endlessly about HECS fees but who nonetheless dressed like leading actresses in an American crime series.
I was the only junkie there, I shit thee not.
Thankfully the place had an air of respectability, which meant that most of its clients were fifty-something-year-old dead-roots. They were dead-roots mostly because many of their ex-partners actually were dead, or worse still had savagely and decisively divorced them thus taking them to the financial clappers.
That was where I re-connected with Sergeant Bill Johnston. He was one of my agency’s send-outs; and when I knocked on his flat’s door I instantly saw that Customer Seventeen had once-upon-a-time been one of my drill instructors at Duntroon.
Paid sex can often be expensive for the client, even though it can make the service-provider feel cheap. Talk is always cheap, though. He was drunk, and when he saw me, suddenly not really in the mood, so we did the next best thing and we talked, and talked, and talked.
I had some hash on me and he had some coke, so we shared. He had also been dismissed from the Defence Force. His Army short-back-and-sides had metamorphosed into a bogan mullet, and as we drank and smoked and snorted and talked, he made a proposition.
He mentioned a certain community bank, as juicy as Vietnamese mangoes. Then he speculated about what two individuals with military training were capable of.
Hang on, one of the Tactical Response Officers nearing me is receiving a radio message through his collar mike. Both of them freeze their formation. They’re so near I can hear the incoming message.
First offender confirmed dead, it says. A self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Second offender reliably sighted by eye-witness entering a blue late-model Holden and proceeding along Macquarie Street. Return to Queen’s Street rendezvous.
After they scramble away, I ditch my shottie in the industrial bin. I peel off my balaclava and overalls and dump them there as well. I round the alley-way and calmly walk out into a suburb street, a hundred and fifty thousand Australian dollars in the black Caribee sportsbag hanging loosely from my left shoulder. I will bury most of the money somewhere up the Blue Mountains. A passport will get me to New Zealand, and from there I’ll eventually fly to Canada.
I know it’s just the adrenalin turning on the lights, but as I stroll down the street’s footpath I suddenly feel like I’m alive, really alive, alive for the first time; like my whole body is made of sunshine.
I had done cold turkey two weeks ago to prepare for the robbery, fully intending to afterwards fall back into Sister Morphine’s ever-loving arms.
But I now know that I’m never going back. …. No god, no duty, no lust, no drug – none of these have unleashed the sheer, but calm, ecstatic frenzy that at once binds me with Death’s cruel lick while also promising that, right-here right-now, I will never die.
I’m going to rob banks again. Crime has paid. Crime has given me my life back again.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child,” says Saint Paul. “When I became grown, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor refection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Ah, childhood’s end.