Part 6: Alberto Drops In To Save The World.
The media frenzy starts to pick up, while Zach finds out about the benefits of the DogKeeper program.
The journalists were still snickering as a large object crash-landed just a tiger-whisker away from where the stunned Brookes was standing, instantly covering him with smithereens of frosted glass.
Both Byron Brookes and his wife knew what it was: an engraved plate thingy he had won for the Up and Coming award for party members under 21, quite a few years ago. He’d always treasured it, as a memento of when he first really began to believe he could make it in politics.
But Jacki Nitaki had watched, silently, the whole shoddy episode with the press. She’d been close enough to hear the video audio clearly, including the “Now you’ve retired, you can spend more time with me, Brookesy wooksy,” part.
“UP AND COMING!!” she roared from the upstairs bedroom balcony. “HOW ABOUT DOWN AND GOING?!”
Brookes looked up, at first with surprise, but then he remembered to flick the boyish switch.
“Jackie, darling, it’s nothing. It’s-”
“DON’T BOTHER BYRON BLOODY BROOKES!”
The camera kept rolling. This is definitely going on the news thought Brett Gee, hardly believing his luck.
Jennarenn Jetsam had whipped out her phone faster than a neocon slashing tax rates and taken a step, filming the whole scene. The frame now filled with Brookes trying to manhandle the cameraman out of the way.
“I’VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE. AND FORGIVEN IT ALL BEFORE. WELL, BEFORE BEFORE NO MORE!” roared on Nitaki, now a cranky Juliet deciding she’d tear up the script and tell that no-good, boozy bounder everything that had been pent up for years.
“NO MORE PLAYING THE TROPHY WIFE! NO MORE PUTTING UP WITH YOUR FLINGS, AND YOUR FLIRTS, AND YOUR GRUBBY HAND UP ANY FLOOZY’S SKIRTS!”
Gaynor Deadwood was, like Gee, taking it all in with a sense of wonderment at the unfolding scene. Pure poetry in them words. He resisted the urge to turn no more flings, no more flirts, no more hands up floozy’s skirts into a chant.
“SO IN CASE YOU PEOPLE DOWN THERE WANT A SCOOP, HERE IT IS!”
She paused dramatically to make sure the cameraman was lining her up properly; Miss Tasmania poise, her equivalent of the boyish allure, and just as instantly available whenever she decided to hit the turbo button.
“IT’S OVER! WE’RE OVER. OUR MARRIAGE IS EVEN MORE OVER THAN YOUR PATHETIC POLITICAL CAREER BYRON BROOKES. AND IN CASE YOU WERE ALL WONDERING, LADIES AND GENTLEMAN OF THE PRESS, AND ALL TASMANIANS OUT THERE, YES THERE ARE MORE SCANDALS TO COME OUT.”
All the journalists blinked.
“BUT SPEAKING OF OUT. THE FIRST THING IS YOU YOURSELF MISTER BROOKES. OUT OF THIS HOUSE. NOW. YOU HAVE THIRTY MINUTES TO PACK YOUR BELONGINGS AND LEAVE!”
“But Jackie, luv, please. There’s a crisis on. Under the coronavirus rules I have to stay at my principal place of residence. And-”
“WELL YOU CAN FUCK THE RULES JUST LIKE YOU FUCK EVERYTHING ELSE BYRON. AND THEN FUCK OFF!”
She stomped in off the balcony and slammed the door shut.
Jetsam quickly took a step forward. The cameraman spun around.
“Do you have anything to stay, Mr Brookes?”
Somewhere off, upstairs probably, there was a Carmina Burana thunderstorm of things getting smashed.
Brookes bent down slowly, picked up a fragment of glass and held it up between forefinger and thumb, gazing at it wistfully.
“I might let you ouit the side gate,” he murmured. “It’ll be safer.”
* * * * *
Later that night Bridgewater Gerry was sitting at home, pretty much as she spent every day now. She had the fire going and was looking at her bookshelf trying to decide to read something on Javanese history or some old Tasmanian poetry.
She’d done a modest story on Brookes, after Jennaren Jetsam had shared her video of the event.
It gave her some satisfaction. After all, she had hounded Brookes for years and had always suspected there might be more scandals hidden away. When a person covers for competence with a flashy grin, you just gotta keep looking she always reminded herself.
And mentally at least she’d clipped an angle on the Nitaki rant for publication in The Comrade. This was her other project and in its own way almost as popular as the nipaluna Newsmonger. The Comrade as a samizdat-published sheet of A4, containing various brief and radical thoughts. All these micro-articles were attributed to variation on the name Geraldine and Gerald: Gerry, Jeri, Jerri, Jerrie, Jerry, Gerald, Jerald, Jerold, Jerrold, Gerhard, Gerhardt, Gearoid, Gerard, Gerardo and so on.
When she had enough material for a Comrade, she’d off about a hundred and walk around town late at night posting them on light poles, signal boxes and alleyway fences. She had been out recently due to the lockdown, but had instead randomly delivered the sheet to a hundred households. Even those with no junk mail stickers.
She put the poetry book down and picked up her phone.
Everyone’s probably thinking Jackie Nitaki’s ranted out. But I might as well see if she wants to spill something.
She pulled up Nitaki’s number and dialled.
Gerry looked sideways at her companion, a plush monkey she’d found abandoned outside a boarded-up house during one of her paste-up runs. Officially he was called Monyet, being the Malay word for monkey. But you can’t call pets by their full name unless you’re furious with them, and he’d been such a good boy since he’d arrived in her life, so it was always Mono.
“Mono,” she called out.
Mono looked back at her.
“What do you think?”
Mono considered the issues of the day carefully.
“Yep, dead right. We’ll send Jackie a text telling her we sympathise with what she’s going through, wait about a quarter of an hour, then call her again.
Mono thought this was an excellent plan.
* * * * *
Zach and Alberto were just heading off to bed. Early.
After the hell of the previous night, they were both running out of steam fast.
“I might make some rice milk hot chocolate with monk fruit sweetener, what do you think?” asked Zach.
“I might go out in the yard and take a dump,” said Alberto. Zach let him out the back door and the tiger disappeared towards his favourite crapping place, down the back corner of the garden behind the shed.
Just then there was another knock at the front door. I hope that’s not Mrs Tweddle again with more advice he sighed as he walked back through the house.
As Zach opened the door he saw two policemen there. One was Sergeant Mark Di Loreto. The other one, standing a pace further back and shining a torch in the doorway, he didn’t recognise.
“Well Mr Zachary Greene,” he said. “We were…in the area…so we decided to drop in and see whether your ‘dog’ has returned. Has he?”
Zach shook his head.
“Are you sure?” The second cop with the torch lowered it a little and was trying to peer down the entrance hall. “Why don’t you invite us in to have a look?”
“Okay,” said Zach quickly, thinking that the faster he got them in and out of the house the better. He decided not to offer them rice milk hot chocolate.
He showed them all the rooms of the house one by one. They finally arrived at the sun-room at the back of the house.
“So that’s that,” said Zach.
“I think we’ll take a look outside,” said Sergeant Di Loreto.
Zach leaped over the light switch and flicked it on and then off again instantly. He opened the door and stepped out. Zach didn’t realise he had an outside voice but he found one.
“I’m sorry Sergeant, the back light is a bit dicky but your police friend there has a big torch I see.” The words boomed out down the yard.
Alberto took a running jump and bounced off an old barrel onto the top of the wooden fence.
He encountered a neighbourhood black and white cat creeping along the fenceline. Alberto couldn’t help himself and tried to sink his teeth into the cat as has momentum carried him past. He missed completely.
Two out of three ain’t bad he said to himself as he landed with soft squish in a mound of rotten apples; Zach’s neighbour was mostly housebound and hadn’t picked any backyard fruit for years.
The startled cat let out a squeal, jumped down off the fence and bolted across Zach’s yard. It was running with such terror it didn’t pick any direction and found itself galloping headlong toward the policeman kneeling down the torch. It looked up and was blinded.
The cat collided heavily with the man’s knee and yelped. As he put out a hand to steady himself, the punchy cat caught a glimpse of its tormentor and sank its teeth into the flesh.
“Aargghhh, you little bastard!” he yelled as the cat turned and bolted again, yowling all the way as it cleared the fence and then finishing with an ear-splitting shriek
Di Loreto came over to his partner, picked up the torch and shone it on his arm. There was a modest trickle of blood seeping through the fingers that were clutching the wound half-way along his forearm.
It’d happened fast – again – but he’d had a good view of it this time. The report was already starting to write itself in his head. An animal, which I am 100 per cent certain was a cat, attacked my fellow officer and …
Maybe needs to be clearer.
I definitely saw a small black and white animal, without any stripes, which I am 100 per cent certain was a cat, attack …
Trying too hard? Change the emphasis.
My fellow offficer slipped on the dew and fell, landing unfortunately upon the teeth of an animal, causing…
Di Loreto rolled his head sideways. This was not going to end well. Even if Donald Sell didn’t kick his butt back to bootcamp, the squad room jokes were now going to be solely about him for the next forever.
Zach pondered whether it might be time for rice milk hot chocoolate with monk fruit sweetener after all. He was just about to speak when Di Loreto snapped back to reality and stared him down.
“What is it with you and animals? Wait, don’t answer that. Yet. You and I are going to have another chat at the station soon.”
Zach gave a sort of wave in the direction of the path around the side of the house. Di Loreto and the other officer made their way out. In a few moments he heard the patrol car drive away.
“Alberto, I know you’re out there. Come back in when you’re ready. I’m going in because it’s getting cold out here.”
He was about to turn and march back into the house when Alberto appeared. The mostly black part of the black and white cat was dangling from his mouth.
“Did I miss all the excitement?” he asked innocently.
* * * * *
Bridgewater Gerry and Jackie Nitaki were having that chat.
They actually knew each other fairly well. At one stage they worked out that they had played netball against each other while at different high schools. It was in recent years, though, that Nitaki had often been courting the press in her own right as CEO of the Housing All Tasmanians non-profit, a prominent lobby group. The nipaluna Newsmonger had been the first to help promote their now-annual Wear A HAT To Work fundraiser day.
“Can’t believe the prick did it again,” sobbed Nitaki. “I mean, I can believe it, that’s what he’s like.”
“Mmmm,” said Gerry.
“I guess … some part of me was thinking that when he left politics, and he wasn’t such a try-hard schmoozer, it would be just us.”
“And yet, there he was planning to spend more time with that, that …”
“Hussy,” suggested Gerry. “Wench. Biddy. Dolled-up harlot. Office trollope. Blowsabella. Fireship.”
Nitaki laughed, for the first time in what seemed a long time.
“Us girls…” said Gerry and just let it hang there. It was a bit rich but, coming from the biggest tom-boy in the history of the island.
“You know Gerry, I feel like going away. I know that travel’s all messed up with the quarantines and all that, but I can at least get ready. Think of somewhere to go. Pack up and get ready.”
“I could suggest a few places in Southeast Asia.”
“I’m not looking to get shot up, just a fresh start,” Nitaki said cheekily. It was Jerry’s turn to laugh. “Maybe New Zealand, I don’t know. I have a cousin there who always says he could use a hand on the farm. Best avocadoes in the Shaky Isles, he reckons.”
“Jackie, you are so not a farmer.”
“Yeah I know, But it would do for a while. Some different scenery, a bit of thinking time. Then put the feelers out and see what’s next.”
“Which is why you should have the video. I’m going to send it you.”
“Byron and his fizzgig are already all over the internet,” said Gerry softly.
“Oh gosh, not that one. The other one. The one I took off his phone while the tosspot was still asleep.”
Gerry had the phone on speaker. After all, Mono needed to listen in. She wrinkled her brow a little.
“Heck no!” said Nitaki, now much brighter. “It’s that animal. The thylacine that you wrote about. I have no idea what Byron had to do with it but he got a good bit of that animal. Does look like a tiger. Stuck its snout right in the camera.”
Mono nearly fell off his perch on the side of Gerry’s big armchair.
The secret’s out, and Alberto is on the run! Join Alberto and Zach’s coronavirus adventure in Part 8 of Alberto Drops In To Save The World next weekend.