Hard landing, p.1
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       Hard Landing, p.1

           Peter Menadue
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Hard Landing



  Peter Menadue

  Copyright 2017 Peter Menadue

  Cover illustration: copyright Michael Mucci at michaelmucci.com


  The bush capital series

  Crooked House

  Paper Man


  Big Dirt

  The Gary Maddox series

  Not Dead Yet

  Other novels

  Overdue Item

  Inside Out

  Webster City


  Torn Silk

  Murder Brief


  "Where's Arnott?"

  The voice sounded far away. Tony Tam's mind floated up towards consciousness and broke the surface. His ribs ached and each gasp produced blood.

  What happened to him? He scurried around inside his brain searching for a memory and slammed into a big black wall. He forced his eyes open. Bright light made him squint. A bald-headed brute was leering down at him, waving a pistol. Holy shit. Now he remembered: he came to feed the cat and two guys jumped out of nowhere and demanded to know where Patrick Arnott had gone. He said he didn't know and they beat the hell out of him.

  Baldy said: "Where's Arnott?"

  Tony tried to smile at the pistol, but his face hurt and he coughed up blood. "Dunno, honest. Came to feed the cat. Let me go - please let me go."

  "Then you're no fuckin' use to us."

  The second guy, behind Tony, said: "Let's get rid of him."

  They picked up Tony and carried him across the room. A cool breeze touched his face. Where were they going? He saw the balcony railing. Oh, shit. No, no. Fear shook him to life. He writhed and grabbed at the railing, and missed.

  The world tipped upside down and he plunged towards the ground, clawing at the air. His mind went into overdrive. Ten storeys to fall. Only ten. There was a big swimming pool below the balcony. That should save him. But he recently voted with the other residents to have it emptied and cleaned. Oh fuck. He screamed, threw out his arms and landed face-first in the bottom of the pool.


  A solicitor called Terry Fraser asked Gary Maddox to serve a Supreme Court bankruptcy petition on a guy called Leo Parker. "I've already used a couple of process servers and he's given them the slip. That's why I need your help."

  "You mean, you now want the best in the business?"

  Terry rolled his eyes. "If you say so."

  "Got an address?"

  "Yeah." Terry recited an address in Ashfield which Gary wrote down.

  "What does he look like?"

  "Don't know. The credit card company doesn't have a photo. But it knows he's 39."

  Gary drove over to the address in Ashfield and knocked on the front door wearing an 'Australia Post' shirt and holding a large brown parcel stuffed with old newspapers.

  A tall, chubby guy in his late thirties opened the door and looked suspicious.

  Gary smiled. "Hello. I'm from Australia Post. I have a delivery for Mr Leo Parker. Are you him?"

  A slight hesitation. "No, definitely not."

  "Really? This is his address."

  "No, he used to live here. He moved out a couple of weeks ago."

  Gary squinted at the man. "Really? Are you sure? I think you're Leo Parker."

  "No, I'm not."

  Before Gary could stick out his foot, the man jumped back and slammed the door shut.

  Damn. Gary felt bloody stupid standing there, holding the parcel. But anger soon pushed that emotion aside.

  Gary opened the letter box and found several items of mail addressed to "Leonard Parker". He tore them open and found a letter from a printing company in Erskineville that confirmed the terms and conditions upon which Parker was now employed as a salesman.

  The next evening, Gary sat in his car outside the printing firm and watched everyone leave. Just after six, Parker left with two other men. They strolled around the corner to a small pub called the Lord Nelson. It was an old-style pub that only offered beer on tap, and salted nuts and chips to eat. The beer-stained carpet and dust-laden chandeliers made the gloomy lighting something of a blessing. A line of antique poker machines stood against the wall like aging hookers.

  In the main bar, several old guys sat on stools at the counter, hunched over their beers like boundary riders at the end of a long day. They had run out of stories to tell and were waiting for the farce to end. A couple of Maoris were playing pool on an undulating and torn baize surface.

  Gary slipped into a corner booth and watched Parker and his mates, sitting at a table, drinking hard and talking shit. They meticulously compared the tits of women at work. A secretary called Rosa seemed to have the finest orbs, although their authenticity was in doubt. Parker kept emitting a braying laugh that created lesions on Gary's brain.

  After downing three schooners, Parker got to his feet and headed for the lavatory. Gary followed him and found it deserted, except for a closed cubicle door. He considered waiting for Parker to emerge, but why give the bastard another chance to escape? He shoved the door. The lock snapped and it swung open.

  Parker sat on the loo, pants around his ankles, wearing the rapt expression of a praying monk. He looked like a deadly snake had just bitten him between the toes.

  Gary said: "Sorry to bother you. I'm looking for Leo Parker. Is he in here?"

  "Who the fuck're you? Get out."

  Parker started to rise and Gary shoved him back down.

  Gary said: "Don't bother getting up. Surely, you remember me."

  Recognition slapped Parker across the face. "Umm, ah, no, I've never seen you before."

  "Really? I knocked on your front door yesterday. You slammed it in my face."

  Parker scowled like a man trapped in a toilet stall with his pants around his ankles. "Dunno what you're talking about. Whaddaya want?"

  "You know exactly what I want. I want to serve court papers on you."

  "What fuckin' court papers?"

  "A bankruptcy petition; a credit card company wants your shirt."

  "Dunno what you're talking about. Don't even own a credit card. You've got the wrong guy."

  "Bullshit. You're Leo Parker, right?"

  "No, I'm … umm … Dennis Nelson, yes Dennis Nelson."

  Any relation to the pub? Gary sighed. A jacket hung behind the door. He felt inside it and took out a wallet. Ignoring the guy's protests, he fished out the driver's licence of "Leonard Bruce Parker". It had a photo of the man on the loo.

  Gary slipped the licence back inside the wallet and returned the wallet to the jacket. "Why does your driver's licence say you're Leonard Parker?"

  Parker scowled again. "OK, I'm Leo Parker. So fuckin' what?"

  Gary opened his jacket, extracted the petition and held it out. "I now serve you with this petition."

  "I'm not gonna take it," Parker said and crossed his arms defiantly.

  "Doesn't matter. I've just got to put it down in front of you."

  As Gary bent down, Parker grabbed the petition, slipped it between his legs into the toilet bowl and looked triumphant.

  Gary wanted to use the toilet seat as a collar. "Listen, shithead - may I call you that? - you've been served, so it doesn't matter what you do with the petition. But, just for your information, I'm going to give you another one. You drop it in the toilet and you'll follow it, understand? I don't care what you find down there."

  Gary opened his jacket, took out a copy of the petition and stuffed it into Parker's shirt pocket. Parker looked sullen, but didn't touch it.

  Gary took out his smartphone and pointed it at Parker.

  "What the fuck're you doing?"

  "Smile for the camera." Gary pho
tographed a glum-looking Parker with the petition in his top pocket. "Good. Carry on with what you were doing, and don't forget to wash your hands."



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