Thursday, April 10, 2014

53) The Big Fuck-over.

From early childhood on, the dream that recurred to Arthur the most, other than that of flying, was being in a car rushing out of control down some precipitous slope, and he was most often in the passenger seat, being taken helplessly to his fate. He would scramble to get into the driver’s seat and take-over the wheel but was always confounded by the fact that he didn’t know how to drive and most times all would end in a calamitous crash, everything going dark, and him waking up in fright. Sometimes he was on the curved roof of a bus or train and as it was speeding on into the unknown he would find himself slipping inexorably down the curved surface towards the edge and oblivion. He would cling frantically with his finger tips to the smooth, slippery exterior and no matter how much he was dragged down by speed and gravity, he would fight back and, by sheer willpower and tenacity, crawl his way slowly to the safety of the middle of the roof. Thus he never did fall off the edge.

While he would awake with some trepidation he also felt exhilaration at having survived the ordeal and found his balance. Managing to stay aloft in his unconscious, he felt maybe he had some inner confidence after all, that he could handle the precarious balance of sanity and achievement in the waking world, and that his life might yet stay on the rails. Eventually, at the age of thirty-five, he had a dream in which he was driving the red postal van of his evil twin, Sylvia Saliva, and he looked up in surprise and yelled, “Look, look Sylvie, I’m driving! Ha ha, at last I can drive”, and the next day he went out and got his driver’s license.

In the real, waking world he had settled nicely into his basement flat at Northcott Suicide Towers, as if it was a perfect fit. His film, “Virgin Beasts”, was finished and out of the way, and though no money was coming in, he carried on flirting with the dream of fame and fortune. He needed cash as a launchpad for his dreams and he went back to nursing for a couple of years, working for an agency in Bondi Junction and being sent to every hospital and nursing home in the metropolitan area. Working night duty, completing his Communications Degree at the University of Technology, and dealing with the aftermath of his movie, “looking at the stars while floating down the gutter”, produced a lot of tension and, exhausted from the years of hard work and study, he had a “nervous breakdown”. On relating his woes to his G.P., babbling on about how his career as an internationally recognized artist was frustrated, the doctor pronounced he had “delusions of grandeur”, labeled him a schizophrenic and recommended him for a Disability Pension. He didn’t mind being farmed out for a fallow period, he needed space to kick back, rest and cogitate upon his next move.

He was quite mad really, and schemed non-stop about his next big art project, a science-fiction musical, “Lost in Gondwanaland”, cyber-punk hard, with better production values than the last one, a straight-forward plot and lots of Aussie bush locations, a wild road movie that tripped out into the “Lost Continent” to funky, techno, rock’n’roll blues. He’d written a hot story and on relating it to his best friend, Michelle Granyeri, got her all worked up, she wanted in on the project, and he agreed to co-write the screen play with her. He tried co-writing as an interesting experiment, to see if he could work as a team, wondering what the pros and cons would shape up to be, and if her cosmic peace and love femininity could mellow his cynical, anarcho-punk maleness in an interesting way.

Michelle was one of the few friends who stood by him for much of his tortuous route to cinema oblivion, cheering him on, taking him for dinner, bringing him little gifts, encouraging him to slave, spinning gold from straw, till the film was finished, and he cherished her support till his dying day. Though she didn’t write one application form, paint one animation cell or shoot one frame of the film, in fact she was touring Europe and America through the whole animation and post-production process, she did crack Trauma Movie Co in New York as the distributor, she was the lead actress and it was her star-vehicle too. When she proudly announced she was one of the filmmakers, it irked Arthur a bit, still he thought he’d give the co-writing a burl, surely between two such enthusiasts something wonderful could be produced.

She’d been visiting his flat for months, brainstorming on the new script and finalizing the distribution deal with Trauma and, as Easter 1993 laid its absurd chocolate eggs, he had an appointment with her in the afternoon to visit a lawyer for the signing of contracts, and he thought he’d snooze in bed till she arrived. It was a Thursday, the day before Good Friday, branded as Black Thursday for it was the day Jesus was convicted. If Arthur had realized the dreadful, pagan significance of the day he might’ve taken warning, but who can tell the future? Any innocent task may end in existential melt-down, like lightning striking from the blue; his fate would soon take a sharp turn in an unknown direction and he’d have a whole other story to tell rather than that of movie-making madness. 

Mid-morning an old mate came to visit and desperately plead for a loan of fifty dollars, denied seven times by a grumpy, suspicious Arthur, hating to be awakened by his no-hoping non-friend. The importunate fellow would not listen to staunch refusals, he whined, cajoled and bullshitted and, as a last resort, offered his personal stash of hydro-bud and Arthur, to get rid of him, aggrievedly got up and struggled to the street corner to get the money from an ATM. If only he’d stayed in bed, his life would’ve been different, maybe not as exciting as it turned out to be, there’s nothing like the gutter for runaway turbulence.

Standing at the traffic lights he gazed across the road at his favorite cake-shop and thought, “It’s Easter, I want some Hot Cross Buns.” He strode into the shop and bought half a dozen of his much loved delicacies, the girl behind the counter acting weird, almost rude, her face pinched, she was a European backpacker hired a few weeks previously and a bit of a pain to deal with, he’d been going there for years and the stream of assistants were interchangeable in their blandness. He got home with the buns then found he had no butter for them and had to return to the shops, and while there he fancied a lemon tart and returned to the cake-shop for the dammed thing, getting turned into a lemon tart himself for his greedy cake addiction. 

The bag with the tart was handed to him gingerly and he took in the twitching, scowling face of the counter-bimbo who stepped back and called, in an arcane language, to the girl in the back-kitchen; she crept out and gave Arthur a quick, nervous perusal. She shook her head and said, “I don’t know, I don’t think so. His face was covered.” Arthur asked, “What’s going on?” and they both shook their heads, they had nothing to say, he was dismissed and he sauntered out of the shop thinking, “What a right pair of dimwits”, and then forgot about it as he wandered up the street.

He suddenly remembered the butter and called into a little Asian grocery store to buy it, everything easy, smiling and polite. As he was leaving, clutching his precious butter and lemon tart, he was grabbed in the doorway by two burly men in white shirt and tie, taking a firm grip of each arm, hoisting him along as they said, “You’re coming with us!” “What the fuck are you doing? Who are you, you’re not cops? What is fucking happening? Get your fucking mitts off me!” Arthur stammered protests as they dragged him along, in the direction of the cake-shop, manhandling him as they grunted, “Just come with us, we’ll see how much you know.” “What the fuck are you talking about? Oh, the cake-shop, those two bimbos have got some drama going, like I didn’t say thank you for their cursed Hot Cross Buns!” He let them lead him back onto the premises where the two shop assistants hunched behind the counter, sullen, perplexed, as Arthur was held before their gaze.

They both shook their heads and muttered, tentative, “Hmmmm, no, not him. He’s not the one, like him but not him.” Arthur felt some relief and, having read and seen a lot of crime stories, quizzed them adroitly. “What happened here, an armed robbery or something? You look very uptight, must’ve been serious, but I assure you, whatever it was, it wasn’t me. This is my favorite cake-shop.” One of the bouncer-types mouthed off, “We’re bartenders at the Strawberry Hills Pub next door and these sweet ladies came running in with a serious complaint to make, we’re just trying to help them, that’s all.” “Oh, so this is Nazi Germany and you can drag citizens off the street at will to show what big brave men you are?” Wrong comment, as the two bitches were most likely Germans and the dickheads were trying to chat them up. The business-shirted thugs and the blond, winsome girls all grunted in unison and Arthur sighed, “Well, if that’s all, I’ll be going then. Have a happy Easter.”

As he was stepping out the door, one of the bartenders spoke up, “Do you mind leaving your name and address?” “Sure, I’ve got nothing to hide.” They perked up and smiled grimly at this jolly, honest fellow as he wrote out his personal details on a card for them. For an instant he considered giving them a false name, good actor that he was, he could’ve escaped a world of trouble by a flourish of his wrist, as they hadn’t asked for proof of identity. He didn’t have the criminal mindset and in naive stupidity he turned to the gronky quartet and said, “Just to prove I’m genuine, here’s my I.D.” He flashed his wallet and the bar-goons craned forward and nodded with satisfaction, “There’ll be someone visiting you later in the day.” He cursed his foolish honesty, otherwise he would’ve disappeared into the sunlight, not visited those shops again and maybe that would have been an end to it. As he stumbled past the Strawberry Hills Hotel, an old, fat gronk in a shirt and tie jumped from the doorway and asked, “Did they get the guy?” “No they got the wrong bloke, OK?”

When he got back to his flat Michelle was waiting for him, ready for the lawyer’s appointment, and he laughingly told her the whole sorry saga, thinking it a quirky anecdote for such a nice, sunny Thursday, and she laughed with him, on the histrionics of dumb shop assistants. He quickly showered, shaved and put on his best grunge-gear, he was off for a very important meeting with a famed film lawyer. Michelle ambled off to her car and as Arthur stepped from his door he espied down the other end of the corridor two ugly men in suits approaching and he instantly quaked with the knowledge, PIGS, in plain clothes, bearing down upon him. Before he could close the door, they strode up to him and barked, “Is your name Arthur Farthing?” “Yes, what can I do for you, ossifer?” “You know why we’ve come?” “Yes. I was expecting someone.” “Where’s the money, cunt?!!!! We know you did it! What did you do with the money?” they yelled, their harshness catching him by surprise.

“What do you mean, what money? I don’t know what you’re talking about”, he stuttered. “Shut your mouth, cunt! We know you did it, where’s the fucking money?” This spilled from the arse-hole mouth of a skinny, weasle-like cop with unkempt ginger hair and wearing a daggy, baggy suit. The blonde, square-head in a stylish Armani suit spat, “You thieving poof, we’re coming in. We want that fucking money!” He pushed past Arthur and shoved his front door open, and both stormed into the Bohemian apartment, dragging Arthur behind them.

While Gingerdregs proceeded to wreck the place, rushing about tearing to bits anything he laid hands upon, Blockhead Blondie hollered questions and insults. “Where’s the fucking money, cunt? We know you got it hidden here somewhere!” Weasle-face upended the drawers, tumbled the books from the shelves, tossed his art materials about, tore clothes from their racks, heaved his futon over and dumped a tub of Vitamin E cream onto the blankets, each repeating their accusations like an old, cracked record, “Where’s the money, where’s the money? You’re a junkie cunt and you took it for drugs!” Every time Arthur tried to say something, to explain, to proclaim his innocence, Gingerhead with the arse-hole for a mouth would scream, “Shut your mouth, cunt! Just stand to attention in the corner, don’t move or we’ll brain you! Where’s the money, cunt?” It was intensely frustrating, like being gagged and bludgeoned, they’d scream a question, he’d stutter an answer and they’d bellow, “Shut your mouth, cunt!” It was all a farce, they’d decided from the beginning to frame him, they were determined to overlook reality.

“Where were you yesterday?” demanded Blockhead. Arthur’s mind emptied in terror and anxiety, and he couldn’t recall a thing about yesterday. He squeezed his memory circuits while the pigs growled impatiently. “Oh, yeah, I went shopping, yesterday was Pension day and I bought a few things.” “Shut up, you lying arsehole, you did it!” They had an easy mark with this fucked-up Pensioner, why should they go to extra trouble and look for a real dangerous felon? Digging into the pile of rags under the bed, Gingerdregs snapped, “Where’s the black, hooded track-suit top and blue jeans you wore to do the job?” The brute demanded, over and over, “Black, black, black, hood, hood, hood, blue jeans, blue jeans, blue jeans”, to Arthur’s repetitive lament, “I don’t own such clothes, I don’t wear track-suit tops, I hate blue jeans.”

He dug a black nylon wind-jacket, sans hood, out of the mass of old clothes and exclaimed, “This is the black-hooded top you wore when you did the robbery!” “It’s not a track-suit top and it’s got no hood!” “Shut your lying mouth!” They found a red, plastic Grace Bros bag behind the fridge and shouted in glee, “This is the red bag you took the money away in!” “But everyone’s got a Grace Brothers bag somewhere in the house!” “Shut ya gob!” Amongst the piles of movie props Arthur had been collecting and which they were tossing about, they found a toy cap-gun, a small replica of a Luger, and ululated in glee on their genius detective work, “This is the weapon you threatened those poor, helpless girls with!” Arthur tried to elucidate upon the facts but they had their religious chant of, “Shut your mouth, cunt!” to stifle his pleas for rationality. The thugs demanded his black baseball cap and sunglasses, accessories to many nefarious deeds across the city, and hassled him about being freshly shaven. “Why’d you shave your beard off, cunt? Trying to disguise yourself?” “I haven’t had a beard for years, I shaved because I’ve got an important appointment this afternoon.”  “You must’ve had a beard, otherwise you wouldn’t have shaved!” Their logic was irrefutable and Arthur could only bleat helplessly like a lamb to the slaughter.

Michelle wandered innocently back into the picture, inquiring as to the reason for his delay. She bumped into the cops, who gruffly asked for her name and reason for having dealings with a suspected criminal. Big blue eyes demanding her rights, she chortled, “I’ve known Arthur for years, he’s a hard working artist. We have a lawyer’s appointment in half an hour.” “They reckon I did an armed-holdup yesterday, probably the same time I was over your house.” “Yes, he was with me most of yesterday afternoon, discussing business”, she spoke assuredly, as if this would clinch the matter. “I thought you said you were in the city shopping, you lying bastard?” snapped Blockhead. “I was, in the morning, in the arvo I was with Michelle, I didn’t know which time of day you were referring to”, wheedled Arthur. Michelle got braver, “Yes, he was with me. Your accusations are ridiculous. We were only just laughing about it all.” “You’re lying for him, bitch!” was Blockhead’s brilliant deduction. “Yeah, you can shut your mouth too, cunt! This is none of your business. Why don’t you just fuck off!” spat Gingerdregs from his twisted, arse-hole of a mouth.

Michelle was a cosmic peacenik from Yale University and, as a good middle-class American girl, she had no knowledge of the cruelties and crudities of the Australian penal culture, her creamy skin drained dead-white, her blue eyes expanded in shock, she tried to offer protest but Arthur told her to go, he’d sort it out. The cops vomited a few more choice, foul encouragements, she gulped in helpless dismay and staggered back to her car, driving off quick smart to get help, Arthur hoped.

There was no good cop, bad cop routine with this duo, both were mean, ugly, heartless dogs, the Square-headed Armani-suited slob ripped down a poster from Arthur’s wall that advertised the “Virgin Beasts” splatter punk party and he slagged, “So you’re one of those Jellyheadz drug-fiends, you’re a kiddie fucker like them, you cunt! We’re gonna bust the lot of ya!” Suddenly Arthur recognized where he’d seen Blond Blockhead before, he was one of the plain clothes cops that had infiltrated his film’s premiere party at Jellyheadz electric garage. Arthur had noticed the straight-laced blond drifting through the crowd of punks, amused that the cops had thought the event important enough for a look-see. 

The wannabe trendsetting pig had witnessed the accolades from the freak set and possibly winced over Arthur’s charisma, a hip cachet he’d never in his corrupt detective’s life achieve, no matter how many glamorous gangsters he bumped off in his Armani suit. The hysterical bitches at the cake-shop had rung the cops and given them Arthur’s name as a likely perpetrator, with his smart-arse Nazi inferences, and the Nazis had looked him up on their computer file, discovered his many aliases and civil disobedience stunts, possibly with a red light flashing the instruction, “Get This Bastard!” Detective Blockhead possibly connected him with the uppity film fag ruling Jellyheadz that wild night and thought they had a right patsy for the cake-shop caper.

And the address of a notorious crim’s lair, Northcott Place, sealed his fate in their piggy, little eyes. They were too lazy to do any real detective work, like question other shopkeepers or the crims down at the twenty-four hour pub at Central Railway Station, and they steam-rollered any evidence that proved Arthur’s innocence. He had people to corroborate his whereabouts on the afternoon of the crime, and a diary filled with appointments and comments, but they said he wrote the bullshit after the event, he’d get scumbag friends to perjure themselves, and he had electricity and phone bills to pay, damming evidence as to his desperation, he was the offender alright, “So where’s the money, cunt?” “I don’t have any money! I didn’t do it!” Arthur squealed, like Henry Fonda in the turgid Hitchcock drama, “The Wrong Man.” Then Blockhead found his few, scraggy marijuana plants growing in pots in the bathroom and whooped with joy, they had finally found something illegal, Arthur was a pot-head, a heinous crime and confirmation that he was Public Enemy Number Seven.

They grumbled one last question, “Have you got anything else to confess?” and Arthur the dill said, “Yes, I’ve got some grass in my shirt pocket that I just bought.” “Aha, we’re charging you with possession as well as cultivation, the more charges, the better to screw you!” roared Detective Armani Dageater, and Arthur squirmed, they’d missed the pot when they first searched him and he could’ve eaten it in the police van and been oblivious for the next scrofulous twenty-four hours. They cuffed his hands in front of him and led him from his apartment, pocketing his keys as they slammed the front door.

A dastardly felon, humiliated near to death, he was led up the footpath by the handcuffs, past all his gloomy, intrigued neighbors, to the Black Mariah waiting in the front drive of Northcott Murder Central. They carted him off to Ultimo Police Station, a likely relic of the convict era, dirty, moldy, falling down, a spooky dungeon that emanated horror worse than Callous Park Mental Wards. They frisked him, and frisked him again, then plopped him into a grimy interrogation room, undid one of the cuffs and locked it to a metal bracket high up on the wall and left him there for three hours to stew while they tampered with the evidence. He had to either stand or sit with his arm raised above his head, the blood draining, the wrist aching, his mind in a turmoil.

After two hours the pain became too great and he found he could scrimp his hand and wriggle it from the cuff, then he sat patiently, waiting for the bullies to return and do their worst, praying that the debacle would resolve itself, the facts would be reviewed and his innocence made apparent. A young cop, passing by the open door, noticed he’d gotten out of the cuffs and yelled that the felon was escaping. A posse of pigs rushed in and twisted his arms into pretzels, chaining him to the wall again, with the cuff pinched tight and his hand went dead. “Oh, like real Nazis, nothing pleases you more than a bit of torture. Why don’t you do it tighter, take my hand off?” Their faces blank like robot beasts, they filed out of the morgue-like room and Arthur waited another hour till Detectives Gingerdregs Hoon and Blockhead Dageater decided he was malleable enough to work over and mold into a real villain.

In came the Detectives, and both set to haranguing him, firing off statements interspersed with foul insults, they laid out the scenario of the crime and tried to get him to agree with the details. “On Wednesday afternoon at approximately three o’clock, wearing blue jeans and a tracksuit hood to disguise your face, you held a gun on two cake-shop assistants and escaped with seven hundred dollars in a red plastic bag.” They tried to trick him by putting words in his mouth, “You knew there was a robbery because you asked if there had been one.” “That doesn’t prove anything, I’m smart, I put two and two together, it was obvious some crime had been committed.” “We found the hooded track-suit top: that nails you.” “If you found a black track-suit top in my apartment, then I didn’t know I had it.” “Who said anything about a black tracksuit top? You just gave your lying arse away.” “You geniuses asked fifty times for a black top back in my apartment. It’s no use verballing me, I didn’t do it. No way would I do an armed hold-up on my local cake-shop, I’m not that stupid, I wouldn’t even think of it, no matter how much I needed money.”

“You did it cunt! We’ve got the gun, we’ve got the clothes, we’ve got eyewitness accounts, and we know you’re a desperate, junkie poof.” “I’m not a junkie, I’ve never touched the shit, look at my arms, you won’t find even one needle scar”, cried Arthur, holding out his perfect, pulsing veins for them to eyeball with a disappointed snarl. “I know many reputable people in this city and they’ll vouch for my integrity.” “You mean you’re gonna get lots of people to lie for you! We hate liars, thieves and poofters and you’re all three. We’d like to kill all poofters”, grimaced Gingerdregs, banging the table as his newest intimidation trick. “You guys are pathetic. You know I didn’t do it, I’m just easy meat because you haven’t got it in you to catch any real crims. I bet you spend all day boozing at the pub”, smart-mouthed Arthur, starting to get brave, the stupidity of the whole game and their ugliness getting his hackles up.

“I guess your next tactic will be to beat the shit out of me for a confession. So, what are you waiting for?” “Shut your mouth, ya lying fag! We don’t need to belt you, we‘ve got all the evidence we need”, coughed Gingernut Hoon. The blond Detective Dageater couldn’t resist the sleaze, “Yeah, ya dirty poof. How often do you get chopped?” “I beg your pardon?” “How often do you get chopped?” “Is that jail-house lingo or something? What do you mean by “chopped?” “Fucked up the arse, ya slimy poof!” squealed Blockhead Blondie, Arthur’s obtuseness infuriating him. “You seem to know more about it than me or maybe it’s just your pornographic imagination?” Arthur sneered, for a few moments feeling like he was getting some control, he could see he was dealing with two bastardized automatons.

“Yowwww!” they howled like scalded cats. “Stand up, fag. Stand to attention!” Arthur wearily got to his feet, expecting the heavy bashing to begin. “Drop your pants, cunt!” Arthur dropped his black jeans, wondering if they meant to search him again, though he’d already been gone over three times, or maybe they were going to whip his bare arse. “Lift your shirt up, poof!” He didn’t get it, what on earth were they up to. Docilely, sheepishly, he lifted his shirt and they gazed down upon his shriveled genitals and sniggered, as if thinking, “This is what the great artist has as his claim to fame?” “You can pull your trousers up and sit back down now.” Arthur finally got the meaning of what had happened, they’d had a vicarious thrill and also turned him to putty in his naked humiliation, an old Nazi tactic, in his nothingness he would do anything they said.

“Now tell us word for word what you did in the cake-shop and we’ll give you a break”, hissed snake-eyes Detective Hoon, holding pen and paper ready. “No matter what shit you put on me, I’m never going to confess to something I didn’t do. It’s madness! No way did I do it!” “You did it cunt, and it’s all gonna come out in the trial, what a lying, thieving poof you are and how you take it up the arse, all in front of a jury. See if they think you’re such a nice guy!” “I’ve been tortured my entire life for being queer, you guys are nothing special”, mumbled Arthur, dazed and unbelieving in the middle of the surreal drama. “The trouble is, you cops have lived so much in the filth of the criminal milieu, you not only can’t recognize the innocent, you’ve become as bent as any gutter goon.” Gingerdregs burned red and looked like he was going to blow his top, his mouth screwed up ready to spit and Arthur beat him to it, “Yeah, yeah, I heard you before. Shut ya mouth, cunt!” They shifted angrily in their seats as he sat back down, the interrogation was at an impasse, a pity Arthur had refused the video-taping as it would’ve made for a gripping dirt-opera for the big-wig pigs to mull over when they assessed the case.

He pleaded for them to interview the shop-girls, they would straighten it out, they’d already cleared him in the morning when they said, “No, I don’t think so. The guy was masked.” The Detectives asked him if he was willing to take part in a line-up and he agreed, imagining this would absolve him, their eye-witnesses would repeat that he wasn’t the perpetrator. Arthur hadn’t realized yet that the frame was thoroughly in and he was being cruelly set up, Hansel and Gretel in the witch’s kitchen yet again. They led him upstairs to a hideous, long room wherein shuffled six guys in shirts and ties, office workers rousted out of the nearby Graphic Arts Club bar and shanghaied for a lynching at the local cop-shop, which they considered a jolly lark.

Arthur was asked if he agreed to them being in the line-up with him and, as they seemed to be ordinary, nice blokes, he acquiesced, overlooking the obvious fact that he stood out like a flaming monkey’s red bum, dressed in his punk gear, with ear-rings and haggard features. The shop girls were brought in one by one and Arthur cheered up as the first was the shop-assistant who’d been serving him for the previous few weeks and surely she would exonerate him. She spotted him immediately too, but ducked her head and carried on with the pretense of examining the other guys, then walked straight back up to Arthur and pointed at him, “He’s the one!”. He couldn’t believe it was happening, like some other parallel universe had crashed into his, a nasty Aussie crime movie solidifying into reality.

While he spluttered and wheezed, the second girl was brought in, and Arthur felt a faint stab of hope that at least one of them would have some sense, though she didn’t bother with inspecting the rest, she gazed shakily upon him and raised her accursed arm to indicate her decision and hissed, “That’s the guy. I recognize him from this morning!” “How can you treat me like this? I’ve been a good customer of your shop for years!” screamed a heart-torn Arthur, and the gang of boozed-up office-boys laughed merrily, “What a nonce!” Dizzy from the injustice, he watched the girls being gently led away, Blockhead and Gingerdregs hanging over them solicitously, almost groping the whimpering bitches. He was taken back to the grimy interrogation room and chained to the wall to wait while the good detectives finished priming the cake-brains. He figured the cops must’ve colluded with the bimbos before the line-up, telling them, “We’ve got the rogue upstairs, the guy you dobbed in, all you gotta do is pick him out, you’ll know him when you see him.”

Maybe the back-packer girls were illegal workers and threatened with deportation if they didn’t assist with the frame-up, and promised visas for years to await the trial? Certainly victims of crime get compensation from the State more readily if the culprit is caught and booked. Arthur even imagined that the conniving sluts had drummed the whole drama up themselves because one had foolishly lost the shop’s takings on a poker machine or other uncontrollable vice; no one would dream of scrutinizing two sweet girls when they had a useless, old deviant like Arthur to fit the bill.

The devilish detective duo jumped triumphantly back into the small interrogation room and went through the same moronic rant, accusing and incriminating, and Arthur kept repeating, “No way! No fucking way!” He wouldn’t sign their “confession” and demanded a phone call to get legal assistance, and he was told that hoary old refrain, “This aint the fucking movies, shithead! All you’re gonna get is seven years hard labor!” “So the lucky country has degenerated into the equivalent of Pinochet’s Chile, and citizens can be dragged from the streets and annihilated?” They had nothing else to say except the robotic retort, “We’ll see you in court.” They read out the loaded list of charges, booked him and handed him over to a beginner cop to fingerprint and photograph while they lumbered off for a celebratory beer, smug as bugs on a dead dog.

Spinning from the porcine treatment, and smarting from the shop-girls’ betrayal, he was shunted off to Central holding cells, sandstone dungeons under Sydney Central Courthouse. He was locked into a revolting, white-tiled cell with the ubiquitous bars at the front, like a caged public toilet and where, amongst a welter of graffiti grafted onto the tiles, a huge swastika scrawled in red crayon hovered above his head. His cellmate was a seventeen stone Greek guy, eyeballs popping with apprehension when he sighted Arthur’s fag face, he cringed in his corner and never addressed a word to his compatriot. He seemed to be withdrawing from a hard drug addiction, sweating profusely, heaving his vast tub of lard restlessly to and fro, stomping up to the bars throughout the night and rattling them with gorilla strength, shouting, calling, screaming, begging for an officer to come to his aid, he was dying and needed out.

The cells and corridors echoed with his wretched entreaties, after several hours one novice cop wandered in and yammered for the Greek to shut up, he’d get dealt with in the morning. Arthur had curled up under his blanket to try to block out the nightmare, terrified the cold-turkey Greek would tear him to pieces in his torment, or at best collapse in a heap upon him and crush him to death. The coke-head collosus seemed afraid of him also, he gave him a wide berth whenever he grappled with the bars, and shook like jelly in his corner when Arthur lifted his head and took occasional peeps at him, as if afraid he was about to be raped by the little poof.

Arthur himself shivered under his blanket, he was having a hard time believing he was in the same reality as yesterday, he wanted to die from the unfairness and shame, distraught and drained from a lifelong series of malicious confrontations, he determined to suicide at the first available opportunity. A bundle of contradictions, he also wrapped himself inside a protective egg of white light and let his guardian spirit take over, inwardly chanting “AUM, AUM, AUM” and praying to the Universe and Nothing for release and retribution. He lay like a cosmic fetus all night and finally came the dawn and, almost a newborn child, he trusted that everything would even out, though the clanging of bars and the reverberations of an awakening jailhouse had him quaking and thinking of suicide again.

A piece of rancid bread and butter and piss-weak tea was his refused breakfast; the novice cop attending the prisoners showed a bit of mercy and told Arthur his friends had been inquiring about him and they promised they would get him out. His heart surged with joy, somebody cared and he was not dead to the world. He figured it must be Michelle and her husband, Steve, as nobody else knew of his predicament, he was one of the ‘disappeared’. He’d find out who his angelic friends were at the Magistrate’s Court, where surely saner minds will note the absurdity of him going back twice to a cake-shop the day after he’d supposedly robbed it. He was searched again, this time made to bend over for the young cop to peer up his arse. “What a job!” commented an uptight Arthur, “afraid I might pull out a shit-grenade and blow up the courthouse?” He was then put in a larger cell with a gang of rogues, each looking more hardcore gangster than the next, they soon blabbed out their stories to each other, the charges they were up on, all of it penny ante stuff.

“I got caught selling my methadone.” “I ran off without paying at a restaurant.” “The pigs found a cap of coke on me.” And when they got around to Arthur, he squeaked, “Armed hold-up.” They stared him down to see if he was for real, then smirked and returned to their bullshit, what sheila they banged and what drugs they took last weekend. He flopped about the cell trying to look tough, in reality shitting himself, recalling the ‘bash and rape’ prison movies he’d seen, trying to distract himself by reading the history of Sydney Central in the graffiti on the stained white tile walls, preparing himself for a grand rendition of his sob story to the wise Magistrate.

It was Good Friday morning, the whole city was shut up and all the wise judges had scurried off for the holidays. Yet Central Courthouse must remain open, the Wheels of Justice never stop grinding, there are always felons to be processed and placed in their appropriate boxes. A neophyte, wannabe Magistrate had been ringed in from the suburban wilderness, aged about thirty, mousy hair, pallid as a fish’s belly, weedy in his drab suit, he was being given a bigger slice of power and he relished it. From the dungeon, the detainees were taken en mass up a spiral staircase, Arthur surprised to find his head popping up through a courtroom floor, he walked straight up into the dock, amazed by the convenient penal architecture. There they stood in a herd awaiting the pleasure of the novice judge, gazing at his vacant seat on high, where hung upon the wall the silver shield of the Australian State with the totems of the kangaroo and emu guarding it on either side, gleaming in the middle of the sandstone and wood interior like a pagan god, the atmosphere transporting them back two hundred years.

Arthur quickly looked about and saw Michelle’s husband, Steve, standing in the public gallery, holding his baby son, smiling and waving in bright hope and kind trust, and he felt intense relief, maybe he’d get saved yet. The nerdy Magistrate shuffled in and the small crowd of cops, the accused and their miniscule support team had to stand to attention for the dork while he rattled off the preliminary, mumbo jumbo legalese. He then plowed through the felons like a ski-jet through swimmers at Manly Wharf. “The theft of a meal from a restaurant, ghastly crime, and your second offense. Off to Silverwater Jail till your trial is due. Next! Selling your State-supplied methadone, you’ll be the ruination of the Healthcare System. Longbay Jail should cool your heels for Easter. Next! In possession of a gram of cocaine, possibly for sale. Your medical condition is not my concern, these Drugs are illegal. Sensible Christian charity dictates that you should be rehabilitated, you shall recover in Longbay Jail awaiting your trial. Next! Oh! Shoplifting a bottle of shampoo, off to Silverwater Women’s Prison, you can wash your hair there this Holy Easter.”

Arthur shook in his booties, the wimpy twirp was a hanging judge, merciless, hardly a shred of common humanity shone through the drab suit’s refusals to take note of any extenuating circumstances, hammering his judgements home while the plaintiffs tried mumbling their pleas for lenience.

Then it was Arthur’s turn, “Armed hold-up of a cake-shop in Surry Hills. A very serious charge! And eye-witness identification as well.” “Your honor, I did not do this crime, it’s a case of mistaken identity. Why would I go back to a shop, twice, if I had robbed it the previous day?’ “An armed hold-up is a shocking crime against society and I note there is ample corroborative evidence.” “Your Honor, it’s all circumstantial. I wouldn’t even dream of doing such a crime, I have a degree in Nursing and Communications, I’ve made films, I can work as a registered nurse if I need money. I’m trying to be a contributing citizen, I’ve won art prizes, I can do even better in future. It’s a case of mistaken identity and I have been wrongly accused.”

Steve stepped forward from the gallery, innocent and respectable with his babe in arms, and spoke up’ “Your Honor, I can vouch for Mr. Farthing, he is a hardworking artist, I’ve known him for years. I’m a successful businessman, I own my own bakery, and I assure you Mr. Farthing is not the type to do an armed hold-up on a cake-shop.” “Well, considering your secure position in society, I could consider your statement to have some veracity… but this is a serious crime, a heinous crime, we can’t allow such dangerous, anti-social elements to wander free at large. Mr. Farthing has a long list of complaints against him. And he perversely returned to the scene of the crime.” Arthur piped up, his voice quavering like a beggar’s, “Your Honor, I did not do it. I have witnesses as to my whereabouts on the day of the crime, I’ve been a customer at that cake-shop for years, I don’t take hard drugs and don’t need money that bad. The girls said to me when they grabbed me at the shop that the guy wore a mask and they couldn’t be sure it was me. Please be the first to show some sense and see that the facts don’t add up.”

The twirpy weed was stuck teetering on his high-horse, “But it is a very, very serious crime. It’s seven years incarceration for armed hold-up, we can’t have our shopkeepers under siege, civilization will fall.” Steve threw in his next chip, “I’m quite willing to go surety for Mr. Farthing, I’ll put up bail, whatever is required.” “In that case, if you sincerely give surety as to his innocence, I see no purpose in imprisoning Mr. Farthing, he can be released on two thousand dollars cash bail and two thousand dollars self-assurance. He must report to Sydney Central Police Station twice a week until his trial commences. Bang, bang, hammer, hammer!”

Arthur blew Steven a kiss as he was led back to the holding cell, and somehow his savior managed to find the two thousand dollars cash on a Good Friday, with the city shut tight and everyone escaping to the beaches. By mid-morning he was out in the glorious sunlight, stunned, elated, woozy, confused, it was a harsh new world and he had been transformed into an accused criminal, a caged animal, an unforgiving renegade, an infuriated enemy of the State’s apparatus of control. He sat drinking coffee with Steve at a Café in Darlinghurst, attempting to laugh the imbroglio off, thankful to be half-free, he could’ve languished at Longbay Jail for years awaiting his trial, as many innocent paupers do.

Michelle must have been busy painting Easter eggs, not quite grasping the catastrophe that had exploded upon Arthur’s back, deviating his life-path, and she instructed Steve to handle the paltry mix-up, knowing he would save the day with his earnest ingenuity. Though Arthur lost track of him in later years, he was one of the seven people in the world he owed his life to, and if ever Steve Taylor should read this ‘history’ one miraculous day, Arthur would like to say to him, “I can never say thank you enough”, as maybe he didn’t communicate his gratitude properly on  the day, emotional cripple that he was. The sky was blue, the fresh air tasted exquisite, he was unchained and pondering the new world he’d entered. Yet lounging back in the freedom of his flat, he descended into imagining himself a modern-day Barabbas, cursed with the thief’s indictment branded upon his forehead.

In his absence, the police had returned to his flat and combed through it like third world trash-hunters, grabbing up various weird props Arthur had sequestered for possible use in a future horror flick, claiming them to be ‘goods in custody’. And they carried off one white animation glove, the fingertips stained black with ink, declaring the offender had worn something like white socks on his hands. The scenario was out of Kafka, he was guilty because he existed, and everything could and would be used against him; they took his diaries, his bills, his comics and videos, possibly thinking they’d uncovered a porn filmmaker with titles like “My Survival as a Deviant?!” and “Darling It Hurtz!” The flat was left in heaps and tatters, everything personal to him perused and slavered over, they’d left their stink upon his very undies, as if marking their territory, he felt violated and trampled into muck, ‘They’ had really fucked him over.

When he read the Charge Sheets and the witness statements he noted that their description of the culprit was, “About twenty-four years old, five foot six, very thin, with a hood over his head and a mask pulled up across his big nose, with chilling, blue eyes that I’ll never forget.” There was also the victim’s sketch of the gun that was pointed at them, a revolver, not a miniature Luger, the documents being the very proof of his innocence, and revealing the vicious, cynical nature of the cops, a ‘power unto themselves’, able to distort reality and destroy whomever they wanted to. He wrote a long-winded letter of complaint detailing the whole sorry affair and sent it off to the State Ombudsman, the Chief of Police, the Officer in Charge of Ultimo Police Station and Arthur’s local Member of Parliament, and the only reply he received was ejected machine-like from the Ombudsman saying, “The Police were only doing their duty.” His epic complaint was a silly missive, Arthur couldn’t resist writing purple prose, full of puns, irony and cutting asides, giving too much information, boo hoo tales of woe and hysterical commentary, coming across as a nutcase who deserved locking away.

Then began the drawn-out torture of having to report to Sydney Central Police Station twice a week. He had to sign in before six pm., wait like the morally derelict in the seedy office for the tin-god cop to deign notice him, and obsequiously play-act the good citizen so as not to be penalized with further attention. There were a few days in the ensuing months and years, when he relaxed from being the hunted fox and forgot he was supposed to be at the cop-shop, it was past six, and he suddenly got an adrenaline rush of panic, he was supposed to be signing on, he had no money and had to run all the way across town, to arrive panting at six-thirty and beg the officer on duty not to send him off to Long Bay for violating his bail conditions, and the young pig would hum and haw, then grunt, “You’d better not be late a second time or it’s off to jail for you!” He was not allowed to leave the city, and if he did have to go anywhere for some urgent reason, he had to attend Downing Centre Court and plead for special permission and, after hours of standing about, shuddering at the sight of the herd of pigs trampling across the waiting-room, then bowing and scraping to “Your Worship” up on his throne in the court, ‘They’ would snuffle and flip through sheaves of legalese, considering his nuisance request.

To his superstitious, pagan awe, he noted that, more often than not, he was case number seven on the court’s itinerary, hinting to him that his guardian spirits were on the job and maybe he’d luck out. On one occasion, he got pushed over the edge by the court’s automated callousness and screamed hysterically, “I’m innocent! I’m educated, I’m an R.N. The charge is villainous! Why won’t anybody listen to me.” The courtroom of lackeys froze for a second and, shifting on his throne, harrumphing, the Magistrate would intone, “The details of your case are not the jurisdiction of this court. You have put in an applicaton to leave the city of Sydney to attend to a personal matter. You are permitted one week’s leave but you must report to Lismore Police Station while you are there.” It was tedious in the extreme and he was loathe to undergo the public humiliation just for a few days in the beloved countryside; for wanderlust Arthur, it was like being tethered to a stake in a pit full of programmed, ravenous boars.

Downing Centre Courts was built into the old Mark Foys Department Store, retaining the external Victorian façade, covered in green tiles and wrought-iron lacing, quaint and charming, almost alluring, except its innards were stuffed with Ikea-style blonde-wood courtrooms wherein the dumb demi-monde are the bill of goods on offer. Whenever Arthur visited that temple to the Blind Goddess of Justice to implore the Court’s mercy, he was bemused by the literalness of the décore, sterile, lacquered blonde-wood and white plaster, with blood-red cushioning, carpet and trimming, a variation on an antiseptic hospital, only this was for the morally damaged, Arthur imagining the people’s blood seeped into the furnishings. In the inner sanctum of the courtroom, a vast white rectangle of neon light clung to the ceiling and shone down upon every plaster crevice and polished wood-grain, details could be seen clearly, nothing would be missed, like in a surgery, life was at stake and every cut and thrust, tumor and canker, had to be accounted for. 

Coming through the building’s grand entrance-way, the department store windows often held tastefully arranged displays of the wonders of the Aussie Penal System, scare-crow paintings and crooked handicrafts by life-term inmates, or opened books of law purporting to be Holy Writ. Most memorable were the costumed window dummies lined up in various tableaux, like in the antiquated Mark Foy’s Christmas dioramas, except this refurbished citadel of punishment had contrived a wicked depiction of convict-era days, perhaps to convince the public they had hit on better times, but they better watch their precious arses. In many windows were numerous mannequins dressed in ragged convict garb, chained and bleeding, breaking rocks, building walls, tied to cross bars and being whipped by red-coated overseers while slatternly women grovelled in the mud, and Arthur’s brave resolve was ruffled by the warning innuendo contained therein.

He was sorely bemused by the entire ‘industry of Justice’ bustling throughout Downing Centre, a veritable ant’s nest of coming and going, cops, lawyers, law clerks, judges, receptionists, priests, security guards, cashiers, cleaners, parole-officers, social workers, coffee pullers, prostitutes, an army of camp followers finding rich employment from the cranking forward of the wheels of Blind Justice, and Arthur felt like grease in the cogs of the machine. And the relentless river of plaintiffs streaming through the halls must’ve felt the same: they had drawn, woe-begone faces, their worried, sad-sack families drooping nearby, and many held the hand of an attentive solicitor in a dark suit, who occasionally whispered deft encouragements in the lawbreaker’s sweaty ear. Most of the supplicants appeared to be lower-class wannabes, caught at a crazy attempt to climb the materialist’s pyramid by cheating and thieving, but mostly they were traffic and drug offenders, potheads found with their weed, coke-heads with caps, junkies with needles.

He saw it as another take on the freak-show, watching the parade wobble past him as he sat waiting on the blood-red upholstery, the barristers with those silly white rugs on their heads nattering pompously and clutching briefs under their arms as they flew by like crows with outspread, black wings; the clamor at the teller’s booth, where the guilty paid out their precious cash in fines, wheedling and cajoling to pay it in small installments, the Cashier surly and unforgiving at facing her one millionth beggar; thuggish cops muttering in groups, colluding on their cases, eyeballing the crowd malevolently, like bloodthirsty aliens from a Dean Koontz horror story; the hush hush, tippy-toe outside the social worker’s office where the indicted had been taken after flipping out in the foyer, wailing hysterically about his/her lost cause; the packed elevator where the criminally insane were squashed up against the upwardly mobile lawyers in their chic get-ups, everyone’s body odor mingling; the hunky Lebanese cocaine dealer in trendy hip-hop gear with his up-market solicitor and effusive family grabbing handfuls of him, spunky and cool, he seemed on top of the game, the calm eye at the center of their storm, and Arthur’s gaze lingered much upon him, he was the only eye-candy in the Blind Goddess’s maze.

He remembered telling his friend Tex Gherkins about his police dilemma at the Cafe Vagabondage up the Cross, and the rock star’s laconic reply was, “You’d better get a lawyer, mate, you’d better get a good one!” and then his eyeballs rolled with an epiphany. Arthur tried, month in, month out, to get Legal Aid from the State, having not a cent himself, marching into a colonial building near Central Railway and filling out sheaf after sheaf of applications, with much hyperventilating upon the injustice of the world to the uptight receptionist, who gave him a hard time and made him beg. Finally he got relegated a solicitor, Heather Forward, smart, gutsy and compassionate and, on her studying the case minutely and listening to Arthur’s sordid rendition, she was furious at the cop’s behavior and agreed to do her utmost, she was positive he was a winner. This was halfway through the two years it took to get to a final hearing, and he had suffered much in the meantime, seeing no legal help on the way, the promise of seven years in ugly Longbay Jail yawned like a giant ogre’s maw above his reeling head, and he slid into severe despondency.

He’d gone to many of his old traps to ask for his compatriot’s assistance, needing help desperately for his legal campaign, to Jellyheadz, the Lead Sheds, the Jura Bookshop, the University of Technology, various squats and thief’s kitchens, and most of the renegade artists, anarchist activists, punk rebels and up and coming leftie journalists he met held shocked, glum faces on hearing his quickly garbled tale. They could only give him a minute, and were sorry they couldn’t help him and, after commiserating for seven seconds on the awfulness of the experience, they turned their backs, they didn’t want any more trouble in their shaky, flaky lives, and a police frame-up was too radical to contemplate. Jill Lehey, his rebel sister and video production teacher at the University, was the only one to lend him moral support, ringing him weekly and assuring him he was not alone; most other acquaintances seemed to believe it was possible for him to be an armed robber, seeing as how he was notorious as a risqué character. 

He never got a phone-call from any of his old, politico acquaintances, nevertheless he was the kind of guy who always had a gang of close, staunch friends, in every port of call. He called them “The Shining Seven” and they kept him company, took him out of his melancholy to parties, fed him, fixed what needed fixing, and made love to him, and with their support, he limped on through his dark journey. Maybe the old gang at the Lead Sheds did make a phone-call for him, because he got an appointment with the Right Honorable Veronica Balls, now a Queen’s Counsel, and she took note of his appalling predicament, and while she herself was busy prosecuting the corruption of the New South Wales Police Force, she put out a call for someone to take on Arthur’s misery. 

(In the ensuing prosecution of the State’s most rotten cops, it was found that many had been actively taking bribes from heroin dealers, planning armed robberies, distributing drugs, robbing prostitutes, fabricating evidence, assaulting innocent patsies, even the safe at Central lock-up where they kept all the confiscated drugs was called “the tuck-shop” by the gangster cops, because they could march in at any time and take what they wanted, half of the huge stash disappearing.) Two worlds with two sets of rules, Arthur in the powerless, cash-strapped one.

As for him, when an old acquaintance, Sascha Solitaire, from the Prisoner’s Action Group, tried hard to get him sympathetic legal assistance, it was found to be impossible to get Pro Bono from the State other than for a lawyer of their designation, which meant a hack if ‘They’ could swing it. Yet complete strangers would step from the crowd at a café or gallery and, with deep compassion, jump to it in drumming up support, making complaints to various police departments, trying to get it on the three a.m. gossip circuit, compassionately stroking Arthur’s lashed back. Out of the disparate crowd he fondly remembered a crazy painter named Michael Saker and his mate, a television journalist, doing their best to get the dirty dealings of the police taken notice of, but nothing worked to Arthur’s avail, the fix was solid and his spirit was to be crushed.

Luckily, his Legal Aid lawyer was a beauty, she believed in him emphatically and was really gunning for him, appealing to the Department of Public Prosecutions to assess the case, note its absurdity and quash the charge, but those cops must’ve held great sway, They came out in favor of continuing the indictment, as if the whole, straight, gronky world wanted Arthur dead. He sizzled at the venal implications, they’d rather waste a million dollars of the Public’s money on themselves and a shonky trial than just plain give it to Arthur so he could make a wonderful, challenging musical movie with the fortune that was thus squandered.

Tied to his apartment, he fell into a bleak depression, the world was indeed a vale of woes, all life stories were tragedies with no happy Hollywood endings, and there was no truth in the ideals of Fairness, Honor, Equality, Liberty, Fraternity; the scales of Justice had crashed down upon his soft head and wrought havoc, he was suicidal and stayed under his bed-covers a lot and greeted the world sadly from his bed. On Medicare he got himself a shrink from Macquarie Street who, with many soothing commiserations and wise counselings, ameliorated his near death experiences. His psyche treatment was bolstered by the good, old method of chemical intervention, over the next seven years he tried out many of the new anti-depressants, starting with Prozac, then Prothiadine, Zoloft and Cipramyl, in the end favoring the chilled Xanax once in a full moon. He could only do seven months of each drug program, they kick-started him back into life, then their use was over, the side-effects weren’t worth the ignition of petty optimism, he suffered loss of appetite, sleep, and libido, with constipation, headaches and temper tantrums; for the first time in his life, he was letting himself go. 

To a great degree, his creativity stopped, though he continued to write the grand sci-fi opera with Michelle, its challenge being the rare flash of color in his gray tunnel of despair, and her company was invigorating, she cheered him up with her hippie optimism and kind attentions. He ignored that they squabbled occasionally over the script, a character detail or through-line development, she was cosmically inclined to a dawning Utopia emanating peace, love and enlightenment, accompanied by the sweet strains of folk music, whilst he was a post-modern cyber-punk rocking it up in a devilish dystopia. He did a few production sketches for “Lost in Gondwanaland”, a smattering of other devious cartoons, a bit of writing, but nothing like the manic, voluminous output of his old self; the spirit had been chased away, he wished the world goodbye, he didn’t want to add one more piece of shit to the mountainous heap.

The failure of his film, “Virgin Beasts”, had already devastated him, now he felt totally defeated by the ‘System’, his warrior nature knocked unconscious, he was a blob of amorphous jelly and he quavered in his bed. He was no tough gangster or hardened revolutionary, he was a smart-arsed, fairy dreamer from an old, staid, working-class Melbourne family, and the world of crims, cops, courts and jails was actually quite alien and scared the wits out of him, forget that he’d been relegated to the illicit underworld his whole life long for his homosexuality.

In the tornado of love and loathing ripping his idyll apart, his mind had gone blank as to the details of his peregrinations on the day of the robbery, and bit by bit he recalled his actions: he’d gone to an ATM and withdrawn money, then patronized Computer Spot in the city, delivering a broken printer to be fixed, and he had the dated receipt. He then went to Town Hall Library and took out some books, for which he had the dated computer print-out. He went to Michelle’s house in Newtown at midday and stayed with her till three p.m., for which she was willing to give testimony. He went to Kings Cross, and said hello to his friend, Amiria, at the tobacconist’s in the railway station entrance at approximately three-thirty, went to Kings Cross Library and browsed till four-thirty, then returned to the railway station and again said hello to Amiria, she noted the time because it was at the beginning of rush-hour and she was willing to give testimony. He caught a train to Central, then sauntered up Devonshire Street at about five p.m., more than an hour after the alleged crime had taken place, and he didn’t notice any kerfluffle around the shop as he walked past.

He met an old, retired cop at the Beggars' Banquet Café one night and related his ‘false arrest’ grief to the wise old codger, an amazingly sympathetic listener and, on mulling over the facts, he told Arthur he shouldn’t have anything to worry about, the cops didn’t have a case. Altogether, Arthur felt he had a good chance of beating the charge, and the dark years of waiting were tempered with a few rays of light, for he trusted in a rational universe. 

His assiduous lawyer, Heather, managed to score him a top notch Barrister on a State Legal Aid Grant, his name was Phillip Bolten and he had plush offices in an Art Deco building opposite Hyde Park, and Arthur found it a pleasure to visit, relax in the arty décor and be vindicated by the earnest, Honorable Q.C. He wore an Amnesty International badge on his lapel and was righteously scandalized by the notion of the Police Force as a corrupt, fascist power running the State in secret. Arthur had to confess his soul, over and over, even the grubby details of his pot habit and sexuality, he was now public property, open to inspection by the cops, the Legal fraternity, the Department of Public Prosecutions, and his witnesses, and his sorry life was going to get exposed yet again in court, for him the right to privacy went out the barred window. 

Phillip believed Arthur’s account of events, especially after interviews with Michelle and Amiria, who both assured him Arthur was no junkie, capable of finding work if he needed money and incapable of committing such a stupid, nasty crime as cake-shop robbery. Even his famous film lawyer, Owen Tremblebath, was willing to go witness for him, a check for ten thousand dollars was in the mail after they’d finalized a Marketing Loan from the Film Commissar, and he knew it, not needing to steal a mere seven hundred dollars from his favorite chocolate éclair supplier.

Phillip Bolton Q.C. cranked the machinery along and got a date for a hearing, only it was with an infamous hanging judge; Arthur got a peek at the creature when they went to the courthouse to finalize matters, an old Scottish souse, huge purple-veined snout resting atop a vast pile of sludge, he was probably dyspeptic, constipated and liver damaged, and looked to have a sour disposition and jaundiced view of the world. Phillip grimaced when he saw what judge had been rotated up for the occasion, and the fearsome old gronk harrumphed, snorted and gargled, as if loathe to miss out on a tar and feathering, then grumpily announced he was busy for that date and another Judge would have to do it. When Phillip asked who, he was told the name of Judge Softsausage, and he breathed a sigh of relief and hurriedly agreed to the hearing, whispering to Arthur that they’d scored a sympathetic, sensible judge for the trial, and though it was to be held way out in Campbeltown Courts, it was worth the journey as Softsausage would give them a fair go. Artie spun out at the concept of good and bad judges, wondering about the much heralded fairness of a blind Justice, but he could only shrug, it was the way of the world and this time round it was going his way.

The trial was purported to go on for two weeks, with a legion of witnesses for the prosecution having to be cross-examined, and Arthur wondered if he could withstand the lengthy ordeal, he dry-retched with fear as the months ticked by, it loomed like the Apocalypse on his horizon. With cast and crew psyched up for the big psycho-drama, the horrid day finally dawned and Arthur trundled on a train to the far-flung outskirts of the city, his barrister and lawyer by his side, the proceedings rehearsed, pondered and eviscerated till there was nothing more to say and the three sat staring wistfully out the window at the banal maze of suburbia hurtling by. They arrived at the Campbelltown Courthouse to find a crowd of reporters and rubber-neckers rioting on the front steps, yelling, elbowing, scuffling, with numerous cameras held aloft, and Arthur felt a chill dread that they were waiting for him, Public Enemy No.7, cake-bandit and beat-up poof. As they approached, the mob turned to eyeball them, their caterwauling quietening for half a second, and Arthur was ready to shriek, “It wasn’t meeeeee!” except Phillip gave him an almighty push in the back that sent him crashing through the crowd, which parted; they then turned their heads and cameras away, uninterested, they were after a bigger monster to fry.

Arthur was astonished to find himself through the doors and into the foyer unscathed, unannounced, merely an anonymous plaintiff who could wander the halls like an innocent bystander. Amiria, his witness from the tobacconist’s, rushed up to him and hugged him like a jolly Girl Scout, she didn’t have to be there that day, she was scheduled for a week hence, she had simply come all that way to give him company, it was a big day in his life, she was his lone cheer-squad, and she was enough. She then prattled out the explanation for the uproar in front of the courthouse, they were waiting for Ivan Milat, the alleged “Backpacker Killer”, his long-awaited trial was to be held in the very courtroom next to that of Arthur’s, the nation’s eyes glued in horror to events nearby, thankfully not on him, he had paled into insignificance in comparison. (Milat was found guilty of killing 7 hitch-hiking backpackers, possibly more, whom he took at gunpoint deep into the Belanglo State Forest and there sexually assaulting, both women and their male companions, before stabbing and shooting them to death.)

Throughout his own proceedings, Amiria would run in and out of the room to witness the action next door, and later on, breathlessly, she related how she had stared Milat down and examined his goblin face, intuiting his aura, and swore she sensed intense evil radiating from his glowering brows. Arthur was befuddled and astounded at the ongoing, surreal content of his existential nightmare, a three-ring circus of a freak-show, he had the ghastliest of serial killers as co-billing.

And Arthur’s trial rumbled forward, his legal team demanding the prosecution bring out their most convincing evidence first, the alleged eye-witness testimony, and the Judge allowed it. In came the grim-mouthed slatterns, one by one, so stupid that after two years they still couldn’t collude properly on their facts. His first accuser, with hardened scowl and petulant pout, pointed Arthur out as her attacker, “He had a hood pulled around his head but I could see his face clearly, and that’s him, I’d recognize those cold, blue eyes anywhere.” His barrister, Phillip, called out an ironic question, “Miss Pinchface, you described on the day that the offender was aged around twenty-four years old. Mr. Farthing is forty-four years old, does he look twenty-four to you?” The bitch squinted across at Arthur’s haggard face and wrinkled her low forehead, “Yes!” The judge also glanced over at him and announced, “From where I sit, Mr. Farthing looks older than forty-four, he could pass for sixty four.”

Arthur’s vanity had not been stoked by the bitch’s callow untruth, she was obviously trying hard to sell him down the river, yet he was a little crestfallen at the judge’s unflattering surmise, still, it was in his favor and things were improving. The malicious bimbo resorted to weeping when Phillip asked her, “The morning after, you twice exonerated Mr. Farthing, claiming the offender was disguised and you, quote, “Weren’t sure, I don’t think so. He was masked.” Why have you zeroed in on Mr. Farthing, he doesn’t fit your description in the least, except for the blue eyes.” “They’re the same blue eyes, and he wasn’t masked, the hood was tucked under his chin!” she blurted miserably. “I’m sorry, I can’t go on with this, you’re being too nasty to me.” The judge heard all he needed to and excused her and she was led weeping like a fragile, helpless female from the courtroom by a caring, sympathetic Detective Dageater. He’d shown up wearing Armani and Rayban eye-shades, thought he was hotter than the Blues Brothers, but even those wrung-out, bony waifs of false witness he had his hands on would probably have nothing to do with him in the end.

In came the next girl, they could’ve been twins in their wispy, blond insipidness. First the prosecution put its knife in, “Please point out the man who held a gun on you in the cake-shop”, and she nodded like a wimp over at Arthur, then pointed hesitantly at him. Mr. Bolton, Q.C. was next, “Miss Blotchgrubben, describe for us the appearance of the offender on the day of the robbery.” “He was wearing blue jeans and a black track-suit top with the hood pulled up over his head. He was about five-foot six, very thin, with piercing, blue eyes, about twenty-five years old.” “Are you sure Mr. Farthing is the man?” “Well, ummm…I can’t say for sure, the guy had a mask covering his face, pulled up over his nose, and I could only see the eyes, but they’re the same eyes, I think.” “He wore a mask, you think it’s Mr. Farthing but you’re not sure?” “Yes”, she squeaked and the judge coughed and told her she was finished with and may leave the room. She scurried into the waiting arms of a red-faced, apoplectic Detective Hoon, the beast looking over at Arthur as if he’d ruined their lives, not them ruining his and, mouthing foul imprecations, the pig dragged the vacuous harridan through the doors.

Phillip then moved the court to quash the indictment and acquit Mr. Arthur Farthing as the Prosecution’s star witness accounts, their big guns, were seen to be faulty and baseless, and as this was the best they could come up with, he proposed to apply “the MacBonk Clause”, which declared any lesser evidence to be circumstantial and also baseless. And therefore there was no case against Mr. Arthur Farthing and they needn’t go on with the trial. The Judge picked up the mugshot of Arthur on the day of his arrest, covered the face to the nose with his hand, peered at it every which way, then commented, “Even with a mask, Mr. Farthing’s eyes do not look like those of a twenty-four year old. What about the supporting evidence, the gun, is that the same as described in the victim’s statement?” The Prosecution hacks gulped and replied reluctantly, “No, different model.” “Then I don’t see what all this bother has been about.” He fingered a photograph taken of Arthur’s flat after the pigs had trashed it, props, art, clothes, books, dishes, blankets, countless what-nots in heaps, scattered, splattered, torn apart. He shook his head and said, “ I don’t quite know what to think. How anybody can live like this is beyond me. I will allow the motion of “the MacBonk Clause”, the two eye-witnesses could not identify Mr. Farthing as the offender to my satisfaction.”

He then reeled off an interminable reprisal of the entire case, long as a Charles Dickens novel, and repeated his summation and judgement seven times over to make sure the roomful of simpletons got the message, and somewhere during the recital Arthur realized he had been acquitted, he was free and innocent, and could walk from the courthouse with his head up. He couldn’t tamp down the elated smile beaming from his heart, his legal team shook his hands in victory and Amiria gave him a warm cuddle, his trial was over in one morning, not the exasperating two weeks the rotten cops had threatened. As they walked out into the foyer, Detective Hoon scurried over and hissed into their unimpressed faces, “Look what you’ve done to those poor girls, you made them cry. What kind of monsters are you?” 

He looked like he was about to vomit blood in Arthur’s face and Phillip led them past the spitting pig without a word, no one low enough to be able to reply to such a loathsome creature, but Arthur had the angry thought, “What a nerve, made the bitches cry with a few honest questions. They’ve destroyed my life! I’d like to cut their tits off!” They left the building unmolested and made it back to the city, dissecting the spiteful stupidities of the case on the train with acerbic pleasure, and on the Golden Mile of Oxford Street they had a celebratory lunch in a pub, the urbane Q.C. paying for it all. While Amiria nattered to Heather and Phillip about politics and philosophy, Arthur could only gaze into space, smile dreamily, and slowly digest the new reality of his exoneration, and ponder in which direction his life may next wander.

He imagined those awful women got ‘Victims of Crime’ compensation, yet when he asked if there was any compensation for him, tortured a thousand times more severely, his life torn asunder and his spirit flattened, he was told decisively, “No, you’re not a victim of the actual crime, you just got caught up in the routine turn of events.” For the next few years he laid a curse on the cake-shop whenever he walked past, willing the customers to stay away, and perhaps it worked, for the shop changed ownership. He drifted relentlessly back to sample the new style éclairs and pavlovas, eschewing the lemon tarts and prattled out his disastrous, cake-shop history to the two cheerful, new managers, a pair of old biddy sisters who were shocked to hear what his sweet tooth had brought him to, exclaiming, “The manager of the Strawberry Hills Hotel told us all about it, but he said they caught the guy who did it?” “No, they caught sorry, old me. They were a bunch of brutes, like a lynch mob, keen to blame whoever they could lay their hands on. It ruined my life, but it hasn’t put me off cakes, give me one of those cream puffs, please.”

From the morning of his bail onwards, he had gut-wrenching nightmares, the cops lurked in the shadows like vampires, they chased him on an endless treadmill, they held him in vice-like grips, chained him, throttled him, beat him, threw him from aeroplanes, and he awoke with a start, cold sweat dripping, jittery bones ready to leap from the bed. He feared them pounding upon his door, when he saw them on the street his guts dropped with dread, and he hated them egregiously, seeing them as power-drunk little Ceasars, cruel overseers with whip upraised, he would never forgive them their betrayal, they seemed inhuman, the result of their marathon effort in pursuing Arthur was to create an enemy who loathed the very concept of their existence. When he was finally allowed to see “Blue Murder”, the expose tele-movie on killer cops, his worst suspicions were confirmed, in general, cops were “bad voodoo”, to be cursed, shunned and outlawed. Of his own sweet pair of inquisitors, Detective Blockhead Dageater was shifted to Kings Cross Station where he had a flood of deviants to process in his Blues Brothers get-up, and Detective Gingerdregs Hoon was retired to the north coast, possibly after a chain of corrupt incidents, and rumored to be running a caravan park, which Arthur reminded himself never to stay at.

And whenever he did get rounded up by the police in one of their general sweeps of the riff-raff streets, accused of “loitering with intent” or whatever, when he’d simply sat on a park bench for a rest, he’d roast them roundly with the juicy facts from the Royal Commission into Police Corruption, while they searched him against his will. Then they’d finger their mobiles and look him up on their computer, and grandly announce, “Oh, so, you’re an armed hold-up artist?” “No, I was acquitted after a cruel frame-up by your good brethren.” “It says here you are an armed robber, computers never lie.” “Ha! Oh yeah, and what about all the crimes the cops are reported to have done” “You owe a lot of fines, come and pay them at Central or you’ll be put away for a few weeks.” “Yes, orrificer, I promise”, he’d simper and then run away, with one finger up, resolving never to pay them cash for their efficient persecution.

He tried to keep up the creative habit, continuing to write the movie script with Michelle, thumping away on the computer for weeks, then she’d come for a few hours and go over everything he’d written, and demand to change every second word, seeking soft-hearted gooiness whereas he could only see hard-arsed survival. After much haggling, he actually had a first draft completed, but she wanted to rewrite it, as a bitter-sweet, romantic morality tale, she didn’t understand the techno-science text he had envisioned nor the rebellious antagonism to tyranny cyberpunk had as its theme. Yet it was a fun challenge to thrash their ideas at each other and the resultant screenplay was shaping up well, if only Arthur could maintain his punchy efforts. They went as far as an interview at the Film Commissar to feel out the possibility of production, and met a glum, nerdy bureaucrat who sat non-committal throughout their pitch, as if he’d heard a sick story concerning Arthur, and was already switched off. Michelle went effusively cosmic, asking him for his zodiac sign, then blathered non-stop about the world gaining enlightenment through the wonderful message that the film would promulgate.

Arthur shuddered and tried to bring politics into the rave, cut off short by the officious weed who shook his head in negation, “But having a lost tribe of Aborigines in your musical is fraught with political and racial sensitivities, it’s not something we like to take risks with.” “I’m trying to avoid the new-age, noble savage thing for sure, it’s just going to be a fun, science-fiction fantasy, very Australian, with lots of work for the army of unemployed musicians and actors out there, and Aboriginal actors as well.” “Oh, I don’t know, it’s mighty far-fetched, I’m even confused… why don’t you think about it for a few more months?” The twerp was actually, politely, telling him to fuck off, the State does not fund subversive libertarian tracts. Arthur hallucinated the repeat of the obstacle course in film funding he’d have to go through if he persisted, and he knew he was not fodder for the Film Commissar's grind-house any more. On their way out, he bickered with Michelle over her flaky contribution of astrological nonsense and spiritual evangelism, assuring her it was not why he wanted to make a film and was no way of raising hard-nosed, film cash. This was their first, serious confrontation, she took umbrage at his criticism, and marched along in a huff; he could see that their world-paradigms were divergent, it was going to mean further trouble in an already difficult endeavor, and he lost heart in the project, letting it slide on by.

Sydney was still the rough and tumble penal-colony port as far as Arthur was concerned, cruel and vindictive, and his heart burned up with anguish, he perspired antipathy for the city that crushed down upon him, he couldn’t shake his despondency; gloomy, gray clouds suffocated him in his grungy apartment, he felt like a ghost, an outline imprinted on nothing. He knew it was himself, his very being, that had been indicted, not a paltry, one off crime; he was Society’s scape-goat bearing a load of original sin, to be driven off the edge. Arthur wasn’t surprised to learn that Franz Kafka wrote his supreme book, “The Trial”, because he was a Jewish homosexual in Nazi Central Europe, the litany of paranoia evincing his terror at being exposed. Arthur was a homosexual who had survived an endless pogrom, kept his wits and humor, and even dared to win, and for some mysterious reason, this was an affront to the rigid citizens of Gronkland, they’d rather he was killed off, zombified, instead of contributing as an artist. And so he was killed off, Australia didn’t need any wild science-fiction musicals or subversive critiques, they were happy with muck, to paraphrase Nelly Melba; the facts of Auz History were horrid, he didn’t want to participate, he only desired to fuck-off the fuckwits.

With all the misadventures encountered in these tales, of punch-ups and sleaze-bagging, foul cursing and villainous hi-jinx, the reader might reflect that Arthur deserved his eventual come-uppance, something of a good thrashing for all the smart-mouthed insults and stupid, clownish stunts he'd perpetrated. His much harped upon defense would probably be scoffed at: that working class paupers are grease for the cogs of the State machinery, they exist merely to be worked to death, and that everything he’d ever produced had been ripped off, his films, (by Trauma in New York), his artworks, (by galleries across the nation), even this writing will eventually be stolen, by plagiarists and publishers once he’s been bumped off. Yet he was determined to put up some kind of resistance and here it is.

 He was compelled to speak up about all the torture he'd experienced growing up Gay in the mid 20th Century, which he considered a crime against humanity, even if it would probably be laughed off with, “Oh no, not more guttersnipe poofs whingeing!” His spiritual beating was only what he should have expected, given that Australia was a Master, slave and overseer culture, or that’s how he found it. Australia didn’t deserve any contributions from his artistic genius and in his old age, like Epicurus, he only desired a life of contemplative idleness and simple pleasures "far from the madding crowd", he was dropping out, yet again.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.