Naylor's Canberra
freshly squeezed pulp noir

Sunday, February 06, 2005  

Installment 58: pages 240 - 241 [Elliot has provoked Ryder, who unfortunately is holding a knife.]

While baiting Ryder, I hadn’t realised Stephen was busy justifying the confidence in his manliness demonstrated by the selectors of numerous First Fifteen teams. He had been edging closer to Marina and the wine-bottle just within her reach. Ryder lunged towards me just as Stephen made a grab for the bottle. The only way Stephen had in that split-second to use his newly acquired weapon was to throw it.

Ryder, already a moving target, saw the bottle in motion before I had even realised what was happening. All I knew was that Ryder was suddenly twisting away from me, to the right, towards Danielle. I instinctively pulled her towards me, which later proved not to have been the brightest thing.

The bottle glanced from Ryder’s temple, and he fell into the Slab who fumbled and dropped him. Ryder flailed out with his bandaged knife-hand to stop himself, slicing down. I heard a sharp hiss of breath and a little cry from Danielle. Ryder fell across the coffee table, grip on the knife still firm.

Things stopped for a moment, the Slab not knowing whether to deal with Stephen, help Ryder up, or seize the knife. I looked to the curtains, blue and red lights seemed to be playing across them. The cavalry had arrived.

“Police!” came the cry. “Everyone file out through the front door, hands where we can see them!”

“You fucken idiot,” said the Slab hauling him to his feet by the nape of his jacket. “We can’t let them take you in now. Get out the back.”

Knife still in his hand, the Slab impelled his younger half-brother towards the kitchen doorway behind Marina. Ryder’s expression was a palpable mass of thwarted rage, confusion and fear. I caught a detached look of calculation in the Slab’s eye I could not immediately grasp.

I heard the back kitchen door opened with much too much haste.

Of course, trained police officers travelling in pairs have a rather more thorough approach to securing entrances and exits than Danielle, Eva and I had demonstrated. I’d only heard the first footfall on the back decking when the bark came:

“Police! Drop the weapon!”

Ryder yelled something in response.

Australian police services have seldom been accused of an excessively lenient policy towards armed individuals. In the previous year a one-armed indigenous woman wielding a small axe on a deserted beach had been shot. A year after these events, a mentally handicapped man on his way to kendo training with a bamboo sword was left paralysed by a Canberra policeman’s bullet. An aggressive white guy wielding a large, improvised cheese knife never really stood a chance.

The gunshot sounded much louder than I would have expected. The police began shouting out between each other. The Slab dropped quietly to the floor and listened intently to what was passing outside.

“I’m bleeding,” said Danielle in a startled tone. It was true, a large but shallow gash on her thigh was now bleeding freely into the sofa’s punctured upholstery. I’d twisted her leg into the blade’s path when I’d drawn her over to me.

Unfortunately, I had other concerns. Everything was slowly becoming washed through with grey and occurring at increasing distances from anywhere my faculties seemed located. “Pain in my side,” I managed to say, before passing out.

Those four words saved my life.


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