My boss sent me looking for Luigi. One of his super-rich clients had been sucked in by a betting scam Luigi was running down at the dogs. Luigi took this dude for a lot of twine and you could maybe say that my boss was seeking… restitution. It was my job to stick close to Luigi, wait for him to slip up.
First stop, his apartment. He wasn’t there, but Dolores was. Five foot five and stacked, packaged in a singlet and daisy dukes. Biting that lip.
“Hey, Carter. You look good.”
She came up close to touch my cheek, then spun around and yeah, ground that tush of hers into my crotch. The glance over her shoulder said Follow me, and I did.
Dolores was juicier than a peach. Hungrier than a shark. When we were done, she lay on the bed like a rag doll. Zipping up my pants, I asked her, “Where is he?”
“Luigi? Oh, Luigi’s long gone.”
He’d been a busy boy … tying up loose ends, collecting debts. Generally making people nervous, like something big was going to happen. People were looking for him. But now, no trace.
A few days before, I was having breakfast at the Valhalla when my phone went off. Hamzy’s retread factory had gone up in flames overnight … and was still burning. Did a drive-by and sure enough, Fifteen engines plus cops diverting traffic. Smoke poured out the back of a building packed with enough rubber to blaze for days.
Hamzy liked the gee gees, but they didn’t like him back. When he’d burned through every legit line of credit to feed his habit, he had to turn to some pretty unsavoury people. He’d gazed into the abyss, and the abyss was gazing back. Desperate times.
Hamzy and Luigi shared a love of fishing, and it’s not hard to imagine Hamzy pouring his heart out during a day spent chasing snapper off Long Reef. Luigi had his fingers in a lot of pies, but now some of those pies had teeth. The brain trust’s coinciding interests might’ve come up with the idea of a new start, in a new state, for Luigi.
You could rely on Luigi to fly under the radar. He’d never been flashy, not even in the good times. He liked to do the rounds in a battered ten-year-old Commodore with multiple plates, driven by Dolores’ brother, Pete.
Pete was big. Not the sharpest tool in the box. A rangy guy with massive hands, he didn’t like me running around with Dolores. Not out of loyalty to Luigi, but because he just plain couldn’t stand the sight of me. One drunken night he let the cat out the bag when he says to me, “I wanna punch you in the face, Pretty Boy.”
I filled the boss in about Hamzy and how I thought Luigi was in the picture, especially given his history of playing with matches. A while later, the boss passed on scuttlebutt he’d picked up in the city: suspected arson, accelerant used. Police investigating. A two and a half million-dollar property insurance policy. No financial loss cover … maybe Hamzy didn’t want peeps looking at the books.
The boss pulled a few strings. His office was lousy with strings: like a cat’s cradle. He got me an in with Hamzy’s brokers…I was to be Hamzy’s quote unquote special adviser, sitting in on his meetings with the loss adjuster and lawyers. “Keep your mouth shut and listen,” he said. “Don’t fuck up.”
So, I got some cards printed…Lloyd Carter, Business Continuity Consultant or some such bullshit…and dusted off my only suit. I’d been spending some time on the weights, and the sleeves were tight as sausage skins. No way I could have buttoned up the jacket. Still, the fake credentials worked.
The law offices were located on a floor high above the harbour, and tiny sailboats way down below threaded around the ferries and gin palaces. In the boardroom, I sat with Hamzy across from the adjuster, a hatchet-faced Irish dude, and some other fuckers.
Hamzy had dressed to impress, black shirt and purple tie under a grey leather bomber. Hair slicked back, trailing a cloud of Drakkar Noir so potent it stung my eyes.
Hatchet Face was all business. “Mr Hamzy, I’d like to explain the process to you. If your claim is to be accepted, we need to determine the cause of the fire and rule out the possibility that you had any involvement. This will involve a physical investigation at the site, as well as a factual investigation. You and your staff will have to be interviewed, give statements and so on. At the end of that process, I will report to my principals and seek their instructions. Do you understand?”
Hamzy was smooth. Cucumber cool. “I understand. You have your job to do. I just worry about my guys, their families. Those poor kids…” I swear, his eyes welled up like he was chopping onions. Fuck, he was good. Here’s how Hamzy told it:
As usual, the factory closed at midday on Saturday. It was locked up tight, and the alarm activated. I was fishing all day. At 21:00 I got to the factory and parked my boat. The missus doesn’t like my boat parked on her driveway, so I keep it at the factory. That way on Monday morning, the guys can give it a good wash. So, I turned off the alarm, and put the boat inside, before locking up tight again and reactivating the alarm. Then I get a call at 06:00, about alarms going off like crazy, and authorities already alerted? I got back there at 07:15, and the place was already an inferno.
That’s all he knew. Then they put him through the wringer. For six weeks. They got nowhere. Forensics came up with nothing…too many chemicals in the place, so they couldn’t root out the accelerant. The employees knew nothing and Hamzy stuck to his story. The cops lost interest. The money men knew in their guts he did it, but they couldn’t find a (fancy word) nexus.
So back to the aerie over the sparkling sea, the boardroom was chock full of suits. I didn’t know who they were, but there was a guy down the end with a poker face, in a navy suit that cost more than my car. I thought, That’s the guy.
Hatchet Face said something like “You know that we know. We know you did it, and we can drag this out. Make you take us to court. It could go on for years. But the clients are reasonable people, so in the interest of harmony and goodwill, they’re willing to settle the matter by a final payment in full. One million.
“Thank you. Can I take a moment to discuss this with my adviser?” That was supposed to be me, but Hamzy didn’t need my advice. He just stood at the picture window in reception, staring all the way out across the sparkly blue to the Heads. Maybe he was thinking of snapper. We went back in.
“I want to thank you, Gentlemen, for your candour. I agree that it would be best to finalise this troublesome matter, so we can all get on with our lives. I would hate for us to go through the expense and inconvenience of legal action. The only winners are the lawyers, right?” A nervous chuckle went through the room. Not me. I don’t chuckle. Anyway, I was likely to split a sleeve if I did. Suit was quiet too, looking at his manicured nails.
“One and a half million,” said Hamzy. Hatchet looked at Suit. A signal. “We’ll send a release out today,” said Hatchet. “Thanks for your time, everybody.”
Boom. Job done.
Then I was back to core business, looking for Luigi. All roads led to Dolores. She would give me a lock on Pete. Also, Dolores was a rabbit hole I was happy to fall into.
I met with her at the Valhalla for a steak. She arrived in a white shirt dress; top buttons undone showing a fluorescent orange push-up bra. She had a side hustle, selling used panties to pervs on the net. She’d hooked up with someone in factory seconds who sold her the slow-moving stock dirt cheap. Which meant her lingerie was always…interesting.
Dolores was short-sighted but didn’t like glasses, so she walked in chin up and looking down her nose, like a queen. We sat side by side in a booth for ease of canoodling, and rejected the cat-piss House Red in favour of a nice Barolo. Went back to the place she shared with Luigi…cartons of knickers and packing materials all over the place, a vacuum sealer she got on eBay in the corner, to ensure freshness. She liked to look after her customers.
But at that particular moment, she was looking after me. Afterwards, I asked her about Pete.
They were close. He was eleven and Dolores just fifteen, when she woke him before dawn, her finger on his lips to hush him up. The two of them lit out, away from the busted furniture, dogshit and violence thrumming like a high-tension wire. They hitched rides to the Emerald City, where she took care of him, kept him safe.
It was only natural that he swung by to let her know he and Luigi had concluded some business. They were gonna make themselves scarce for a while. He and Dolores had no secrets, so Pete spilled the whole deal. Here’s how he told it:
Luigi and Pete were waiting at the factory when Hamzy arrived. Hamzy killed the alarm and opened up. While he messed with the boat and trailer, the boys headed out back and poured petrol all around the place. They half-filled heavy-duty plastic bags with petrol, hung them off machines. Luigi drilled a hole through the metal wall cladding and pushed through a short length of cordite, one end into a little plastic bottle of petrol. Everybody out, alarm on. Locked up. At 04:30, Pete and Luigi went back and lit the fuse. And presto! Inferno.
So, see Hamzy hadn’t uttered a word of a lie. No wonder his story held up. Next day Luigi and Pete hopped into the Commodore and drove west with a few bricks of fifties totalling a hundred grand; to be split 70/30, because Luigi was the brains.
“Pete called me,” said Dolores. “He’s in Broken Hill.”
I got on a plane along with all the miners in fluoro. Pete was holed up in a shitty motel on the Silver City Highway, drinking rum and Coke at ten in the morning when I busted in. “The fuck you want, Pretty Boy?”
I told him I knew the story but had no dog in the Hamzy hunt. What I wanted was Luigi. He laughed at me. “Luigi? Good luck with that; I reckon the pigs have him finished off by now.”
On the road, Luigi was excited, chatty, talking about the casino in Perth, and his plans for a lesbian double at the Golden Apple. Pete asked if he was going to bring Dolores out west. Luigi said he and Dolores were through: she was nothing but a cunt and a whore, just a set of holes to stick his dick in. He knew she was running around on him and she could go fucking rot.
I could picture Pete’s heavy hands tight on the wheel, his eyes on the road.
Luigi needed to piss, so he had Pete pull over. Luigi walked a little way off and was going like a horse when Pete came up from behind with a tyre iron from under the driver’s seat. Clubbed him to the ground, turned him over and bashed his face to jelly.
“You’d better keep your mouth shut, Pretty Boy.” I put up my hands and backed out, leaving him to his rum and Coke, his hundred thousand dollars, and his shitty motel room on the Silver City Highway.
Back in Sydney, me and the boss closed the book on Luigi. Not the result we were after, but restitution of sorts.
And Hamzy. For a smart guy, Hamzy was fucking dumb. His payout staved off trouble for a while, but soon he was up to his old tricks. They found his Sportsman drifting 20NM off the Heads. Open verdict.
Me and Dolores still fool around. Her and her crazy lingerie. She looks after me. And I look after her.
Featured Image: Kings Cross, Sydney.