Friday 11 January, 2013:
When I wake up, Robbie’s car is backing down the driveway. No warrant, no registration, no license – probably a gun in there as well; whatever. And off they go.
I don’t know if I’m up to this, any of it. And what makes it harder, is that it actually hurts when I see Tau’s upset with me. But I have to be tougher, with all of it. I have to look after things here.
I don’t know if Tau can handle that. I know at Sheree and Scott’s, he just does exactly what he sees fit, even though sometimes the whole situation tips out of control and there’s nothing to constrain him. And here – well, I’m attempting to constrain Tau, and he doesn’t like it one little bit.
But I still have to try.
I sigh, and decide to start the day off by sorting out the rubbish. Get the rubbish sacks out, and just go through the bin, loading up two big bags with bottles and cans, mostly. That leaves the wheelie bin half full again, which is better.
After a while, the boys come back. Tau notices the rubbish bags (I see him walk over and look), and so I go out and say, “Hey, Tau.”
“There’s some space in the bin now,” I tell him. “If you wanna clean up in there.”
“Oh yeah,” says Tau, with reasonable alacrity. “Cos there’s like five boxes out there with the empty cans.” Then he looks ruefully at me and adds, “It’ll probably fill up the whole bin again, though.”
“Well that’s alright,” I tell him. “Better than leaving it out in the shed,”
“Hard,” he remarks, and strides away with a purposeful air, returning with a box of empties under each arm.
We look at each other, kind of snorting. I don’t know why it’s funny. I think he’s been expecting more of a lecture, to be honest. I just say, “Um… I know! Why don’t I bring out some more rubbish bags, then we can fill those up with the boxes, and we’ll still have space in the bin.”
“Good idea,” Tau says.
We spent the next little while sorting out the rubbish situation, very companionably. I say, just kind of ‘in passing’, “Tau – you know last night?”
“Mm,” says Tau, without alarm. I think he can sense that I’m going to keep it light.
“You know when that guy turned up? I wasn’t growling at you, Tau. I just… didn’t know him, and I want you to be careful, k?”
“Allgood, Miss,” says Tau, and I can see he’s ok about it.
So this morning feels somewhat more restorative. But I’m under no illusions. When alcohol’s added to the whole dynamic, it’s much harder to read; proceed. I already know that – from long ago. It’s a remembering, as much as anything else. I’m a hundred times better prepared, this time round. But the stakes are higher, because I care so much more.
And for sure, there’s a little power tussle going on as well. I’m cautious… and today I feel alright.
Just before 5 pm, Tau gets arrested. I miss the whole thing. First I hear of it is when I become aware of a forlorn voice at the door: “Miss… Miss?”
I look, and Leroi’s standing there. His head droops, and he says dejectedly, “Miss, the cops just took Cluzo.”
“We were leaving to go to the shop. The cops stopped us just out there – didn’t you see?”
“No,” I tell him. “I was in the kitchen.” Which is kind of lucky, I think. I would probably have found it hard to stay calm, seeing Tau get taken away. And it wouldn’t have helped him at all.
“So what happened?” I ask, then.
“We were backing down the drive… and the cops stopped us right outside.”
“Why did they stop you?”
“Just to check Robbie’s rego and that.”
I nodded; this coming as no real surprise. The age of the passengers, their appearance – cops would have checked just as a matter of course.
“And Robbie showed the cops his license, so that was ok. But then they checked everyone’s details – they can do that.”
“And Tau tried to give a false name, but he stumbled, saying it, and they got suspicious. They talked to him, then they just arrested him and took him away.”
“Did he say who he was?”
“I think so,” nods Leroi. “Cos, you know how there’s a warrant out for him missing court.”
“Yup,” I say. “Guess it would have been worse not to.”
Next thing I ask: “Was he clean?”
“Yes,” Leroi tells me.
“He didn’t have foils on him?”
“No, and he didn’t have his gun. We were only going down to the shop.”
“That’s good…” I murmur. “Had he been drinking?”
“No, he hadn’t started.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” I say. “It could have been worse.” But I still feel a bit heartsick.
Five minutes later I get a text from Tau: ‘Mis im gtn lockd up’.
I go round to tell Sheree. Stay there a while, come back and cook dinner.
Saturday 12 January:
I wake up, and it’s real quiet. Around midday Tau texts: ‘Miss cn u pic me up pleaze’. He’s been to court; been let out of the cells, and says he’ll wait for me outside the police station.
Tau’s pleased, I must say, at this turn of events. He has that bumptious look in his eye, that ‘good day’ look. Which isn’t surprising, considering everyone (including himself) has been thinking he might be in there till Monday. All he wants to do – at least to start with – is come back and take a shower; have a rest. His happy eyes shine, as he tells me everything that’s happened.
As we drive past some guys sitting on a step near the station: “Those are all the guys I was locked up with last night,” says Tau. “Far, it’s hard to sleep in there, everyone’s just banging on their cell doors and yelling at each other, saying, I’m gonna fuck you over, bitch.”
“And what about you?” I ask him.
“Nah, I was quiet,” he tells me.
“Well, that’s good.”
We get home, and after a while some of the boys arrive to pick up Tau. I say to him, “You just take it easy today, just keep having a good day, okay?”
“Yup, Miss,” he says.
“Keep things nice and quiet huh,” I suggest, and he chuckles, nodding at me.
Later on, I remember saying these words… and you know how sometimes you just wish you could say it over, and say it better.
Just before midnight, I get a text from Tau. It reads: ‘Miss we at the cop station tha bro robbie jus died’.
I ring Tau, tell him I’ll get Sheree and come. He’s crying, quietly. “Some fucked up shit happened,” he tells me.
We drive to the station, where the gate is locked and we speak to the cops through the bars. They confirm that someone has passed away, and tell us they’re still interviewing witnesses; they haven’t finished with anyone yet. But they bring out Tau for a minute to see us, and we hug him and talk to him. Tears are trickling down his face as he says, in a voice soft and hoarse with pain, “Robbie got shot, Miss. But it was a accident.”
“It was an accident…” I murmur. “Then – who? Do you know who did it?”
In answer he just nods, swallowing tears. “But I can’t say anything to the cops,” he whispers.
“That’s ok, Tau, shhhh, that’s ok,” I whispered back. “You can tell me if you want to, I won’t say anything.”
He nods, and chokes out, next to my ear, “It was Mischa. We were shooting cans out on the back lawn, round at his place, and Robbie stepped the wrong way. Mischa shot him… but it was an accident.
“I know, shhh… course it was, Tau, it’s ok.”
And we just stand there for a bit longer, until a cop comes over and takes Tau back inside.
Around 2, Leroi appears: he looks shell-shocked. He and Sheree and me sit on the concrete, outside the gates, and smoke, and wait for Tau. I have one of Sheree’s ciggies. Every puff is a jolt of emergency relief.
Tau’s let out at 3, but Mischa is still locked up.
I take Sheree, Tau and Leroi over to Fitzroy. And then I come home and sleep.
Sunday 13 January:
Tau arrives back around 8:30. Within the hour, a few boys arrive; there is no drinking or any sign of alcohol – just quiet, intermittent conversation, in a very subdued atmosphere. That remains the case till midday, at about which time people start to turn up, gradually. I know most of them (not all), but as the numbers swell, I start to feel a bit apprehensive, knowing it’s an emotional, and potentially volatile buzz. When I hear bottles clinking and boxes being lifted from cars, I realize I have to go out and do some redirecting of personnel.
I speak to (in turn), Noa, Kost, then Leroi and Tau. Explain that I don’t want to host anything here. Explain why. Tell them if more and more people keep arriving, something could flare up; state everyone’s in. And I don’t feel sure that I can control it, especially if I don’t know them all – and with alcohol in the mix.
“You’re right, Miss,” Noa says. “Cos it was alcohol that caused it to happen in the first place. We’ll go over to Clancy, set up there.”
I’m worried about that too, of course. But I know they’re gonna drink anyway. And very importantly there’s going to be adults there, plural. Not just me.
I go help with the drop off. I feel kind of sick: Robbie gone. He was a good friend to Tau – to all of them. If I feel sick at that, those boys must feel totally ripped up by it.
It could so easily have been any one of them. And if I’m honest, it could have happened anywhere; it could have happened right here.
Leroi says, on the way to Clancy, “I’m just glad he had a good day, yesterday.”
“Hard,” echo the others. “It was a good as day.”
“We went to the beach.”
“And to this place under the Harbour Bridge,” they tell me. “It was cool as.”
As I’m driving back home down Carthill Rd, I keep getting little sniffs of Tau’s scent, from the seat next to mine, and it clutches at my heart so much, because I don’t know what the fuckin fuck I’m really doing, and I’m scared, today. I’m scared, because Robbie didn’t make it, and things don’t always get righted, do they; sometimes they just… go wrong. And I just breathe in and think, oh God please do look after Tau, please do not forget. Not even for one second, ok.