He was sitting on a bench on the front veranda of the Johnsons Creek Hotel. There was nothing grand about this hotel, that had long gone. "G'day." I said as I stepped onto the veranda.
"G'day." He moved his rollie (Hand-rolled cigarette) to one side of his mouth so that he could take a swig of his beer.
"Do you know Bruce Thompson?"
"Can you tell me where he lives?"
"Why not, don't you know where he lives?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Then why can't you tell me?"
"Because why?" I was beginning to get a little frustrated by him.
"'Cos he don't want me to."
Well, at least I got more than one word out of him. "But I need to see him, it's important."
I assumed that what he was trying to say was 'what for'. "Because I have some important news for him."
"I c'n tell him."
"No, I have to speak with him personally."
"Good luck with that."
"Look, I'm a Lawyer and I have news for him about his brother Alfred. His brother passed away recently and Bruce has been left a lot of money."
"He's not interested."
"How do you know that?"
"Are you a friend of his?"
"Sometimes I is and sometimes I ain't."
I was trying to get my head around this when a bloke came out of the pub with a fresh beer. "Top-up for ya Bruce."
"Ta mate." He handed his empty glass to the bloke and took a swig from the new.
"You're Bruce Thompson?"
"But, what was that all about?"
"You asked me if I knew him, not if I was him. I reckon I know him better than anyone else." He smiled at me. "Had you goin' there, didn't I?"
I smiled back at him. "You could say that."
"I just did." He patted the bench beside him. "Take the weight off and tell me what you need to tell me."
I sat beside him. "My name is James Finlay and I'm a lawyer representing the executors of the estate of the late Alfred Thompson."
"Is this gunna take long?"
"A while, yes."
He whistled loudly and the man came out of the pub. "Dave, can you bring young Jim here a beer?" He turned to me, "What's ya poison?"
"Coopers Light." I have to follow my parochial bias, Coopers, the best beer in Oz is made in South Oz.
"Coopers weak piss." A few seconds later a glass was in my hand and I took a swig.
"Okay, speak up, what's it all about."
"The late Alfred Thompson was quite a wealthy man, did you know that?"
"Wouldn't know, haven't spoken to him in yonks."
"When you say yonks, when was the last time you spoke with your brother?"
"Prob'ly twenty years ago."
"You were a close family then?" I commented sarcastically.
"Not much point in talkin' if ya've got nothin' ta say."
"I've got quite a lot of paperwork to go through with you, is there somewhere that we can talk?" I was expecting him to go into the pub and find a table to sit at. Instead, he stood up. "Drink up, you c'n come home with me." He took the two glasses inside and came out. We walked down the veranda and I thought that we were going to go to one of the four or five houses along the road. Instead, we rounded the corner of the pub and walked to a battered Land Cruiser. "Jump in."
"I'll need to get the papers from my car." 'Car' being a euphemism for my 'soft-roader', a pretend bush bashing 4WD.
"Ya'd better get them then." He waited for me and when I was seated beside him he started the Land Cruiser up and we headed out of town.
"Where are we going?"
"Home." That was the last thing he said for three-quarters of an hour until we pulled up outside a large farmhouse. We climbed out and he grabbed a large cardboard box from under the tarp that covered the tray and we headed for the door.
Just as we stepped onto the veranda, the door opened and a young woman stepped out. "I hope you got everything on the list."
"Yeah, it's all there."
"Who is this?"
"Mary, this is Jim, he's a lawyer and he's come to speak to me about ya great-uncle Alf, he carked it."
"Why would he do that?"
"D'ya mean why'd he cark it?"
"No, why would he leave money to you? I presume that's why he's here."
"Had'n attack of the guilts most likely."
"S'funny, you've never mentioned him to me."
"Didn't see the point."
"I need to know all about it, c'mon you old bastard, spit it out, I want to hear the whole story."
"Ya'd better put the kettle on, this could take a while."
"What'll ya have Jim, tea or coffee?"
"Coffee's fine thanks."
Mary headed for the kitchen and we could hear her clattering around. She returned about five minutes later with three mugs of coffee and a plate of biscuits (cookies) "Help ya'self ta milk and sugar." She said as she sat down.
"Alf was me brother, a year younger than me and we grew up right here. He wasn't much for farming so he went off to Uni and become an accountant or something. I was workin' me arse off tryin' ta make ends meet out here after ya grandfather carked it when he came back for a stay."
"He sat on his arse chatting to Mabel, that's ya grandma, and when he went back she went with him. She left ya Dad and aunty June behind so I had to raise 'em meself. Ya Dad worked hard with me to keep this lot goin'. He met this sheila and you were soon on the way, but then he got dragged inta the Vietnam war and didn't make it back and ya Mum died givin' birth to you. Aunty June 'n me raised ya up and that's about it."
"So, you've not spoken to Grandma since she left."
"Didn't want ta and I guess that she didn't want ta talk to me. She didn't even want to have anything to do with you. So we let them be."
"You didn't think about gettin' married again."
"Thought about it but didn't, not that there wasn't a shortage of sheilas interested. Some of 'em were willin' t' oblige when I went into town for supplies."
"Grandpa! You randy old goat."
"I had ta have me needs met, but I didn't want the hassle of getting married again. Ya didn't think that I'd do it with Aunty June, did you?"
"Na, I guess not."
I got the impression that this had crossed his mind at some time, whether he acted on it was up to him.
I took the papers from my case and opened the file that contained Alfred's will. I passed it to Bruce who glanced at it before sliding it across to Mary. "What does it say?"
Mary looked a the file and skimmed the contents. "Fuck."
"Watch ya language, girl, we got company."
"Sorry Jim, but do you know what this says."
"He cut Grandma off without a cent."
"Good," Bruce said, "Serve her right."
"But why leave her nothing?"
"He didn't leave her with nothing, she got the house." I told them.
"I can see her now, all alone, rattling around in that dirty great barn of a house of theirs, list'ning to the ghosts of her past rubbin' it in. If she'd stayed with me I could be keepin' her company." There was a wistfulness in his voice.
"Don't you go getting maudlin on us now Grandpa."
"And don't you go usin' those big words with me, just 'cause ya went to Uni ya don't need to rub my nose in the fact that I was lucky to complete high school."
"Grandpa, you got more wisdom in you than university education can ever provide, so don't sell yourself short. Isn't that right, Jim."
"I'd have to agree with that, all the learning in the world means little without life experience."
"I know when I'm licked, a bloke can't win with the two of you against him." He made a great show of having the sulks but Mary wasn't buying it.
"Jim, could you give me a hand putting the groceries away and let him sulk in peace. When it's safe we can get back to going over Uncle Alf's will and what we have to do."
In an unaccustomed display of domesticity, I helped Mary stash the groceries in the chosen places.
"If you don't mind me saying this, I find myself getting caught up in your life out here on the farm. What makes you stay here when you could be making your fame and fortune back in the city?"
"The same reason that you're caught up in our lives, this is living out here, not a mad scramble to be like everyone else. Here you can be yourself, know yourself."
"Quite the philosopher, aren't you."
"I should be, for my sins, I have a Psych degree, much good it did me. I refused to conform to the norm. What made you become a Lawyer if you don't mind me asking?"
"Initially it was the prospect of becoming filthy rich, but lately I have been taking stock of my motivation. I am getting tired of having to defend people who I know are guilty of whatever it is that sees them in front of a judge."
"How do you know that they are guilty?"
"Because of something called lawyer/client privilege, I ask up front for the truth and they, knowing that I can't use that against them, tell all. I usually get to handle cases where there is a large amount of money involved. Your Grandma has challenged the validity of this will, so here I am."
"And whose side are you on?"
"I represent the Public Trustee that has been appointed Executor of this estate. I have to be, not only impartial, but be seen to be impartial. Before you ask, I get nothing more than the standard fee for my services."
"The time that you spend up here, do you get paid for all of it or just the time that you actually spend discussing it with us?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Because it's getting late and I wouldn't like to see a city bloke like you having to navigate the wildlife at night as you drive back to the city. I am suggesting that you stay the night and drive back in the morning. Now that leaves us with the problem of where you're going to stay. The choices are, in no particular order, at the pub or here. Now while the pub is comfortable enough if you're desperate, if you were to stay here with Grandpa and me, we can see that you are more comfortable."
"What would be your preference, me at the pub or me here, with you?"
She got my meaning straight away and her response was what I was hoping it would be. "I think that you would prefer to stay here with me . . . and Grandpa."
"That's it then, I stay here."
I was pleasantly surprised by what happened next. She kissed me. "I don't want you to think that I invited you to stay because I haven't had any sex for months now and I'm taking advantage of you but . . . I haven't had sex for months."
"I could be in for a long night."
If I thought that she was forward in kissing me, what she did next was even more forward. Her hand had found my, heading for the stars, erection, and was helping it on its way to heaven.
"All right you two, that's enough." Bruce had come into the kitchen 'to get a glass of water' and caught us, while not exactly 'at it', but heading in that direction.
"I've invited Jim to stay the night and drive back to the city in the morning."
"Have you now? I don't suppose you thought to ask me if it was okay to invite this rooster to spend the night in the henhouse?"
"I didn't think you'd mind, after all, it is a long drive back to the city."
I suddenly noticed that the two of them were speaking normally and not like some uneducated yokels.
I learnt a lot that evening. Bruce had gone to bed leaving instructions that we should behave ourselves.
"There's something that I don't understand," I said as we sat on the big, comfortable sofa staring at nothing in particular.
"What don't you understand . . . my love?"
"That's another thing. When I first met Bruce and then you, you both spoke in this weird patois, sort of like the farmers of a hundred years ago would have spoken but, now both of you speak like you have been university educated. And then there's you calling me 'my love', don't you think it's a little early to be calling me that?"
"Okay, you got us, it's true, both Grandpa and I have Uni degrees, forget about Psych, we both have Ag. Science degrees, that's because we both love the life out here away from the rat-race. As for the other, I have taken an instant liking to you. I realise that this goes against the 'getting to know you' norm, but if I let you go back to town without expressing my feelings, the opportunity will probably slip away. I can't have that happening now, can I?"
"You won't hear me complaining."
"Be still my beating heart," She sighed as she held her hand to her chest. "My dreams have come true."
"You dreamed of me?"
"Well, not you per se, but someone like you. I couldn't believe it when Grandpa arrived with you in tow."
"You came as something of a shock to me. I hardly expected to meet someone as gorgeous as you living with Bruce."
"So, what are we going to do about this?"
"Well, me being a normal hot-blooded, passably handsome young man and, you being a beautiful young woman, I would be letting the side down if I didn't make a pass at you. How am I doing?"
"Pretty good, but actions speak louder than words, let's see you in action."
I feel the need to explain something about myself. Being, as mentioned previously, a normal hot-blooded etc, I have had, in the past, a steady stream of accommodating young ladies willing to allow me the temporary use of their bodies. I have never seen the need to convert the temporary use into a permanent arrangement. Something was telling me that this could change. We shall see what we shall see.
I was expecting, given that Mary had, like me, been on short-rations, that we would have attacked each other ferociously, but what do I know. It, love-making that is, began slowly, tenderly almost, and built up steam as it progressed until we were going at it with gusto. My body has never been explored as thoroughly as it was being by her. I returned the favour and, by the time we had reached a better than satisfactory conclusion, I could have described her perfection with my eyes closed.
"Phew," Mary said as we caught our breath. "I needed that, I can tell you."
"You and me both."
"Don't give me that bullshit, I'll bet you have a reputation for your stud prowess."
"I have had no complaints."
"And I'm not about to complain. Now, I realise that he needs time to get back into action, so you just lie there while I make you feel right at home in my bed, soon to become our bed."
"Getting ahead of yourself there aren't you? Who is to say that I want to continue with you."
"Do you want to sleep in our bed, or would you prefer the barn?"
"Is there a good-looking female teacher there, or am I in the wrong joke"
"No joke mate, what is it to be?"
"I guess I could force myself to stay."
"If it's going to be an imposition, then you can forget it."
"With you, it will never be an imposition."
She picked up on the subtle change in attitude and began to make me feel at home. By the time that he was ready again for action, I felt as if I had been raised in this place and didn't want to leave.
"I'm glad that there's no farm type work to get on with today," Bruce said as we walked into the kitchen. "You two were at it for hours, a bloke couldn't get to sleep listening to that bed of yours squeaking under the strain. I'm going to have to do something about that, God knows I need my beauty sleep."
"My bed doesn't squeak." I said and Mary smiled at that.
"Am I missing something here?" Bruce asked.
"Well, we sort of reached an agreement that Jim will move up here."
"Rushing the gun a little aren't you? I don't want the two of you to make the same mistake that I did with your grandma."
"How long had you been going together before you got married?" I asked. I half expected that he was talking in weeks, at the most months.
"Must have been three, maybe four years."
Mary looked at me. "I don't think I can wait that long."
Call it synchronicity, but we both turned together and kissed.
"Sheesh, a bloke could starve waiting for breakfast."
"There's nothing stopping you getting your own breakfast."
"I suppose that you're going to abrogate all of your responsibilities now that Jim here is on the scene."
"Oh, all right, I'll get your breakfast."
I helped, being a dab-hand with the toaster, we had a pile of toast with butter and marmalade to go with our coffee.
"We'd better get our heads around this will," I said when we had finished breakfast and the washing-up had been finished. "I get the impression that it won't be plain sailing, we need to cover all bases so we can fight any challenges she'll come up with."
"Take note girl, you're hitching yourself to a slave-driver." We knew that he wasn't serious.
"The only reason, as I see it," I told them, "for her to challenge this will is that he wasn't in full control of his faculties. I don't suppose that there is any history of mental instability in the family, is there?"
"Apart from the momentary aberration of me marrying the bitch, no, I can't think of any."
"Okay, cross that from the list. Can you think of any other reason why he would leave you the money?"
"Apart from me lending him the money to set up his accountancy business, no."
"How much did you lend him, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Around three, four hundred thousand dollars."
"Grandpa! Here you've been telling me for years that you don't have any money."
"If you knew that I'm filthy rich you'd have your hand out all the time."
"Okay, just how much money do you have?" I asked.
"In the bank, near enough to bugger all."
"So, where is it?"
"Here and there, I won't stash my cash in any one place, it's spread around, some in shares, some in real estate, some in government bonds, all safe as houses."
"I can see why you said that you weren't interested when I told you that your brother left you money. But it still leaves you with a decision, if you don't want it the money will go to Mabel, not something that would please you if I hazard a guess."
"You got that right. I could always donate it to charity."
"Dare I suggest that charity begins at home."
"Are you thinking that if I accept the money it will eventually go to Mary, and if you were to be married to her, you would get your sticky fingers onto it,"
"I can set your mind at ease on that subject. If I should marry Mary here, that's if she'll have me, I will bring a lot more into this relationship than she will. I am quite well off having inherited a large sum from my grandfather's will."
"Ooh goody, I'm going to be a filthy rich woman." Mary said as she hugged me.
"Don't get you hopes up, you have to agree to marry me first, and then convince me that I desperately want to marry you"
"Hold it there girl," Bruce said as she dragged me towards the bedroom. "We have work to do first. Is there anything else that we need to address in this will?"
"I can't think of anything." Mary grabbed me again.
"Out of curiosity, when was this will made up?"
"Let me see, it was dated 2012."
"Shit, he must have kept that secret from her, otherwise she would have left him and weaselled her way back into my arms, or at least tried to, she wouldn't have succeeded."
"We will have to hope that there isn't a more recent will."
"Is that it?" Mary asked.
"Yes . . . " I didn't get to say anything else, she had me on the bed in seconds.
I very nearly had to stay another night, it was almost to the point where it would be dangerous for me to drive back to Adelaide, but she agreed that I could go as long as I returned on Saturday.
"You took your time." My boss said when I arrived at work the next day.
"You know these country types, thick as two short Irishmen. It didn't help that he had no interest in the money. He did care that his ex-wife didn't get any of it so he relented and agreed to accept the bequest."
"So there's no problem then?"
"No, apart from the fact that she's contesting the will on the basis that he must have been crazy to leave all his money to a brother, and her ex-husband to boot, that he hasn't spoken to in twenty years. Bruce says that he hasn't spoken to his brother in all that time because he had nothing to say."