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Clement's Corner: A Matter Of Honour

In this cliff-hanger story Owen Clement reveals that there is honour among thieves.

If I hadn’t changed my mind that night, I would never have found out the truth about loyalty.

Believing that my quota for the month had been reached, I decided to enjoy a long weekend at the beach with my family. Regrettably, when rechecking my figures, I realized I needed to sell one more policy.

I rang the office and to my surprise found that a prospective client had asked specifically for me.

Arriving at the address, I was dismayed to see the house perched the edge of an escarpment about a hundred feet up from where I stood. I immediately checked my street directory to see if there was another road above to avoid the steep steps too many to count. Unfortunately the steps were my only option.

Regretting my lack of fitness, I began my laborious climb.

I was wringing with perspiration by the time I arrived at the green lattice gate. Seeing no bell or knocker, I was about to call out when a rugged looking individual with close-cropped sandy coloured hair and tattoos on his upper arms appeared, “Come on through,’’ he said stepping aside to let me pass.

Sidling past him and the dense tropical foliage I reached his veranda, put down my briefcase and held out my hand.

”Hi,” I gasped, “I’m Danny Cartwright; you asked to see me about insurance.”

“Hi Danny, I’m Mick; that’s quite a climb, huh?”

I smiled wanly.

“Hang on - I’ll go get you a drink.”

“Water’s fine,” I called out as he walked away.

I moved to the rail to admire the view of a wide expanse of sea visible over the tree tops.

He soon returned, I took the glass and gratefully drank the ice-cold water straight down.

After showing him various options, he accepted my suggestion without comment.

Leaning on the rail, I had started to work out the details when I became aware of him studying me. I knew then, that his interest was not insurance, his interest was in me.

He broke the silence by saying, “Right Danny, where do I sign?”

Saying nothing I continued to watch him. Something was niggling at me, was it his voice, the way he walked or his hair. I knew this man; but from where I could not remember. I felt suddenly scared and very vulnerable with a hundred foot drop to the road below right behind me. My gut contracting in terror, I quickly moved away from the rail.

Grinning, he dropped onto a chair stretched out his legs and crossing his ankles said, “You’ve remembered haven’t you?”

“I’m sorry, I have no idea who you are or what you want with me.”

He pulled his mouth down in mock disappointment, and then stood up and strode towards me.

Clenching my fists, I prepared to defend myself.

“Mousey!” he said as he reached me raising his voice and his eyebrows.

For a moment I had to think where I had heard that name. And then it came to me.

“Well I’m buggered,’’ I said clapping my hand over my mouth. “You have the strangest way of getting in touch. How long have you been here?”

“About two weeks.”

”When did you get out?”

“A couple of months ago.”

“You served your full time then.”

H e nodded, “Near enough”.

”Aren’t you breaking our parole by getting in touch with me?”

He shrugged his shoulders, “By organizing an insurance policy, how was I to know that my old partner would be the salesman?” He laughed and said,” You going straight?” more as a statement than a question.

“Yeah, and I’m happily married now with two kids.”

He nodded and then his eyes squinted, “You touch any of the stuff?”

I shook my head, “I swear I’ve never been near the place.’’

After a long pause he said, “I knew you wouldn’t”.’’

“You’re probably shitty with me for not visiting you.”

“No Mate, you did the right thing – anyway, you did try to warn me not to do it, but you know –“.

“Still -“

“Know a good lawyer,’’ he said, changing the subject,” a straight one I mean?”

After some consideration I said, “My brother-in-law, Bill Buckley.’’

Mick sighed; meeting me again must have brought back painful memories.

“Do you want me to arrange a meeting for you?” I asked.

“Yeah - If you would, you’ve got my number?”

“Yep -.sorry mate, I have to be going, the wife’s expecting me.”

Putting the unsigned papers away I picked up my case and made my way down the stairs. He stayed leaning on the veranda rail watching me until I reached the car. In response to my wave, he gave me a mock salute.

I could not get over how much he had changed. He bore little resemblance to the pimply scrawny long-haired kid I had known.

He rang me a few weeks later to say that with Bill’s help he had returned the stuff to its rightful owner.

While in prison he had never once revealed my identity nor my whereabouts. It was the most wonderful feeling to know that he did not let me down and that I was now free.

My wife wondered why I was grinning when I hung up, “You know Darl,’’ I said, “There is such a thing as honour among thieves.’’

© Clement 2006


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