Home   International Poetry Fiction Non-fiction
© Copyright 2003-2009 K S Mulholland  

BlackEagle Girls
and The Ice-Angel of Death

Chapter 14 - Dead Man's Hand

'Aren't we going to do anything?' asked Neil Beresford, after The Ice Man had slammed the rear door shut and shoved into the front seat alongside him.  

'Yeah, Neil, sure. Hit The Road Jack is what we're gonna do. We got places to be and this never happened, got it!'

'But that girl, she might not be dead... '

'If the fall didn't do the trick, then getting a face full of water sure would. And whatever she knew goes with her. Stupid kid must have figured out a few things; probably been spying, hanging around night after night waiting for us. How she got by Monkey and Whitey and through the gate I dunno. Must have sneaked into the back seat before we took off. Now she's a long way from Hopewell Hall. When the Cops find her there won't be anything to connect her to us. It's just another mystery. As for her black pal, maybe after this she's gonna realise that accidents can happen. She gonna blab? Could be. But what's she gonna say? She's got nothing solid on any of us and plenty to lose, like another accident. And after tonight, that's a good chance. It'll be a day or two before anyone finds that Little Girl down there, and by then we'll have this sorted. Leave that all to me Neil. Trouble with you is you think too much. Let's get moving Vito.'

The driver took off, smoothly coasting away along the winding road that led down toward Melbourne and the inner suburb of Fitzroy.

'What's with you two? Trying to get into the Guinness Book Of Records for the most times risking death by water? First, pulling a young girl out of a drowning situation in a pond, second, Priscilla jumping off a cliff in Tasmania, third Monique, by getting into an altercation with Roseanne Sole in the swimming pool and now  Priscilla again hurtling off the heights above the Yarra River,' said Harry's voice from the girl's Activators.

Both Monique and Priscilla were really not up to much light-hearted banter, considering the events of moments before. 'Gimme a break Harry,' panted Priscilla, rubbing at some scratches on her wrist, 'like it's only a minute ago I was about to get shot and then kicked off a cliff... '

'Lucky for you that Harry was able to cut in the Anti-Gravity control and retrieve you, once again. As he says Cilla, you are making a habit of this,' remarked Monique, taking her friend's arm and rubbing it affectionately, as the car slowed and came out of the heights down into the streets of Abbotsford.

'And I didn't have much to help with my projection of you in the river, only an abandoned shopping trolley and some garbage piled up against it. Not easy to turn that into some kind of vision of a girl face-down in the water,' said Harry defensively.

'Alright, alright, you don't have to justify yourself to me Harry,' said Priscilla, peering down at her Hand Activator to make sure all the switches were off, 'I just, like, need a few secs to get straightened out. When you whisked me back in here with Moni I didn't know whether I was coming or going, and maybe I wish that we were both going and not still in the backseat of Vito's car.'

'They don't know you're there again, just be careful if Vito takes off not to lean on any Activator buttons. Otherwise, enjoy the ride. We're monitoring you from up here.'

'That is most certain,' cut in Narenda Upaday's voice. 'We're all here in the Black Eagle following the car, even Harry and Mister Fon Jien. Do be most careful.'

'No more accidents now,' said Tsu's voice. 'These dudes are seriously dangerous.'

'Comforting to know that you guys are with us,' said Priscilla, leaning forward to overhear what was being said in the front seat. 'All Moni and me have to do is get ourselves out of this mess when we've finished snooping.'

'Go in the back way Vito,' said Tony The Ice Man, indicating a small lane-way to their right.
Vito cleared his throat with what sounded like a low growl, but did as Tony Ichema indicated, pulling the car into a lane and slowly proceeding up it until slowing to a halt.

'O.K. Neil, time for you to get acquainted with some people. Let's go,' said Tony, opening the door and getting out of the car.

'Yeah sure Tony, oh I threw my bag into the back seat, its got my puffer in it.'

'Right. Grab it and let's get moving,' said The Ice Man, impatiently.

Beresford opened the rear door and fumbled inside while Monique squeezed up against Priscilla, sliding the sling bag towards his searching fingers.

'What ya doing now?' demanded The Ice Man as Beresford rummaged around inside the bag.

'Just checking that I've got my puffer refill. If this one runs out I need to have a backup or I could be in big trouble.'

'Oh sure Neil, yeah I get it, big trouble right. C'mon,' sniggered Tony, pointing toward a dark doorway that was the rear entry of a brick building. 'In there.' Then leaning through the open passenger window he added, 'Thanks Vito, spot-on as usual. Take care of the cargo.'

Vito grunted.

'Burh! Smells like dead fish, stale beer and public toilets after a football match,' said Priscilla, slipping out of the car behind Monique while Beresford was still fiddling with his bag. 'Now what?'

Tony The Ice Man gave the roof of the car a couple of slaps and slammed the rear door as Priscilla dodged out of the way. 'Check yer bag inside where ya can see in the light. Move it Neil.'

'Now go! Follow them of course!' replied Monique, dragging Priscilla by the arm. 'Come on!'

The black car slowly eased away down the lane into the gloom as the two girls hustled to catch up with The Ice Man and Beresford who by then were both entering the building through a shabby, creaking screen door.

Inside a narrow passageway beyond, the girls were assailed by the many odours of an ongoing restaurant: the fragrances of herbs and spices, the staleness of old bread, the faint hint of red wine and the pungency of cheeses. In front of them, Tony Ichema indicated a door to the left.
'It's three in the morning, time when deals are done and people get to meet each other. We're expected.' The Ice Man opened the door, put his hand squarely in the middle of Beresford's back and pushed him in. As the two youths entered and stepped to one side, Priscilla and Monique could see several faces hovering over a green table with a down-light suspended above it so that beyond that circle of brightness the room lay in shadow. Cigarette smoke drifted listlessly from several ashtrays stuffed with butts. Coin and notes and half empty glasses littered the table.

'I'm in, raise,' said a figure with his back to them.

'See that and upa feefty,' replied another voice, obscured by a potted palm in a cane stand to the left.

'Bluffing Dago,' muttered a third man, his pudgy face sharply in profile, the stub of a cigar jammed between his red lips.

'I taka that as a compliiment, my Aussie mite.'

'I ain't yer Aussie mate when there's dough on the table Mario. Here, up your fifty and fifty more,' said Pudgy-face, sliding a note into the centre pile.

'Too rich for me,' said a man facing the girls on the far side of the table, laying his cards face-down on the green baize. 'Company's here Gabe.'

'Yeah, yeah, sure Mick. All in good time, the boys can wait until we finish this hand, it's education for 'em anyhow,' replied the man with his back to them.

'I'm out too. Mario don't bluff,' said another gaunt-looking person on the right, dropping his cards and taking a swig of clear liquid from a tumbler.

'Right. Call Mario, let's see 'em pal,' said the man with his back to the girls.

The figure obscured by the potted palm spread out his cards on the table. 'Benny isa right. I do notta bluff. Who can better?'

'Bloody hell! That does my queens and sevens,' exclaimed Pudgy-face, tossing his cards into the centre.

'And my pair of jacks. Your pot,' grunted the big fellow, shrugging and turning to The Ice Man and Neil Beresford. 'O' course black aces and eights are known as "The Dead Man's Hand," you heard of that Mario?' he threw over his shoulder.
Both Priscilla and Monique, invisible to everybody else in the room, saw that even though the big man's face was partially in shadow he looked very much like his son Tony The Ice Man.

'I hava heard. The wilda west, Buffalo Bill, was it notta?

'Close, but no cigar Mario. Wild Bill Hickok. Got shot in the back of the head. Those were the cards he was holdin'. How ya doin' boys? How's my main-man Tony?'

'Hangin' O.K. Dad. This is Neil, told ya I'd bring him along this time, remember?'

'Yeah sure I do. He's the latest of yer guys, redoin' year ten with you. So! Do we trust him with our lives?'

'I reckon we can trust him as much as all your friends Dad,' said The Ice Man, laconically.

'Good, good. Nice ta know that. Look Son, we're gonna pack up this game soon. These guys gotta get outta here and get some shut-eye. Big day coming up, people ta see like, ya know. Vito do the pick-up alright?'

'Went as usual. No probs,' said The Ice Man. 'Want us to hang around until you finish?'

'Nah, go get a coke or somethin' stronger. You guys can handle a glass of vino. Over there, through there, the bar. Go for it.'

'Dead Man's Hand, eh Mario, gotcha worried pal?' remarked Pudgy-face as Mario raked in his winnings.

'I watcha my back,' said Mario, his face coming into stark relief, a long scar lining it from eye to jaw. 'You all musta take care. I notta give you chance to win back tonight. Maybe nexta time. For now I say arrivederci.'
Pocketing his winnings he stood up, and so did the burly man on his left.
'Perhaps we canna speak again when the newa shipment arrives. My people have interest asa you well know. Keep us informed. Percentages, we are prepared for such.'

'You buy only through us. That's the deal Mario. Pay and play, you know that.'

'Sure, sure, my people know howa your operation works Gabe. But we hava other interests and contacts also. Except for thisa new stuff, thisa Angel Ice.'

'Angel-Money Mario! Angel-Money pal. Tell your people they'll get their fair share on the best rate. We have to cover the costs of gettin' this magic money-maker inta the country and we got the exclusive on it, remember? Your guys'll get their whack...'

'But at toppa price Gabriel! Over the top, it'sa rip-off for us! And how do we know thisa new Angel Ice-thinga is gonna sell so good?'

'It's guaranteed Mario. Comes in small quantities, hard to detect, easily disguised, don't need much for a hit. Huge trip, mostly O.K. Knocks'em dead. Best invention since sliced bread. We're all gonna make plenty. You got my word. Look... ' The big man paused and again turned to the boys, 'You both still here? come on, beat it. Get lost for a few minutes. We'll yak after.'

'Sure, let's get outta the way Neil, c'mon!' Tony The Ice Man, grabbed Beresford by the arm and led him through a doorway that opened into the back end of the restaurant. To one side lay the kitchen area in semi-darkness and past that was an enclosing bar. Beyond lay the front of house with all its tables and upturned chairs and a fluorescent sign blinking in the windows.

'O.K. Man, My Dad says we can help ourselves. Wine? Who wants wine? Grab a glass. A belt of vodka's cool with coke, relaxes you, takes the edge off and ya can't smell it too much. Go for it.'

Invisible and unheard Priscilla and Monique followed, shadowing the two youths.

'Look Tony, a coke'll be fine, but I need a leak first and I've got to have a shot of medication, having trouble breathing, alright? Where's the toilets?'

The Ice Man heaved a big sigh. 'That way. Move it! If my Dad wants us, we're there, like straightaway, get it?'

'Yeah, I'll be right back, busting to go,' mumbled Beresford, hurrying off with Priscilla right on his tail.

'Should you go in with him?' Monique cautioned as Priscilla darted away.

'I'm playing a hunch, stick with Tony. Don't worry, I won't look,' said Priscilla, vanishing through the door that read "Men."

'Considering the gambling at cards, and that you are Henry's sister, I bet you do,' muttered Monique, a smirk appearing on her face as she watched The Ice Man shoot squirts of vodka into two long glasses and top them both with cola.

Meanwhile, inside the Men's room, Priscilla pulled up short just behind Beresford, who was busy fumbling in his sling bag.

'Doesn't seem like he's busting for a wee-wee to me,' she said, although of course Beresford could not hear her.

'Maybe he needs his medication more urgently,' came a voice on Priscilla's Hand Activator that was Narenda's from somewhere high above in the Black Eagle where it hovered in the night-sky.

But instead of pulling out an asthma puffer, Beresford withdrew a small mobile phone and, stepping into a cubicle, shut the door and locked it in Priscilla's face. Not to be thwarted, she entered the cubicle alongside and gingerly stood up on the porcelain bowl so that she could peer over the partition. Not being tall enough, she had to be content with listening instead.

'Yes, it's me... I know, right, I know, but this is important. Look I don't have much time. A schoolgirl fell over the crash barriers at the city end of Yarra Boulevard and down into the river... Yes, through the scrub and ended in the water... Out of our car... Yeah, delivery to Fitzroy, you know what I mean... That Restaurant yes. I'm there now... I know I'm pushing my luck. Look, she's probably dead, but there's still a chance if you can find her... How do I know? Somehow sneaked into the car before we took off from the school... No, no, I'm already on thin ice... I'm trying to get that out of Tony, but he won't give much... Somewhere in Rio de Janeiro. A slum called Rochina Four. First Angel Ice shipment is coming soon, maybe the next couple of days... I'm in the men's toilets supposedly taking asthma medication... Yeah, silly kid, but I can't let someone just die without trying to save... Yes, I'll be as careful as... '

'Look out Cilla, Tony's on his way!' came Monique's sudden warning.

Immediately the door of the Men's room burst open with a loud bang.
'You fallen in Neil? Hurry up and get yer butt out of there!'

'Sure Tony, just a sec!' answered Beresford.

'Right! And while I'm here I might as well have a leak too!' said Tony Sand-Paper Voice, shoving open the cubicle door next to Beresford's and barging in. Priscilla, still unheard and unseen, eyes screwed shut, lifted her feet off the seat and hung like a limpet on the dividing wall as the Ice Man proceeded to relieve his bladder.

At the same time, Beresford pushed the flush, stowed his phone and emerged with his asthma puffer in hand.

The Ice Man hit the button, zipped and came out, heading for the wash-stand. 'Wash yer hands Neil. Hygiene pal. Keep yourself nice. How's the breathing?'

Beresford took a big gulp that encompassed all the odours of the Men's toilet and coughed, 'Whoo, better when we get oughta here. Your Dad want us now?'

'Soon. He's sayin' goodnight to the players. You know, it ain't like all about cards. Lots of big deals goin' down, and territory ta stake out. My Old Man's careful with his friends, just like me. I worked over Whitey and Monkey before they came in. Now it's your turn Neil, and I begin ta wonder about you... But then again, let's go and have that coke.'

'Ooohwee! And I do mean augghh wee-wee! This place smells like a toilet!' said Priscilla, dropping from her tenuous hold as the Mens-room door closed. 'Anyway Beresford's got a conscience! Made a phone call to someone, reporting in about the Angel Ice and where it comes from. He's trying to get help for me, even if Sand-Paper... Nah! Shouldn't keep calling him that... Tony The Ice Man, thinks I'm dead!'

'They're both coming back to the bar,' said Monique from out in the restaurant area. 'Now Beresford is  drinking what he thinks is just coke, but it really has vodka in it.'

'Hey that's drink-spiking!' said Priscilla indignantly as she struggled with the door handle, realising that it was harder to open when her Activator was blocking all five senses from the outside world and suddenly feeling a little woozy.

'They're going into the back room again. I'm following. Come on Cilla catch up, and think it out as you do. Beresford is not just a softy worried about you, he's a spy! He's reporting back to someone else!'

'A snitch? How come? Why? Well good for him! Good for us! Of course he's probably on one of the opposition teams who don't like getting cut out of the drug action and trying to work out where the Angel-Ice comes from. Looks like he's managed to get himself on the inside as one of the Hopewell Hall gang!'

'Alright, stop thinking now and hurry!' urged Monique.

Moments later Priscilla arrived at Monique's side as they entered the card room recently vacated by all but Gabriel Ichema. Only his son Tony and Neil Beresford were there with him, drinks in their hands, listening as Gabe spoke in a distracted way. 'Right. Mario doesn't like the deal. He wants ta do it his way. Well that's how the cards fall. Benoni's people are lookin' to get in on this too. I've got it that they're set to try a high-jack day after tomorrow at the wharf when the Cordoba docks. What they don't know is that the stuff is here already. Yeah, in our hands right now, came in by very private plane up north, trucked down. Just got to get it where they can't sniff it out... It was going to Hopewell all along, but now I dunno,' he toyed with the cards lying on the green felt and then began emptying ashtrays into a plastic bag.

'We can still take the shipment, no problem Dad. The School's a safe-hold.' said The Ice Man, sipping his drink and watching Beresford taking a pull at his.

'You sure you're on top of this Tony?' asked his father.

'Yeah sure. A nosey bitch from the school somehow got herself into the back of Vito's car tonight before we took off from Hopewell. She ended up in the river. No we didn't. She just jumped out, stumbled and fell. Next few days she'll be found. Nothing to link her with us. Neil and me can take the stuff back to school and keep it safe until its ready to split up.'

'You crazy! What makes you think she acted alone?'

'No sign of any one else outside, she couldn't have got by Whitey and Monkey inside. I reckon she must have worked out where we took her and her pal on a boot-ride the other night,' said Beresford, draining his glass.

'They the two girls aggravating that Roseanne Sole kid?' asked Gabriel sharply.

'The very same, and after the black girl finds out about her dead pal I figure she'll keep her mouth shut even if she knows anything,' answered The Ice Man in a cocky tone. 'Otherwise we can take care of her as well.'

'Listen Antonio, don't get too smart-arsed about the stand-over stuff,' said his father. 'Just keep a lid on things. Make sure that big-mouth Roseanne gets everything she wants and I'll be happy, and so will her people. We don't need to ruffle Ronnie Sole's feathers right now. He might be inside but he still pulls a lotta strings. I got enough to contend with without him and his friends getting agro because of her. But I think it might be a good idea to move the stuff tonight anyway, just a coupla boxes down the street at the back of the chemist, Vito must have done the drop and picked them up by now... '

'Cool, Vito gets us back to Hopewell before morning and we get the shipment stowed underground. I'll signal Whitey to let us in when we're on our way. That'll piss him off, havin' to get oughta bed, but it's nearly Monkey's turn to hit the sack anyway, almost four o'clock... '

'Ohh! Hey! Suddenly I don't feel so good! Ohh! Like I'm gonna throw uuppph!'
Beresford began to go into a convulsion, struggling for breath as he clutched at his stomach. 'What was in the coke? Ooohh! Tony? Didya put somethi... I get a reaction to alcoho... Makes me really si... ' Beresford began dry-reaching as if he might vomit at any moment and slowly sagged to the floor, the empty glass rolling from his hand.

'What's going on Antonio!' demanded The Ice Man's father. 'You spike yer pal's drink?'

'Ahh, it's nothin' Dad. I just wanted ta like loosen him up a little. Ya know, check him out when he's relaxed. How's I ta know he can't handle hard stuff?'

'You some kinda idiot Tony? Get him outa here before he messes up the carpet! If he don't come good by daylight take him to the school infirmary and let them sort it! An' don't try that again! Spikin' drinks for anybody, even girls is out, right? Bad news. See what can happ... '

'Hey Boss, car's waiting. Drop's done and I picked up the new shipment.'  It was the driver Vito who spoke, appearing silently like a tall, looming ghost behind Priscilla and Monique so that they both started and involuntarily moved aside as he took a step into the room. 'What's up with the kid on the floor?'

Beresford groaned and rolled onto his back, one hand clutched to his stomach, the other holding his forehead. 'Got... pills... school... ohhh... '

'Ah nothin' much Vito,' Gabriel growled, 'The boy can't handle strong liquor. Makes him puke. Take him and Tony back to school. Make sure they get the goods inside. Tony's pals will be waiting at the gate, and Tony!'


'Yere what?'

'Yes Dad?'

'Yes what!?'

Tony heaved a huge sigh. 'Yes Sir?'

Gabe Ichema grabbed his son by the scruff of the neck. 'Ya might be "Tony The Ice Man" in your school, but here in the big game yer just spit! Move!
Vito, do me a favour and carry Neville or Noel, or whatever his name is, out ta the car. Stick him in the back seat. Tony'll ride with him and If the kid wants ta throw up just slow down and open the door.'

Vito nodded and bent to scoop Beresford into his arms, lifting him like a feather-weight.

'Take his bag and get yer arse outta here Anthony. If you ever do the "drinks trick" again I'll kick your bum so hard you'll bite your tongue off! And make sure you tie the stuff down good! This is a big shipment, important! I'm risking my skin here. Don't stuff up on me. Lock it away and wait until I sort out any hassles. When I get things A.O.K. will be time for us ta talk, and don' back-chat me, go!'

Tony, his mouth open as if about to say something, thought better of it and shrugged. Then nodded and headed off behind the receding figure of Vito, carrying Neil Beresford in his arms.

'Stupid kids! Better go upstairs and tell Godfather what's goin' on,' muttered Gabriel Ichema, turning off lights and leaving the room in darkness as he departed.

But of course the two invisible girls were still observing him.
'What do we do now?' exclaimed Priscilla clutching at Monique's arm. 'Do you think Beresford's faking?'

'Non, I think he is really sick, but if those two are both going to be in the back seat of the car I do not like the thought of snuggling with Tony The Ice Man and a boy who might throw up at any moment... '

'Won't have to girls!' came Harry's bright voice through both their Hand Activators. 'We got other fish to fry! Or maybe, in doggy terms, other bones to sniff out. Get into the lane way as quickly as you can and the BlackEagle will be waiting. I've had some information coming in about Rochina Four, Rio de Janeiro. It's Saturday night here but Friday over there. We know that Vito and the boys are taking the first shipment of Angel Ice back to Hopewell, and that can keep for the time being. Meanwhile the place where it comes from is the place to be. Never know what we might dig up there, pardon the pun. Get going! We're flying down to Rio!


Chapter 15 [next]

Australian Page email your comments to the author Exchange critiques on the Lit-Talk board