Come and lie down next to me on my bed. Place your head on the pillow so we can talk in confidence. Or should I say, lie with me and just listen – let me talk with impunity.
Did you notice the large file on my writing desk?
I am not surprised, there’s crap everywhere, isn’t there?
You wouldn’t suspect from my impeccable grooming and business attire that I am such a slob. But I do hope you like my clean linen. No dirty sheets here, all the filth is in that file.
Did you notice the suitcase next to the door?
If you picked it up you would be forgiven for thinking it empty – just some undies, two tee-shirts, one pair of shorts, my swimmers and a pair of thongs. That will keep me going for a while. Don’t worry, I won’t be cold, I’m heading north, way north. There’ll be some op-shops along the way, so I’ll pick up other stuff as it comes to mind.
Not sure if you saw the old beaten up Holden Kingswood parked out front, the blue one with a red bonnet?
Bit different to the BMW you’ve seen me cruising around in, eh?
The beemer’s staying here. See, when I disappear it’s got to look like foul play, suspicious circumstances, way out of character. Because when I start to drip-feed the media with the contents of that file, I want to be well and truly dead in certain people’s minds.
I wish you were my wife. We used to pillow talk about all sorts of stuff. It kept us connected, it was great comfort for us both.
Have you heard the saying: great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events and small minds talk about people?
Well in bed at night, after our long days at work, we did talk about the big picture stuff and what was happening in the world, but sometimes we indulged ourselves and gossiped our heads off. I like to think we did it without too much judgement; I do know we kept it in the bedroom. But when my whole world changed, I had less and less to share. I just couldn’t tell her what was going on. At first, I tried to make up stuff, to pretend that my work as an accountant was just the same as usual, but it wasn’t – not by a long shot.
“You are so quiet lately, what’s going on?” she would ask. I couldn’t answer. I’m not sure I had an answer even for myself. All I knew was that I had become caught in a web, and paralysed. It all started with good intentions – but aren’t they what paves the road to hell?
Can you please turn around?
I can talk more frankly if I don’t see your face. The shame I feel chokes me nearly to death. So please, face the window so I can tell you what I hid from my wife until she couldn’t bear it anymore and left.
One of my regular clients, George, was in a spot of trouble. Over the years I managed his accounts and got to know him well. How a person deals with money can tell you a lot about them. George always was honest about his income and expenditure and was proud that he paid his fair share of tax.
He would say, “We should all make a contribution. Me, I’m fortunate enough to be able to make a big one. Tax pays for the things we all benefit from. I can’t understand why people want to cheat the system.”
George’s wife got ill and she needed treatment in the USA. The procedure and the drugs were not approved over here, the costs were astronomical. I agreed to help George out by doing some creative accounting and, under the circumstances, I felt it was justified. Betty died anyway. George later made a huge donation to the local hospice that at least made her last days bearable. That’s the sort of man he is.
I thought the whole affair was over, that this venture into unethical waters would be a one off. But then, George’s brother Stan, at the wake after Betty’s funeral – at the wake for God’s sake – told me that I had been spoken highly of by his brother. Then he asked, “Can I come and see you? I’d really like to give you my business.”
I swallowed a cucumber sandwich and said, “Yes, of course.”
It was not long before I discovered that brothers of the same mother can be totally different creatures.
Stan was a property developer, with his finger in a lot of pies. What I found out early on in the peace, after he reminded me with a wink of how I had bent the rules for George, was that his biggest pie was as a silent-partner in a brothel. It was in one of those industrial estates and it was semi-legit, but the drug trade taking place under its roof certainly wasn’t. The problem of bucket loads of cash suddenly became my new project.
“What was the shelf company you set up for George?” he said. “Coast and Country Consulting wasn’t it? I’m sure you don’t want anyone knowing what that was really all about, do you?”
I resigned myself to having no choice but to do this bastard’s dirty laundry. But it didn’t stop at Stan. Once the word got out, in all the wrong circles let me tell you, the roster I accumulated included the who’s who of bloody Whoseville.
My wife, in our bed at night, continued with her tales of the patients and staff at the hospital where she worked as a nurse. But I couldn’t tell her what I was up to at my place of employment. I couldn’t lie to her. She was too good at spotting my micro-gestures, the ones she learnt about from that TV series. What is it? “Lie to Me”? We watched the whole box-set back to back on DVD. So I feigned tiredness when it was my turn to share. The distance between us grew and grew like the list of dodgy people who sought my accounting skills – and my discretion.
When my wife announced that she was leaving me for an anaesthetist, I was so full of self-loathing and guilt that I was actually happy for her. She deserved better than the wrecked and hollow man that lay silent beside her. So she packed a bag, a lot heavier than the one of mine waiting by the door, and walked out crying. She didn’t hate me she said, she just wondered where I had gone.
That was when this house started to get all cluttered. Not because I’m lazy, but because I spent every moment of my time at home carefully collating and organising that file on the desk. At work I played the corrupt accountant. The proceeds, my cut of it 3 anyway, allowed me to dress and drive well and to decorate my office with pretentious artwork. It was my new image, the accountant with expensive tastes. I even attended the parties of the well-to-do and up-sold my corruptibility by overtly indulging in illegal substances and women.
My reputation as being in over my neck attracted even more greedy clients. From bikies to pollies, from rock stars to bankers, I was hungry to own them all. The evidence in the folder on my desk is going to bring them all down. It’s going to cause merry hell. Long Bay might even become the trendiest postcode in town.
Can you smell patchouli in the linen?
It’s subtle, just a hint. They do that in India you know. The streets might be full of rats and faeces, but their skin and cloth is immaculate.
You can turn around now. I want to see your face. I’m hoping to catch the slightest hint of forgiveness in your eyes, or maybe in the folds around your mouth. A micro-gesture, please?
I’ll be gone tomorrow. They’ll say I’m dead; on the bottom of the harbour with concrete boots, or buried forever under the new tollway that gets asphalted at midnight. But I died long ago. I just wanted one night of pillow talk before I disappear.