Torture exists in many forms. Common to all is the perpetrator's intention and the victim's response, which includes pain, fear and suffering. Colin was the classic victim; he had the trifecta. The phone call he'd just received had delivered grave news. It had come like snakebite, injecting him with a cocktail of despair and rage.
Firebombing Deidre's car sent a blatant message. It was certain to have come from a man capable of inflicting serious harm: a man such as Rocco Dobran. Rocco had given Colin two weeks to produce a result. That was two days ago. To him, this act of intimidation was a legitimate means of motivation. He had no intention of waiting passively for two weeks; that much was obvious. The message demonstrated two things to Colin; nothing was sacred and more was likely to follow. Rocco was not only putting pressure on Colin he was inviting the authorities to take a closer look at the Chesterman family. It was something like having an each way bet. Perhaps he felt that if Colin couldn't provide a solution then he could harness the services of the local police force. To take this kind of action Rocco must believe he had sufficient distance and nothing to connect the brothers to any of his activities. Either that or he had someone on the inside. Colin was as stunned by the audacity of the act as the act of terror itself.
His despair had no end and no respite. Colin's sorties had yielded nothing but an increased indebtedness to Rocco. As all flights were logged with Air Traffic Control he knew at some point an investigation into his recent activities would require explanation. He had no commercial reason for flying around the sky. Suggesting that he continued to search for signs of his bother might appear heroic to some but to most, would defy logic.
Colin had targeted several sites where it would be possible to land a light plane. He had flown further east and west than the search effort. But to date had nothing to show for his labours.
Try as he might, Colin could not see his way through the problem. He was simultaneously ignited by resentment and immobilised by fear, torn in two directions he was on the verge of unraveling. Rocco was squeezing him and soon the police would be sniffing around asking questions he would most likely not be able to answer. Right now he wanted to damn his bother to hell for the situation he'd created. But Colin's ire towards his brother would not cover the deeper truth. The firebombing and all that preceded it could be brought home to Colin. The shame, the guilt, the sheer weight and size of it all, was squarely down to him.
Colin reviled the bludgeoning reality of this truth, his stomach and mind churned as one dyspeptic unit. He took three steps toward the bathroom, reeled, heaved and vomited, emptying the contents of his stomach. His knees buckled as he fell to the floor. In the muck and mess of his own revulsion Colin emitted a moan of primal magnitude. He released a torrent of harboured resentment, grief and turpitude. For some time he sobbed and coughed until he was empty.
Time passed, he lay on his back in the quiet of his living room staring at the slowly rotating ceiling fan. The gentle throb of the motor and hum of the blades held the locus of his brooding thoughts.
Beyond agony, beyond the threshold of desperation where the fingers of blame, excuse and denial can no longer probe and pick at the soul, lies the blackest and darkest of places; a place of calm malicious intent. In the quiet lingering stench Colin entered this place. His mind settled; his thoughts became methodical: every cell of his being began to stir with dark purpose. He knew he could act or be acted upon. He must make a decision or be totally subsumed.
Colin rose from the floor. He took himself to the shower and stripped down. He let the water run cold as he soaped the muck out of his hair. Next he toweled down and then mopped the room. Meticulously and thoroughly Colin removed all evidence of catharsis. He dressed. Next he called Andrew and Deidre to say he'd be there very soon. Before leaving, he unlocked the safe in the floor of his bedroom closet and removed a wad of bank notes, box of shells, spare magazine and a Glock sidearm. He locked the front door and left the keys under the mat.
A few minutes later Colin turned his car into Excelsior St. He noticed the scorched earth and the remains of extinguishing foam the fire fighters had used. Yellow tape marked the damage to fences and windows of neighbouring houses. The louvres on Deidre's verandah had all been shattered and the thick glass panes in the front door showed several large cracks. Colin wondered if a larger secondary explosion had caused the main damage, which would be the case if Deidre's fuel tank had been partly empty: petrol vapours being highly combustible. No people had been hurt, the only damage had been to property; Rocco's men were either very careful or very lucky.
Deidre embraced Colin at the door. She hugged him tightly in a way she might once have held her husband in a similar situation. Colin allowed the embrace to continue as he comforted her. Andrew and Jenni waited to greet him as respectful relatives who might queue to offer their condolences at a family wake. Each of them gave and received comfort in the best way they knew.
Cleaning up broken glass could come later. First they needed to talk. Let's have a cupper, Deidre suggested.
Once the tea was poured, the four sat around the kitchen table and listened to Deidre describe the full detail of the morning's events. Andrew and Jenni listened dutifully although they'd heard the whole story several times. Colin was particularly interested in what the police had asked and in anything they'd said. Deidre did her best to remember the particulars. Now and again Andrew was asked to qualify a part of the story.
As the conversation continued Deidre repeated the question, which disturbed her greatly; why would someone want to hurt us, why? Colin did his best to reassure her. But she would not be comforted. There was a grave undercurrent here but no one wanted to be the first to suggest a linkage to Malcolm's disappearance and the firebombing. For three people at the table it was far too painful an idea to consider. For the fourth it was a painful reality. Again Deidre pleaded; who'd want to hurt us?
Andrew had no answer. He was shocked and scared. Scared for his mother, for himself and for his father, and he was stuck again. With Jenni's help he'd been on the verge of taking action but with all that had happened he'd been stalled. He and Jenni would have to re-strategise. He'd have to tell his mother something. He couldn't just disappear for days without some good reason. But what reason could possibly exist that would take him away at a time when she needed him more than ever. Caught between duty and honour, Andrew's level of anxiety and frustration redoubled.
At the same time as he processed the complexity of the situation, Andrew listened carefully. He sensed something different about his uncle. He wondered if Jenni also noticed. Colin's questions seemed loaded. It was as if he knew much more than he was letting on. Andrew couldn't quite pick it but something was not right.
Just then there was a knock at the front door. Andrew volunteered; I'll go, he said. In that moment a mother heard her son echo his father. It was a small thing; to any one else it would have gone unnoticed. But Deidre knew, she knew her boy. With a surge of pride coupled with a sense of loss, she listened to men's voices at the front door: one of those voices belonged to her son.
Good afternoon, I'm detective Earnshaw and this is detective Crowle. Are you Andrew Chesterman? The detective asked, already knowing the answer. Andrew nodded.
Is your mother home, we'd like a few words. Earnshaw stated. Andrew paused.
Can we come in? The other man asked.
She is pretty shaken up. Will this take long? Andrew asked protectively. The detectives said they just wanted to ask a few questions for now. Andrew showed them through the house.
Detectives Earnshaw and Crowle made an instant impression. Earnshaw acknowledged the others as he entered the kitchen and re-introduced his partner. Crowle had a militaristic manner about him. He was a tall man with a noticeably square chin. Both men were professional and polite. Detective Crowle wore a regulation grey suit, white shirt and blue tie. He had detective written all over him, Colin thought to himself. Earnshaw on the other hand wore a pair of Cuban heeled boots, dark navy jeans, a plaid shirt, and khaki blazer. His dress style located him somewhere been the outback and the badlands.
The detectives explained they had come up from the city after receiving a call from the local sergeant. They had a forensics team looking at the vehicle, which had been trucked to the police compound. They wanted to make some preliminary enquiries and suggested that should they wish to speak further with Deidre, Andrew or Colin they would appreciate knowing their contact details. The detectives also requested that no one leave town any time soon and if they were thinking of traveling to keep them informed.
I'm aware that you and your family have had a very trying time of it lately Mrs. Chesterman; Detective Crowle offered. Can you think of any reason why someone would want to threaten or harm you in any way?
That's the terrifying part detective, none of us have any idea who would do this or why it might be happening, Deidre replied.
The detectives asked similar questions to each person at the table. When it came to Colin's turn to answer he was hyper alert. He wanted to appear as ignorant as the others regarding what had transpired. He did his best to answer with the appropriate amount of sincerity and concern. If the detectives noticed or suspected anything they gave nothing away.
When they had finished with their questions the detectives offered their cards.
Please call us if you think of anything else or if you notice anything suspicious or unusual, Detective Earnshaw requested.
But what do we do now? Andrew asked. How do we…I mean what do should we… he hesitated; he wanted to ask; how do I protect my mom? But the words wouldn't come.
Detective Earnshaw filled the gap for Andrew. How do you look after yourselves if something else happens? That is really up to you. We can't advise you, as we don't know what we're dealing with here and from everything you've told us, neither do you. Perhaps it's a one-off incident. All I can say is be vigilant, stick together and call us if you suspect anything.
It wasn't much but Andrew was grateful to the detective for taking up the slack. He showed them to the door and thanked the detectives for their time.
What now? Jenni asked the group as Andrew returned. For a time no one answered as each person processed their private dilemma.
I'm not sure what to do; Deidre said, breaking the silence. I'm not sure of anything at the moment. I so wish Mal was… Deidre's voice trailed off as she fell silent again. Jenni moved to comfort her.
Andrew looked to Colin, thinking he might offer some reassurance but he was elsewhere in his thoughts. Andrew experienced a flash of anger towards his uncle. Colin might have been in the same room but he wasn't present. He thought his father's brother might be capable of showing leadership or offering direction. But he gave them nothing. It was clear to Andrew it would be up to him to take action. He had to take charge of the situation, which meant including his mother in some or all of his plans. He noticed Jenni watching closely. Andrew was reminded he wasn't alone in this; here was Jenni, his stalwart friend anchoring him to his ultimate purpose. He resolved to speak with her before anything else happened; together they would plan the next move.
Colin interrupted Andrew's contemplation. He stood suddenly, scraping his chair across the floor. I have to go and take care of something, he said.
What is it Col? Deidre asked.
I'll be back, he said. We can talk then.
Before anyone could ask more of Colin he was gone. They were left in the wake of his sudden departure. Deidre attempted to downplay her brother-in-law's behaviour, but it was evident that something about the detective's visit had rattled him.
She took a moment, looking directly at Andrew she said; I was worried today Andy when you didn't come home. I was very worried. I want you to promise me you won't go off again and not tell me. If something happened I couldn't… I just couldn't.
Andrew could see his mother was on the verge of breaking down. Mom it's OK, he said. I'm here now. He reached out his arms and held her. He could not bring himself to make a promise he knew he'd have to break. He hoped she wouldn't ask again. She didn't.
I need to rest for a bit, she said. Will you two, will you…? She hesitated.
We'll be OK mom, Andrew said. You get some rest. We'll wake you when uncle Colin gets back.
She kissed him on the cheek and gave them both a hug. Thank you, she said. As she left she said to Jenni, thank you for looking after my son. Jenni smiled. Deidre's acknowledgment touched her. Jenni and Andrew waited a few moments before they moved to the study. They had much to discuss.