Facing down her fellers in a way she’d never imagined having to Beth Mallory steeled herself. 4 pairs of eyes met her pained ones, none of them sympathetic.
The first to speak was the youngest, Shaun.
“You what?” Two little words that bristled with meaning,
Had mum really just announced that she was giving up the family business?
Mike nicknamed Mikey in the middle (he loved exasperating the cops by insisting on answering only to that) did a double take,
”Is this some kind of effn joke?”
As a rule swearing at mum was strictly off limits, respect for women ranking alongside omerta as a bedrock Mallory principle. She’d ruined all that, turning mum from rock to quitter. Mum had always been the glue holding their family together. Reinforcing the codes they lived by. “What happens at home stays at home.” their parents' Credo. Until someone broke it (direct references now forbidden) . Yet here she was waving it in their faces. A complete about face.
Beth all but shrieked. “Call this is joke? A freakin’ letter. That's all I have left of her now and I've tried. I have tried but I never thought it’d hurt so damned much.”
Bill also hurt but swallowed it fixing her with a cool gaze.
“She knew the rules Beth, and because of her Dan’s facing a significant stretch.”
”You think I don’t know that? But she’s our kid too. My little girl and
Shaun spat on the floor.
”She’s not my sister.”
While fighting an urge to grab the letter from her hand Mike exclaimed.
He was fed up to the back teeth with her rehashed excuses.
They’d been forced to hear it several times.
I’ll be gone when you read this. Can’t tell you where, because when the cops turn up for Dan you’ll hate me. The fellers‘ll probably want to kill me. They know where to find The Blue Beat and who killed that young mum and her kids. They were just going to buy ice cream. No one deserves to die for that. Especially not on a pedestrian crossing. Dan knows he was speeding. If he’d manned up I wouldn’t need to be the fall guy,
I know I’ve broken omerta, but this isn’t a TV show or a movie. It’s real life and we’re not even Italian. One day I hope you can forgive me and that Dan will ask for forgiveness too.
Love from Sharon (still your daughter)
It changed nothing. She was a traitor...a grass. Dad should've taken that effn letter and burnt it. Instead he 'gave mum her head.'
She stood there now hands on hips, eyes blazing.
”Danny ran a young mother and her kids down, and we helped him cover it up. Something like that’s different from nicking stuff and laundering money. Those
are just things, but this....? We might be a lot of things but we aren’t killers. You know that Bill. It's not who we are.”
”We're not narks either Beth. She broke omerta.”
”You and your bludy Kiwi Omerta.”
In lioness mode now albeit belated, protecting her cub's interests from a distance.
She imagined that wanker Sommers. Their family's nemesis, dogging them with a tenacity to rival the Les Mis character Inspector Javert. He'd been more puffed up
than an aviary full of peacocks on the TV news. Boasting about turning the Mallory girl despite her family’s bizarre version of omerta.”
As if reading her mind Bill retorted.
”You’re starting to sound like that wanker Sommers on the TV.”
”Or he‘s sounding like me unawares, but I’m bloody serious Bill. All this time I’ve gone along with your omerta shite, but Sharon's right. This isn't a movie or TV show. It's real life and we're not Eye-ties. I suppose that's where you got the idea from."
Bill sighed. If he wasn't already a drinker a seismic shift of this magnitude would've driven him to it. He reached for his smokes. So much for giving up.
"FFS give it a rest."
Beth was having none of it. Lioness in ascendancy determined to hold out.
”I waited forever to have a girl." He might've known she'd try milking this angle. She loved their boys, but with every pregnancy she'd been so hopefully. He remembered the sight of her holding their baby girl. "At last Bill, after all this time a girl....a daughter."
In reply to her last comment he said.
"It's about the principle. The Eye-ties version says you mean business. So I figured omerta would be a good way of making clear that our family's business stays inside the family. She knew that and she could've had a bloody good life without getting her hands dirty. Cos early on I had her figured for a straight arrow. She's always been our square peg in the round hole."
He'd had plans for his girl too. In some useful profession like law or in a government department as an insider. Maybe MSD or Housing New-Zealand, the latter having given generations of Mallorys a good deal.
"You mean as some criminal mole or inside contact. Controlled by you buggers and never knowing when the next demand's coming or what it's likely to be....."
Her words impacting like a kick in the guts.
"Now steady on woman. Haven't you had a good enough life?"
The hurt was palpable, but swallowing any regret she persisted.
"That's different Bill. I chose this life, but we gave her no choice."
"Oh really? I don't recall sending her out shoplifting or insisting that she tag along when her brothers were off breaking into cars. I praised her school reports, and smiled through parent teacher meetings even though I was bored shitless."
Beth nodded, because she had to agree that
"You've been a good dad."
"Then why all the aggravation Beth? Why now?"
"She's not like us Bill and as a straight arrow she reached her limit."
Which he had to admit was true, because even the cops had their girl pegged as different. The 'one of those things that's not like the others.' , never wagging or causing mayhem like her brothers. Just two incidents of shoplifting lollies, caught both times and scared straight. Yet until the deaths of Lorraine, Brodie and Mia Cartwright a passive observer, and fount of information always just out of that wanker Sommers' grasp. The arrogant prat had delighted in quoting her.
" I’m doing this for the Cartwrights not you, and because I want my family to become better people some day.”
‘And pigs might fly too.'
Teachers and regular parents predicted a sorry outcome. An accurate reckoning just not in the way they expected. So that now in absentia Sharon Mallory was an object of sympathy. Former students who hadn’t given her the time of day gushed on social media about courage and empowerment. While their parents hand wrung on TV, feigning concern to viewers about the poor girl’s whereabouts. Except she wasn't a poor girl. She'd let the side down and now it looked like his lover and best mate was about to do the same. Betraying a business going back to that first colonial entanglement when an escaped Aussie convict met a genuine Kiwi slut pants. When the Outrageous Fortune prequel Westside had introduced the slutty pants moniker Beth had complained to whoever would listen. Accusing the writers of cultural misappropriation she'd argued that her great great had been the ultimate tart. That you couldn't get much sluttier than a bludy goldfields Madam. Which by her reasoning conferred ownership of the name slut or slutty pants on her family. Unfortunately neither Broadcasting Standards, TV3, The Human Rights Commission or The Ombudsman agreed and Bill (miserable bugger) was reluctant to fund a High Court challenge from job takings. Which left her with a family boycott, an abysmal failure thanks to technology. While badmouthing the show fell flat on account that even their friends had never heard of her ancestor the original slut pants. Sharon’s idea of a book might’ve addressed this gap in New-Zealand her-story, but like the cuttings scrapbook it was deemed too incriminating.
She couldn’t deny that from the start Bill Mallory had treated her like a princess. Even as gawky teenagers and first time parents navigating the minefield of night feeds and cloth nappies. Regardless of flak he'd always changed his share. Except these were adjuncts to the family business as she reminded then now. Small aspects of normalcy that changed nothing.
Except reminiscing solved nothing. She was calling time or it'd never happen.
“You know I’ll never grass you up", she managed fighting back tears as she grasped a hand "and I’ll always love you.”
"You're leaving me?"
The boys all ears, now couldn't quite take it in. A bludy goodbye when they’re already down two. “Not you, the business I can’t do this anymore. I can't keep on pretending she doesn't exist, because she's part of this family wether you like it or not. She's a Mallory and what she did was to make us better people in the end. So even if you won't I have to call it quits but I'll always be your wife."
She didn't bother to add the obvious. That in the lead up to Dan's trial his sister would need her mother more than ever. Whatever it took she'd be there off camera by Shazza's side when she gave evidence by video link.
Then she stood, Bill shaking his head as the boys made to intervene.
"No let her go."
Then a chorus of voices as she rises slowly, walking from the room. Down the hallway to Sharon's abandoned room and the waiting suitcase. It contains just the bare necessities, and a disposable phone. Courtesy of "that wanker Sommers”, the last person she expected to pull bloody finger it has Sharon's contact details. Arrogant prick enjoyed giving mud in her eye when they met up. "This isn't for you. That'll be the day when I do a Mallory any favours" (like a line pinched from a bludy Outrageous Fortune script if ever there was one) but Lorraine Cartwright's husband never expected to get justice for his family. When we told him your son arrested and how that came about he asked me to do something for that girl. I'm doing this for him, and for that poor girl and her kids. He told me it's what they would've wanted." The fellers' raised voices break into her thoughts and she heads for the back door.
Closing it behind her Beth faces an uncertain future, somewhere with her daughter. The shite will really hit the fan once the rellies find out, but right now thanks to her whangai son’s victims she’s belatedly found the courage to reject omerta and maybe in time he'll do the same and ask their forgiveness.