Facing Gwen my therapist I heave a sigh.
‘Fussy ould mother hen wanting to gather this chick under her wing.’
Or if she was being honest that of my family’s nemesis Detective Inspector Somers of Auckland Police. Like Victor Hugo’s arch villain Inspector Javert he’s dogged our footsteps since foreva.
”The offer of Witness Protection’s still open.”, says Gwen in her no nonsense manner.
“Wit-less Protection. Thanks but no thanks.”
She means well, but that comes with strings. Like being in Somers’ clutches for an unspecified length of time. Otherwise I need her in my corner, and these half hour sessions as mandated by the court.
At the trial’s conclusion both judge and prosecution described me as brave. The media likewise referring to me as Witness A. Thank goodness for suppression orders. Becoming public property would serve no useful purpose. Not to mention painting an even bigger target on my back.
Taking inspiration from the Eye-ties dad raised us on a family code of Kiwi Omerta. I broke it after my brother Danny was involved in a hit and run. He killed a young mother and her two little children on a pedestrian crossing. I couldn’t stand by while they covered up for him and as the saying goes turned state’s evidence. Nark in my family’s eyes. Which had Somers salivating. Like the whole house of cards was about to tumble now he’d ‘turned’ the Mafia Princess. Not even.
In the Auckland High Court Bill Mallory and his boys greeted my Evidence In Chief with a chorus of Saul’s Dead March, Goodness knows why they bothered seeing as I gave my evidence via video link. I heard it as just background noise and at the time a slight irritation besides. The arrangement was another of Somers’ ideas. In hope no doubt of ingratiating himself with me. Except that my decision had been about getting justice for a young family, not befriending him. Swallowing razors or even being shot by one of my own brothers’s would be preferable. In fact had our Omerta been the authentic blood version I’d already be pushing daisies. Gwen knows this too, which accounts for her thrashing the witness protection hobby horse. I’d prefer it if she could take me on as a house guest. Not that I’d ever suggest as much. Given boundaries and professional ethics she’d have to terminate our relationship.
A sacrifice I’m not prepared to make. Not right now when in the absence of family Gwen’s a lifeline. Our sessions are an oasis, the briefest of respite from my present existence. Cast adrift, no longer Bill and Beth Mallory’s girl protected by their Kiwi version of Omerta
the Mafia’s code of silence. Though a non blood version I’m still fair game and envisage having to watch my back for a good long time.
”Next week, same day and time?”
It’s a question as our time draws to a close, an unvoiced plea rising from the pit of my stomach. ‘Tell me you’ve got some time up your sleeve and call for coffees. Or just let me hang awhile longer.”
Because while I wear my bravery on the outside, underneath I’m shit scared. Back out on the street in broad daylight I feel so exposed. That’s why my current living arrangements are so unlike what I’ve known, Home is a box room that goes with the job of washing dishes at an Indian take aways. My co workers speak bad English, ask no questions and let me exist in the shadows. I fill the smallest spaces, squirrel away most of what I earn and if a mattress in the floor is light years way from my lovely room it’s all I need. If I live long enough there’ll be a new start. Maybe overseas, and further than Australia I’m thinking. Maybe I’ll throw it into the mix next time around. it’ll be a good chance of subject from the Witless Protection merry-go-round. Damn Somers and his obsession. These sessions are my time, about Me. He’s taken everything else. My childhood, my home, my memories and even my goddam family yet still he can’t let go. Like he wants my soul and then some. Javert’s a bludy pussy compared to him, and at least he had the grace to permanently bow out. Not to mention that he was just a made up character. Somers on the other hand is a permanent fixture…….waking nightmare of every kid like Me born on society’s fringes.
As the clock ticks down our final seconds I want to throw myself on Gwen’s mercy and beg. “Get him off my back and please don’t send me back out there cos this staunch front’s just a big act. I’m really shit scared.”
Except I don’t, because our time’s precious even down to the last few seconds. There’s just a couple more sessions left. The government will only pay for so many, and when they turn the tap off I’m not exactly rolling in it. So I have to use our time wisely, and give the impression that I have it together. What dad always referred to as winging it.
I grew up listening to him drumming that into my brother’s heads.
“But dad I’m scared.”
”What if we get caught?”
”Just keep cool and wing it…….”
The implication to just make like you know your stuff and hope it goes to plan. Just like I’m having to do out here as a regular citizen for the first time in my life.
Just wing it and hope I get to make some kind of a life. Maybe even get to the stage where I can write to my family. Online’d be too risky but snail mail through an intermediary (not Somerset) could work.
Which is all in the future, because Gwen’s calling time. Smiling as I go through the paces, in next appointment mode before I even reach the elevator and then I’m outside on the footpath.
Bus stop a block down the street…..my hole in the wall (box room nest) mist a few yards from the stop, snack time (packet noodles when I get home (I have a hot plate) and then work from 4pm until late.
My routine’s dull, but predictable and of necessity simple. With dinner thrown in my needs are simple. I shop very early in the morning. There’s a superette that opens at 7.30 am for the workers. Apart from these sessions I go to the library on occasion varying days and time as a security measure. Not that I’m kidding myself. If they (meaning the criminal underworld) want me they’ll get me. I just hope they’ll make it both quick and clean. If not for my sake at least for mum and dad’s. Because when all’s said and done I’ll always be their little girl. My birth put a smile ocean’s wide on mum’s face, and it’s with that thought my heart misses a beat.
’No it can’t be. I’ve got to be seeing things, Is it possible to conjure someone just with a passing thought?’
Except she’s no dream, no passing vision and that smile is still ocean’s wide even from across the street.
Then the light’s change and I’m running, closing the gap between us and we come together in the crosswalk gasping like drowning people.
Left up to me I imagine we’d have been mowed down with the next red light sequence. Somehow we make it to the other side, to an outdoor cafe table where my eyes are immediately drawn to a suitcase. I have so many questions, but for now she’s ordering coffee and snacks. OMG club sandwiches never tasted so good.
Then I’m listening as mum drops a bombshell. She’s taking what she calls a short break from dad to throw in her lot with me. The boys freaked but have agreed under protest to turn a blind eye. While it’s just temporary for now she’s driven by the strength of that memory (a girl after so many boys).
So no more hole in the wall, although she wants to thank my Indian benefactors. I can still work for them (gee thanks mum I am still my own person) but for now at least I don’t have to be afraid. Anyone gunning for me will think twice before taking pot shots in her directions. Beth Mallory’s chosen to wing it with her daughter.
”Danny went well too far.”, she admits here where it’s just us. “ He should’ve come clean about that poor girl and her kids.”
”They all should’ve”, I reply as we toast one another in cappuccino and imagine Gwen’s reaction to this development. I can’t wait to introduce her to mum.
The Mallory Girls winging it together……for now at lease.I imagine Sommers bursting a gasket and serve him right. Mum finds that prospect a real hoot and we share a huge belly laugh at his expense.
Here’s to winging it but no longer alone, and suddenly the world’s a little less threatening,