Peter Temple: Bad Debts

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Peter Temple Bad Debts
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    Bad Debts
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Bad Debts: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Introducing Australia's most acclaimed crime-thriller writer to North American audiences with his first two books in his award-winning Jack Irish series. A phone message from ex-client Danny McKillop doesn't ring any bells for Jack Irish. Life is hard enough without having to dredge up old problems: His beloved football team continues to lose, the odds on his latest plunge at the track seem far too long, and he's still cooking for one. When Danny turns up dead, Jack is forced to take a walk back into the dark and dangerous past. With suspenseful prose and black humor, Peter Temple builds an unforgettable character in Jack Irish and brings the reader on a journey that is as intelligent as it is exciting.

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Peter Temple

Bad Debts

The first book in the Jack Irish series, 1996

For Anita and Nicholas: true believers


I found Edward Dollery, age forty-seven, defrocked accountant, big spender and dishonest person, living in a house rented in the name of Carol Pick. It was in a new brick-veneer suburb built on cow pasture east of the city, one of those strangely silent developments where the average age is twelve and you can feel the pressure of the mortgages on your skin.

Eddie Dollery’s skin wasn’t looking good. He’d cut himself several times shaving and each nick was wearing a little red-centred rosette of toilet paper. The rest of Eddie, short, bloated, was wearing yesterday’s superfine cotton business shirt, striped, and scarlet pyjama pants, silk. The overall effect was not fetching.

‘Yes?’ he said in the clipped tone of a man interrupted while on the line to Tokyo or Zurich or Milan. He had both hands behind his back, apparently holding up his pants.

‘Marinara, right?’ I said, pointing to a small piece of hardened food attached to the pocket of his shirt.

Eddie Dollery looked at my finger, and he looked in my eyes, and he knew. A small greyish probe of tongue came out to inspect his upper lip, disapproved and withdrew.

‘Come in,’ he said in a less commanding tone. He took a step backwards. His right hand came around from behind his back and pointed a small pistol at my fly. ‘Come in or I’ll shoot your balls off.’

I looked at the pistol with concern. It had a distinctly Albanian cast to it. These things go off for motives of their own.

‘Mr Sabbatini,’ I said. ‘You’re Mr Michael Sabbatini? I’m only here about your credit card payment.’

‘Inside,’ he said, wagging the firearm.

He backed in, I followed. We went through a barren hallway into a sitting room containing pastel-coloured leather furniture of the kind that appears to have been squashed.

Eddie stopped in the middle of the room. I stopped. We looked at each other.

I said, ‘Mr Sabbatini, it’s only money. You’re pointing a gun at a debt collector. From an agency. You can go to jail for that. If it’s not convenient to discuss new arrangements for repayments now, I’m happy to tell my agency that.’

Eddie shook his head slowly. ‘How’d you find me?’ he said.

I blinked at him. ‘Find you? We’ve got your address, Mr Sabbatini. We send your accounts here. The company sends your accounts here.’

Eddie moved aside a big piece of hair to scratch his scalp, revealing a small plantation of transplanted hairs. ‘I’ve got to lock you up,’ he said. ‘Put your hands on your head.’

I complied. Eddie got around behind me and said, ‘Straight ahead. March.’

He kept his distance. He was a good metre and a half behind me when I went through the doorway into the kitchen. There were about a dozen empty champagne bottles on various surfaces around the room-Perrier Jouet, Moet et Chandon, Pol Roger, Krug. No brand loyalty here, no concern for the country’s balance of payments. The one on the counter to my right was Piper.

‘Turn right,’ Eddie said.

I turned right very smartly. When Eddie came into the doorway, the Piper bottle, swung backhand, caught him on the jawbone. The Albanian time-bomb in his hand went off, no more than a door slam, the slug going Christ knows where. Eddie dropped the gun to nurse his face. I pulled him into the room by his shirt, spun him around and kicked him in the back of the right knee with an instep while wrenching him backwards by his hair. He hit the ground hard. I was about to give him a kick when a semblance of calm descended upon me. I spared him the grace note.

Eddie was moaning a great deal but he wasn’t going to die from the impact of the Piper. I dragged him off by the heels and locked him in the lavatory along the passage.

‘Mate,’ he said in a thick voice from behind the door, ‘mate, what’s your name?’

I said, ‘Mr Dollery, that was a very silly thing to do. Where’s the money?’

‘Mate, mate, just hold it, just one second…’

The freezer had been stocked for a two- or three-week stay, but all the recent catering had been by Colonel Sanders, McDonald’s and Dial-a-Dino. Dessert was from Colombia. There were dirty shirts and underpants all over the main bedroom and its bathroom. The mirror-fronted wall of cupboards held three suits, two tweedy sports jackets and several pairs of trousers on one side. On the other hung a nurse’s uniform, a Salvation Army Sally’s uniform, a meter maid’s uniform, and what appeared to be the parade dress of a female officer in the Waffen SS. With these went black underwear, some of it leather, and red suspender belts. My respect for Mrs Pick, florist and signatory to the house’s lease, deepened. By all accounts, she had a way with flowers too.

I was passing the lavatory on my way back from looking over the laundry when Eddie Dollery said, ‘Listen, mate, you want to be rich?’

He had excellent hearing. I stopped. ‘Mr Dollery,’ I said, ‘meeting people like you is riches enough for me.’

‘Cut that smart shit. Are you going to do it?’

‘Do what?’

‘Knock me.’

His was not a proper vocabulary for someone who had been an accountant. ‘Don’t be paranoid,’ I said. ‘It’s that marching powder you’re putting up your nose.’

‘Oh, Jesus,’ said Eddie. ‘Give me a chance, will you?’

I went into the sitting room and telephoned Belvedere Investments, my temporary employer. Mr Wootton would return my call, said Mrs Davenport. She’d had twenty years as the receptionist for a specialist in sexually transmitted diseases before joining Wootton. J. Edgar Hoover knew fewer secrets.

I looked around some more while I waited. Then I sat down next to the phone and studied what I could see of Mabberley Court. Nothing moved except a curtain in the house opposite, a building so sterile and with surroundings so perfectly tended that it could have been the Tomb of the Unknown Suburbanites.

The phone rang.

‘Jack, my boy. Good news, I hope. Speak freely, old sausage.’ Wootton was in a pub.

I said, ‘Dollery thinks I’m here to kill him.’

‘Got him, have you? Bloody spot on.’

‘I expect to be warned about the armed and desperate, Cyril. There’ll be an extra five per cent deduction to cover my shock and horror at having a firearm pointed at me.’

Wootton laughed his snorting laugh. ‘Listen, Jack, Eddie’s a disloyal little bugger with lots of bad habits but he wouldn’t actually harm anyone. People like that think the worst about everything. It’s the guilt. And eating icing sugar with their noses. What’s on the premises?’

‘Ladies’ uniforms,’ I said.

Wootton laughed again. ‘That’s one of the habits. He’s got the stuff on him, hasn’t he?’

It was starting to rain on Mabberley Court. Across the road, an impossibly white cat had appeared on the porch of the Tomb.

On my way out, I stopped to speak to Eddie. You can’t help admiring a man who can get the local florist to dress up in Ilse Koch’s old uniform over crotchless leather panties.

‘Mr Dollery,’ I said outside the lavatory, ‘you’re going to have to be more cooperative with people whose money you have stolen. Pointing a firearm at their representatives is not the way.’

Eddie said, ‘Listen, listen. Don’t go. Give me the gun back and I’ll tell you where to find ten grand. Go round the back and put the gun through the window. Ten grand. Notes. Old notes.’

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