The Body That Jimmy Smith Left Behind

The Valiant reversed down City Road before swinging onto Broadway. The wipers staggered across the windscreen, their perished rubber slipping off the hood. Rain seeped under the glass, behind the instrument board, and onto my accelerator foot. The steering wheel tilted independent of my grip as it followed the hood ornament.

European buildings on George Street looked down on billboards advertising American movies that I would never watch. A man in a turtleneck sweater flagged Japanese tourists onto an airport bus that almost scraped the downtown monorail tracks. Discarded pizza boxes and beach towels drooped from fence posts in Hyde Park. Salsa rhythms thumped from a brown Honda Civic of kids in LA Lakers jerseys who ran a red light on Williams Street, firing water pistols and choking out an air-horn version of the theme from The Godfather.

I wanted to believe that Kay had called the Hopetown, discovered the times had changed, and come back to let me know, but the angle of the fluorescent beams glowing from the kitchen door, and the rain slanting across the tiles, told me that I might be wrong.

The Valiant had to reverse park around a blue rented Ford Falcon XD sedan. I didn’t want to get out but I did. I was working on automatic like a metronome. The window jerked sideways when I slammed the passenger door. I couldn’t get it up from outside so I unclipped the inner shield, balanced the glass on the runner, and then cranked the handle. I already knew the score with my band. The guitar player’s wife wanted the guitar player to hang up his strings without it looking like he quit. The singer and the bass player were easily conned. I never got with the singer, so she was jealous of Kay Pitman. The bass player never got with the singer, so he was jealous of me. The guitar player didn’t want to kick me out of the band. He couldn’t kick me out of the band. It isn’t the guitar player’s job to kick someone out of a band. It’s the drummer’s job. Drummers don’t get kicked out. Drummers either die or disappear. They were miles from understanding “The Ballad of Mad Max”.

I tucked in my T-shirt, hitched up my Levis, and wrapped my thumbs around the belt with the golden buckle. The security camera above the back door of Kay’s Place didn’t work. It was only there to frighten junkies and vagrants. As I slouched towards the camera, I imagined I was on the set of my own film noir, my mind welding together black and white images of Kay and Jimmy Smith, naked under disposable transparent plastic aprons, fucking in the suds on the draining rack. She was on top, slapping herself down on his penis. His head was in the dishwasher. His hands up on her breasts, fingers tweaking the nipples. Her hair soaking wet.

I didn’t want to witness that scene. I didn’t want to hear that soundtrack. I closed my eyes and put my fingers in my ears before going through the door.

When I opened my eyes, I was glad that there was nobody on the draining rack.

The kitchen looked almost the same as any Monday night. The tap gushed over the pink bucket in the sink, peppershakers spilled from cups, spatulas jutted from piles of dishes, and nachos and salad poured from the trashcan. I stepped over the garbage and shut off the tap. I yanked up the dishwasher and kneeled through the steam drifting out.

The body on the floor didn’t look that much like Jimmy Smith. The beaten face pointing at the dishwasher wasn’t as beautiful as Jimmy Smith’s face. The teeth gritting a seedless hamburger bum weren’t as white as Jimmy Smith’s teeth. Dotting the stubble along the bruised jaw, there were pimples that Jimmy Smith never had. The right eye no longer moved and the left was a darker blue. There wasn’t even that old stiffness. I’ve seen dead folk before. Suicides, overdoses, car jobs, and misadventures.

I prodded the voice box but knew I wouldn’t get a pulse, and when I flopped the body onto its back, urine stained the trouser crotch, the shirt pocket absorbed a dribble of blood, and a clear button spun from the collar and vanished behind a tub of Jackson Super Industrial Strength Mopping Liquid.

I uncovered the blue dishrag and spread it over the head. An eight-centimetre bruise in the middle of the ribs fanned out from a charred puncture wound.

The sound of breaking glass pulled my attention away from the body. The sound could have come from the restaurant, upstairs, or outside. I looked over my shoulder and saw the lock hanging open on the cold room door. I picked up the cook’s best fish knife and stepped over in that direction. Not wanting to go in there, and find Kay on a meat hook, I stared at the latch and waggled it seven times before pulling the door away from its seal and stooping inside.

The engine hummed a fresh lemon mist onto clean walls and empty shelves. In the middle of the floor sat an open carton of baking soda.

After checking on the wine in the storeroom, I crawled out to the restaurant, where I got down behind the counter and felt my way towards the cash register.

Kitchen light spread below and above the saloon door. Engines revved over the buzz and drone of the bar fridge. I stopped when I kneed a matchbox under the grill and noticed a faint smell of gas. I waited and watched headlights from the street bending chair-leg shadows around the walls. Then I clunked out the cash tray. It was full of coins in plastic bags and bills in rubber bands. Figuring that this wasn’t a robbery, and whoever the murderer was had gone, I got up and strolled around the tables to the slightly open front door.

When I stumbled into the only chair not resting on a table, and the chair hit the floorboards, the bar fridge noise became a whirl in my head. The whirl accompanied me up the stairs as I drew a line with the cook’s best fish knife on the banister and down the hall. With my forehead resting where the PRIVATE sign used to hang, I rattled the doorknob and tried not to meditate on what might have happened if Kay had come back.

The whirl faded to a distant slush of traffic.

A cowskin boot cracked open the door.

After fumbling for the light switch, and catching my reflection in the window facing Kay’s upturned desk, I slipped the knife in the back of my Levis. This time someone had gone on a rampage.

The filing cabinet, the plant holder, and the chrome lamp had been poured over the desk. Magazines, shoes, bags, and wigs filled the spaces. On top of the pile, legs spread around dripping tins of beige paint, sat Kay’s ergonomic throne. The Bondi painting lay head down on a drop sheet below a gaping wall safe that reeked of cold metal and contained a single US 100 dollar bill. I dug up the cordless phone and pounded the buttons but the thing was dead.

Back in the kitchen, I got a signal and cranked the dial. I waited until a recorded message told me that I’d dialled an incorrect number.

Please try again.

I clicked the receiver and dialled again, slowly.


It looked as if Jimmy Smith was finishing the washing up when he got shot. He wasn’t having sex with Kay on the draining rack. She was still alive. I picked the seal off a bottle of 1997 Wolf Bass Merlot and hunted for a corkscrew in a tray of can openers.

It’s not 911. That’s the American police. In Australia, it’s 000.

Why was I calling the police anyway? What was I going to tell them? Was calling the police just a reflex action? Something I’d seen in a thousand movies?

An engine surged up White Lane.

I dropped the receiver.

It bounced off the tiles.


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