The deep thump-thump of a car’s sound system suddenly stopped as the sleek blue sedan slid out of the sparse evening traffic and halted crisply outside of a glassed-in block of apartments across the wide street from the overgrown old city cemetery. A moment later two young men stepped self consciously out of the front doors of the Commodore and after a blip from the car’s security alarm, they walked quickly up to the heavy frosted glass security entrance, chose the appropriate button and then stood patiently waiting for a response as an empty orange tram rattled past on its way back to the suburbs, its colour mimicking the spreading glow of the warm night dusk.
The pair were both young men, in their early twenties, and wore oversized, loud sports clothes bearing brand names, baseball caps pulled down over their brows and large white runners on their feet. Both had warm olive skin and dark eyes and hair and one of them wore a thick gold chain around his neck with a heavy pendant shaped as a dollar sign that hung in the middle of his chest and bounced as he walked. The other one carried a dark grey briefcase that looked out of place in the hands of the two youths.
As they waited the two men continued a conversation that had been going on in the car on the way there, “Mate,” said the one with the chain, “Bruce Lee would kick the shit out of Jet Li, he was real, fuckin’ great man! He didn’t need no wires to do his kung fu shit!” he added with a flourish of karate chops in the air in front of him. His partner, the smaller of the two, who carried the briefcase looked at him and smiled thinking of how easy it was to wind up his friend and was just about to bait him again when the intercom came to life and a laconic voice erupted from the speaker with a disinterested “Yeah?” The man with the briefcase stood next to the speaker and said more loudly than necessary, “It’s Ali and Mamoud man, let us in.” trying not to sound cryptic and so only increasing the suspiciousness of his tone. The door unlocked with an audible buzz in answer, admitting the two young men into the apartment block and Ali pushed the door open and let big Mamoud go in past him before following him up the narrow stairs with the case clutched tightly in his hand.
As they reached the door of the first floor apartment Ali turned to his friend and said seriously, “no more of your Bruce Lee shit okay Mam?” and mumbled ‘dickhead’ under his breath as he tapped on the door. After a moment the door opened to the limit of its brass safety chain and a scrawny young Asian guy with bad acne peered out through the crack. “It’s just us mate,” assured Ali upon seeing the familiar eye at the door and the voice inside answered familiarly, “Yeah, it’s cool, come in.” The door closed briefly and the two heard the sound of the chain being slid off the door before it opened again to admit the two visitors to the darkened interior before snapping shut again with a click behind them. As they walked across the living room of the small apartment the sound of the chain being slid back into place preceded the return of their host who gestured to a stained velveteen couch and a couple of old vinyl kitchen chairs indicating that they should sit.
On the plush couch was seated another young Asian guy almost indistinguishable in appearance from his cautious friend. He was watching a large television that occupied most of the wall opposite to the lounge and the sound of screams issued from it in surround sound as the cheap and unexceptional slash flick played darkly on its screen. “Hi Kevin.” said Ali as he sat on the couch next to the viewer. “G’day Ali, I suppose you’re here for the gear?” replied Kevin eyeing the briefcase that Ali had placed carefully on the floor next to his feet. Ali nodded and Kevin rose and wandered across the room to a door that led to a small bedroom and disappeared inside. After a few minutes the sounds of drawers sliding and cupboard doors banging went silent and Kevin yelled, “Fuck Xi! Where did you hide the shit this time?” Xi gave the two visitors an embarrassed look and said, “hang on a sec’ dudes” and followed Kevin into the room.
Ali and Mamoud sat waiting nervously on the couch together scanning the dingy apartment’s bare walls and inspecting the small piles of empty take-away containers that belied the transient nature of the flat’s tenants. After a few minutes of muffled arguments in a staccato Asian dialect Kevin and Xi reappeared and placed five large zip lock bags of white powder onto the coffee table in front of the two Lebanese. “This shit is the best shit anywhere” announced Xi with a broad businessman’s smile, as Ali slipped one of the bags open and poked his pinky fingertip into the contents to extract a taste. Making a face as he pulled the finger out of his mouth he said, “That tastes terrible man, it must be good shit.” grinning widely and glancing towards Mamoud to indicate that he was pleased with the merchandise. Ali pulled the briefcase onto the coffee table next to the bags and opened it to reveal several bundles of neatly bound bank notes, which he started taking out of the case and stacking on the table in front of Kevin. “I’ll take all five bags at the price we said on the phone, okay Kev.” said Ali flatly, suddenly all business. “Cool!” replied both Asians almost simultaneously as Ali slid over the cash and started placing the bags of white powder where the cash had been in the case. Meanwhile Kevin had undone one of the bundles and was busily counting twenties and fifties, keeping track as he went by whispering a running total to himself. Ali smiled at him and said, “Don’t worry Kev, it’s all there.” and Kevin replied that the weight of the powder was certainly correct too, but he was ‘gonna check anyway’. Xi and Mamoud had settled together on the end of the couch and were staring at the television screen with identical vacant looks on their faces, mindlessly absorbing the over-indulgent violence on the screen.
Just as Kevin had re-wrapped the first bundle of bills and was reaching for another bundle of notes a loud crash from the front door of the apartment caused all four heads to snap around in unison, and before any of them could move two dark figures burst into the small flat, towering over them and brandishing viciously sawn off shotguns. The intruders were dressed identically in long black-blue woolen overcoats worn over khaki colored boiler-suits. Both were disguised by novelty rubber masks, one of John Howard and the other of Saddam Hussein. ‘John’ waved his gun menacingly over the four young men while ‘Saddam’ quietly pushed the front door closed after a quick glance up and down the hallway outside. “You cunts don’t move” barked John Howard as Saddam came in and gathered up the bundles of money and put them into the case with the drugs. Behind them the front door of the flat had blown open as the security door downstairs had been opened and Ali, seeing a route for escape, jumped up in a blind panic and headed for the door.
The flash of John Howard’s sawn-off shot gun briefly lit the darkened room as he blasted Ali in the back, knocking him off his feet into the now blood-spattered wall next to the door. Kevin had been crouching beside the table and as Ali made his dash he had done a similar bolt, and in a remarkable display of agility from such an apparently sedentary fellow, he threw himself headlong through a sliding glass door at the end of the room. Seeing Kevin’s lunge for freedom Saddam wheeled around and fired both barrels at once blowing the glass out of the doors. Kevin landed on the balcony outside with a crash of plastic furniture and rolling onto his feet, jumped up and over the edge and disappeared into the darkness of the crisply cool evening.
John turned around to the table once more and snapped the case shut with its contents intact while Saddam skillfully cracked open his sawn-off and dropped the still smoking shells onto the floor before replacing them quickly with two fresh ones and swinging the barrel shut with a metallic click. John and Saddam looked at each other through the skewed eyeholes of their rubber masks before returning their gaze to the two young men who sat cowering on the couch. “C’mon J.J. lets just grab this shit and fuck off” said Saddam, but John shook his head and said, “Naw, we’ve gotta do these two cunts as well mate.” Saddam shrugged in reply and the pair took aim and blasted the two men on the couch. John swung the case towards the door and said, “C’mon mate!” before sliding the shortened barrel under his long dark coat and quietly slipping out of the smashed front door, peering around the corners before darting out of the apartment block and melting into the deepening night beyond.