Chapter 3 in "The Girl Next Door". Max, Millie and her family return to Australia.
|I called back to the hospital but Millie was still sound asleep, being watched over by Mike and Barbara, so I excused myself and headed for the hotel where Kraton was staying. I was able to discover the relevant room numbers and headed for Billy Joe’s room. I knocked and the door was opened by a thoroughly unpleasant looking guy who I recognised as one of a pair of minders that Billy-Joe had hired in Australia.
Billy-Joe looked up as I entered and sneered at me as I started to speak. “Well, well, well, look who’s here; Millie’s boyfriend. Sorry, mate, she’s not with us any more—decided she wanted to stay in Mexico.”
With a massive effort, I kept my temper. “That’s not quite correct is it, Joseph. I’ve had a long chat with Dick Cavanagh, and I’d believe him over you any time.”
His face turned dark and he swore, starting to get out of his chair as his goons moved towards me. “Lay one finger on me, and your career is finished, Joseph. I told you last time we met that if you hurt Millie in any way you would pay. You have and you will.”
“I’m not listening to your crap—throw this arsehole out, guys.”
“Okay, have it your way, but I have clear proof that you stole four of The Wolf’s numbers for ‘Bombshell’,” I replied.
“Wait!” Billy-Joe was now obviously rattled. “What do you mean?”
I pulled copies of Denny’s song sheets from my pocket and laid them in front of Billy Joe. “These are just copies, of course, but if it gets out into the music press that you stole these numbers from your dead former drummer and that you abandoned Millie in a Mexican backwater, you won’t be able to get a job busking in a shopping mall, let alone ever make another CD or play any serious venue.”
“Yeah, right. So what’s it going to cost me?” Billy-Joe was clearly furious but also recognised that he didn’t have too many options.
“It’s now midday. I shall return at midday tomorrow and you will hand me a banker’s draft for $150,000,” I stated firmly. “That should just about cover all the expenses of Millie’s hospitalisation.”
He swore at me.
“Don’t try any funny stuff, Billy-Joe or the price might go up. Midday tomorrow, capiche?”
He snarled and nodded, and I left the room.
I returned to the hospital. Millie was now awake but looking very pale and drawn. She had obviously lost weight and her skin had an unhealthy colour. She looked surprised to see me, and murmured, “What are you doing here?”
“I represent the seventh cavalry coming to the rescue at the last moment. Ta-rum, Ta-da.”
The faintest hint of a Millie smile crossed her face. “You fool,” she whispered.
“It’s so good to see you alive and awake, Millie. The doctors think you’re going to be okay, and I’ll keep popping in to make sure you’re behaving yourself,” I said. “Just for now, you’ll have to put up with your Mum and Dad, ‘cos I have some business to attend to.” I kissed her forehead and left the room.
I didn’t really have any business to attend to, but needed some time to myself to think. I left the hospital and started walking randomly, eventually coming to a rather less salubrious area. I came out of my daydream and looked around to see two large and uninviting guys approaching. I soon recognised them as Billy-Joe’s goons, and they clearly weren’t about to invite me to have a drink with them.
They came closer, making threatening gestures and comments that suggested that they were going to give me a thorough bashing. My “fight or flight” responses kicked in; the location was such that flight wasn’t a real option, so I had to stand and make the best job I could of self-defence.
I don’t really believe in guardian angels and the like, but that day, my fairy godmother must have been looking out for me. I copped a couple of nasty punches and made an effort to give back what I got when suddenly two other people joined the fray. They were two off-duty cops heading back to their station and they made very short work of my attackers..
“You’re in a bad part of town, bro.,” one of them said, “but our colleagues are on the way and they will take care of these losers.” A police patrol arrived soon after and took a statement. I thanked my saviours profusely and shook their hands. They wished me good luck and walked off.
The patrol officers asked if I wanted to press charges; I said that I wasn’t interested in them being charged, but I did ask, “You would be doing me a big favour if you could hold them for twenty four hours on a minor charge—sleeping in a public place maybe?” The cops laughed and were understanding when I told them that it was about helping a damsel in distress.
It was late afternoon when I rang Billy-Joe at his hotel. He was less than enthusiastic about talking to me. “What do you want now, dickhead?”
“I’m sorry to have to tell you, Joseph, that the price has now gone up to $250,000. Your goons didn’t do a very good job. They’re in custody at the moment and as yet, they haven’t been charged. If you don’t come up with the extra $100,000, I’ll lay charges and let every news service I can think of know exactly what’s happened. I doubt that those two gorillas will want to take all the blame, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself in court as well. So, bankers’ drafts for $250,000 by midday tomorrow. Don’t let me down, Billy-Joe—I wouldn’t like to think of Kraton ending this way.”
He started swearing, volubly, then switched to pleading, neither of which approaches cut any ice. In the end, he conceded with as much bad grace as he could muster, and I hung up the phone, feeling excited and positive about the outcome.
Sure enough, at midday next day, I presented myself at Billy-Joe’s hotel room to be greeted by Carol, the backup singer and Billy-Joe’s current partner. She looked very nervous, and said, “Billy-Joe told me to give you this envelope and tell you he has to have the letters.”
“Hmm, hasn’t got the guts to face me himself. Carol, how on earth did you get involved with this guy?”
“Well, he was pretty persuasive and told me that Millie had let him down badly. Now I’m not so sure but I’m sticking with him for the time being,” she said.
I checked the contents of the envelope which contained two drafts totalling $250,000. “Sorry you got dragged into this, love; here are the documents in the case; tell him they are the originals, and that our business is now at an end. If you happen to glance at them by chance, you’ll see what an arsehole he really is.”
I left and hightailed it to the bank, where I deposited the cheques, and after some paperwork, I discovered the balance of my account had been enhanced by $250,000.
I went straight back to the hospital where I gave Mike the good news; he was astounded that I’d been able to coerce Billy-Joe into paying up. “The less you know, the better, probably, Mike, but the money’s there. Let me know how much you need for all the expenses and I’ll arrange a transfer.”
In a totally alien gesture for Mike, he grabbed me in a bear hug and kissed me on both cheeks. “Ooh, I’ll have some of that action,” came a laughing voice behind us. Barbara had walked in on the end of the conversation, and when Mike explained what had happened, she added her own kisses.
“I guess Millie doesn’t need to know the details right now,” I commented, at which both Mike and Barbara started to look serious.
“Max,” Barbara said with some hesitation. “We’ve got a huge favour to ask you, and we won’t be too surprised if you don’t agree.”
I said nothing, and Barbara continued, “We think it would be best for Millie right at the moment if you don’t see her again for a while.”
“Okay, I know you wouldn’t suggest that if it wasn’t important for Millie. What’s the story?” I replied.
“Her injuries are healing well, but she has some psychological problems, which is hardly surprising,” Barbara went on. “The hospital psychiatrist says that she will need some psychological support once she gets back to Australia, but the biggest issue appears to be guilt about how she treated you. After you left yesterday, Millie broke down and told us that she just can’t face you because she feels so bad about her behaviour. It’s not just a question of you forgiving her—we know you do, but she can’t seem to forgive herself.”
“Hmm, tricky,” I reflected. “Tell you what, perhaps I can just see her to say goodbye for now on the grounds that I need to get back to my studies. I’ll keep in touch with you both and when I get back, I’ll have a chat with a psychologist I know. She’s one of the best, and I think Millie would relate to her very well.”
“Max, that would be wonderful,” Barbara enthused, and I stuck out my cheek for another kiss, which she giggled her way through.
I said goodbye to Millie, but I could see that she was fighting hard to hold back tears. I then sent an e-mail to Dick Cavanagh to arrange for funds to be sent to him, after which I booked a return flight to Australia.
Dad was delighted to see me home and with the news that Millie was going to be okay. He was also happy to get his $25,000 back, but he kept emphasising that this wasn’t his main concern. I believed him.
Soon after returning, I contacted Moira Cameron, a highly skilled and experienced psychologist who was a tutor for my degree. I explained the situation in some detail, and she said, “Max, I think it might be best if we discuss this in person rather than over the phone. Tell you what, I’ve got a little free time right now. You can buy me a coffee and tell me the story.” We arranged to meet at a coffee shop we both knew and I went off to meet her.
Moira wanted to know exactly what my role had been and why I believed it was so important for Millie to see her. I gave her the details of our engagement, how it had been broken when Millie was pregnant by Billy-Joe, the tour, the termination and Billy-Joe’s betrayal. Moira was sympathetic, recognising my deep personal interest, but warned me that possibly Mille and I might not be able to return to our previous close relationship. However, she did understand the legitimacy of my concerns about Millie’s emotional state. I accepted Moira’s warning with some sadness and made a tentative appointment for Millie to see her in the week following her expected return.
Millie and her parents arrived home a few days later. She still looked pale and rather fragile, but a whole lot better than when I’d last seen her in the hospital. Dad and I formed a welcoming committee, although I cut short any lengthy time with Millie, pending her sessions with Moira. Mike and Barbara told me that Millie was looking forward to seeing Moira to be able to deal with the cesspool of emotions that had taken over her mind.
In the short term, my time was taken up with studying, and I continued pallet chipping at Mike’s depot. He and Barbara caught up with me a short time later: “Max, we’re having a family party to welcome Millie back. You are not invited.” They saw my dismay but their combined grins told me that they were up to something. “You, Mr Clements, are instructed to be there, and we won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
“Not an answer I’d ever think of giving. When, where, and what can I do to help?” was my response.
“In four weeks time, Saturday 10th, at our place and we’ll let you know, but you’ll be a guest of honour, so we won’t ask too much of you. Of course, your dad is invited, too, so just let him know, will you please? In your cases, we won’t bother with formal invitations and your RSVPs are taken as read.” I told them how much I was looking forward to this event, and they were very happy to extend an invitation to Dick Cavanagh on the understanding that he could get back from the USA.