Waiting for Brent to return from surgery I tried talking to his doctors but they ignored me so I got Marty to get Jenny, Brent's sister here as fast as possible. As it turned out there was no need, we found out the air force had flown her up on a transport plane and she was due in a half hour.
When she arrived she had a good-looking bloke with her who she introduced as Bob and my guess is he was her ex-husband, Brent only mentioning him a few times. She was shown into the doctor's room and was gone for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally re-emerging, her face pale and eyes red, Phil went and spoke to her for some minutes, she kept looking at me, nodding.
She knew who I was so she sat and held my hand, no one had told her but she guessed there was a story in there somewhere.
"Rick, Brent has had extensive plastic surgery, he will be okay physically but mentally they are concerned for his welfare. He has had his jaw and nose reset, his cheek was shattered which included his eye socket so they realigned it with steel plates and they are holding it together. The slash across his cheek was stitched up and part of his ear repaired," she stopped trying to gather her strength and bent forward and sobbed, Bob held her closely.
She straightened herself up enough to get the last part out. I just stared in horror.
"His hands have been stitched up and his anus has undergone some repair work, at the moment he has a colonoscopy bag but they will remove that in a few weeks time. He is still listed as critical as he could go either way, he's dehydrated and has become very distant, he's in shock,"she whispered.
I broke down completely and a doctor was called to give me something, then realizing who I was, the doctor admitted me and found me a private room nearby where I could rest.
Jenny sat by the bed as I curled up and cried my eyes out; she leant over and kept saying,
"I know, I know it hurts badly, but I'm here and we will get Brent back as good as new in no time. Any fool can see you care deeply for him and for that very reason he will fight back." She stroked my hair and neck trying to calm me down while Bob stroked her.I needed to believe she was right I needed to just believe.
When they allowed me to see him, I went to his room, I opened Brent's door and he was asleep so I sat in the chair and held his good hand. The bandages went all around his chin and across his head, it was hard to recognize him and if it weren't for his beautiful hair I wouldn't have. I talked to him non-stop, telling him how much I had missed him, loved him, and how much pain everyone had endured looking for him, he didn't respond so I began telling him about my boyhood. I knew this story because when my aunty Beth died I had read her diary, I didn't want to discuss it with Brent at the time but now I wished to God I had.
I told him about the abuse, the desperation to live and the starvation for food and love I had not received. About my father making me suck on his cock, while he watched porn; my mother looking on laughing. After an hour or two his hand moved, I looked up and he was looking at me. I kissed his lips gently as my tears flowed but his expression didn't move, it was like stone.
Then he moved his fingers indicating he wanted to write something, I saw the pad and pen on the bedside desk and placed it in his hand.
He struggled but got there, falling into a deep sleep when he had finished.
I looked and could just make it out, he had written,
'Take me home.'
I couldn't do that as he was too ill so I continued with my story up to my nightmares and finally to my screaming so loud while my parents were out that the neighbors heard me; my aunty Beth rescued me from insanity. By the end I was exhausted and I knew really, he wasn't listening. Jenny and Bob came in and I left them to it, I needed badly to shower and rest so I took a cab back to the hotel where Marty had booked us a room. Diana was her lovely self; she made me a sandwich and coffee and made me eat it while Marty brought me up to date.
"Conner, the little information we do know is that Steven was involved with Pat in some sort of drug running, using your plane to transport it from Darwin to Melbourne. Brent saw the exchange at the hotel and was kidnapped; this is what he told the Federal police in Darwin. He was then taken to the hills outside Port Moresby where he was tortured and raped, apparently there was another man or men involved who did the shooting, the police think he was the supplier, both Steven and Pat were shot and two other local men hanged. Steven's head was a mess and he had a deep slash across his face, which they say is consistent with broken glass being dragged across it. They said Brent did that to him considering the condition of his hand when he was found, they also found the piece of glass with his fingerprints on it.
The two men hanging from a tree were the rapists, their DNA matched samples taken from Brent's anus."
I blacked out, I can't remember the six days I was sedated in that hotel room, it's a big blur but Di told me I slept deeply most of the time, a doctor had been called to administer safe sedatives.
The newspapers were having a ball as usual, linking my cancelled tour to my involvement with Brent's recovery and my link to drug smuggling and my drug habit; the same old stories re-emerged out of the closet.
'Super star waits beside friend's bedside,' was the first headline I read and I didn't read anymore. They didn't ask me how I felt or why I was there, they just waffled on about what they imagined was going on, no facts as usual, nowhere near the truth, rumors that's all.
I was totally disgusted so I didn't reply or do any interviews.Instead I got Marty to shut it all down.
I visited Brent twice daily, he still couldn't move his jaw but he was looking a lot better every day, his color returned and he kept writing,
'Take me home.'
'Take me home.'
His full statement to the Federal police was detailed and long. They wouldn't let me read it but Brent had typed it out on his Ipad, which had been returned to him with his jump bag and wallet.
I kissed and stroked his face and listened to his heart when he slept. The next week when Jenny and Bob arrived to sit with him, he looked upbeat; he held Bob's hand then he wrote,
'Take me home.'
Tears were spent as he struggled to get out of bed, wanting someone to take him home. We had to call the nurse to sedate him that day, he was so worked up.
He emailed me,Marty, Diana,Jill, Adam and Rob, relentlessly with,
'TAKE ME HOME.'
Three weeks of pure agony but he could talk a little. I could see a very small bump on his nose but his cheek was healing perfectly. The bandages came off his hand and he had some movement but it will take time for it to return to normal. He had another operation to reconnect his bowel, which they bombarded with antibiotics to ward off infection. I talked to him non-stop about everything and anything and he cried, "Take me home."
Then he said something different.
"Take me back to my cell," and I couldn't speak.
I said, "In a week baby, give it one more week then we will go home, Conner is going to take you home, first class all the way."
I told Jenny and Bob I would get him home; they wanted to get back to something like normal so I promised I would look after Brent and get him home as soon as possible. I arranged for Phil and Dave to fly them back.
Adam and Rob had spent a week by his bedside and they had to get back but didn't want to go. I convinced them he was going to be all right and I would get him into counseling as soon as possible.
He was walking around by the fourth week but still going stir crazy. He had a rubber ball in his hand he was constantly squeezing to strengthen his muscles.
His speech had returned to almost normal but he still wouldn't speak to me, it didn't matter how much I tried, he showed no emotion.
Turning up on the Thursday afternoon I was greeted by a friendly nurse who handed me a note, she said,
"Brent left this for you, he checked himself out early this morning much to his doctor's displeasure."
My heart sunk, why the fuck didn't he wait for me?
I opened the letter, which said,
'Thank you for everything Rick, I have now gone home.'
I ran from the elevator and when I opened my hotel door, the room was empty so I immediately got on the phone to Jill asking her to check airline bookings under Brent's name. She called me back shortly after saying,
"He caught the morning Qantas flight which got in about two hours ago. I'll ring Adam to go to your place to see if he's okay then I'll ring the boys to get the plane ready. You head for the airport Conner, I've got it covered."
I thanked her and hung up then packed my suitcase, leaving as quickly as possible for the plane.
I walked through the airport with my only luggage being a newspaper, my jump bag and no real plans for the future. But I was thankful to the Federal police for returning my wallet intact. Catching a cab I just said,"Treasury Gardens please, in the city."
I was dropped off at the gardens where I walked over and bought a bottle of water off a street vendor. I walked slowly into the park thinking about past loves and past hopes, I will maybe register for agency nursing after I get settled. The money in my bank account will get me a place like my old one near the city. I didn't care anymore about where the money came from and I didn't feel any urgent need to repay it.
Drinking my water and downing a couple of pills I was discharged with, I dozed in the sun for ages until the light was dimming. I walked over to a hotel I knew that was reasonable and booked a room for the night asking the doorman if he knew of an apartment for rent. He did, there were serviced apartments on the upper story of this hotel that were rented on short-term leases, so I thanked him and started for my room.
I sat in the darkness thinking about Conner. He didn't let me into his life completely and I understood why, Rick was getting in his way, the persona he created out of desperation, the boy verses the man. He wouldn't let me help him so I won't let him help me. I'm trained after all to deal with problems, so I will deal with my own, thank you very much.
He had no right to ignore me, treat me so shabbily and no right to be beside me in the hospital. Every day I had listened to his life of misery and everyday I ignored him; I can deal with my own problems. I don't need him to throw money at me or treat me as if I'm a hired companion. I crawled into bed and fell asleep, my mind was clear but my nightmares were constant; they woke me up at every opportunity.
The next day I rented an apartment for not much more than my old one and I had a better view of the city. I forced myself to see a doctor I could trust, he had my medical records sent from Darwin so he then knew what I had been through and gave me a thorough checkup. Apart from a sore heart, I was deemed cured. We touched on me seeing somebody to heal my mind, I thanked him but said I would in time get to that. He understood, we didn't touch on it because he seemed to sense I wouldn't talk.
Each night I sat in the park and each night I cried for my Conner,I wanted him to just hug me and stroke my hair. I would get angry with Steven and Pat and I would dry retch when I thought of the two that tortured me. I would wake up in a cold sweat at night and then have to change my sheets, as they were damp from where I had pissed myself. After the third night, it happened, I slept on the tiled floor, just a pillow and a sheet. I was now used to that anyway, being forced to sleep on a mattress made from horse hair, previously soaked with piss and shit and god knows what. My floor was like a palace compared to that but my place was here in my home, my cell, they can't get me here, no one will get to me.
I stayed mostly in that apartment but also spent a lot of time in the park. It shielded me from the outside world, my clothes had become almost rags but I didn't care, all I wanted was to be hidden away permanently. One day I was out walking the city to buy something that would fit, I needed clothes badly, along with essentials like underarm, soap, a toothbrush and shampoo but I can't bring myself to look at all that stuff, they belonged somewhere in my past. I couldn't recall the last time I spent time standing under a roaring hot shower and running my hands through my hair, just suspended in time shampooing it.I heard someone calling my name which staggered me, no I'm hearing things, no one knows me, I'm safe.
"Brent, hold up."
I ducked into the nearest department store and headed for the lifts then stood behind a display for some mindless toy that was coming soon. I waited for the lift to open and when it did, I darted for the door just as someone grabbed my arm and pushed me into it.I screamed,
"Help me, my God help me."
I knew at that moment I was trapped.
"Please God take me home, just take me home," I started to beg to my divine creator.
"Oh fucking Jesus Christ,"I heard.
I made uncontrolled noises not knowing what to do; I banged on the lift buttons wanting to escape then screamed again, someone fucking has to hear me,
"Leave me alone,don't touch me."
I got a glimpse of my attacker then slumped down the lift wall as it journeyed on to its destination.
Silence, there was silence, that's what I craved so much, I felt warm again even though I was shivering uncontrollably. A hand caressed my face, it tilted it up and my jailer looked me in the eyes.
"Leave me alone Rob, just let me be, go fucking away, don't look at me."
"I can't with all my earthly being do that Brent," he said as he crouched down and held me, I just didn't have the strength to push him off.
"I have been looking for you for so long Brent, my beautiful friend," he said looking into my eyes.
"For God almighty's sake, what has happened to you?"
I saw tears in his eyes but I didn't care.
"I'm fine, don't push it, I'm not ready for friendly chats and family get togethers with anyone, and I don't fucking care what I look like," I growled. He held me closer.
"You don't even want to have coffee with me? I'm your friend or I thought I was," he said, tears streaming from his eyes.I relented a little.
"Okay coffee but no talking about how my fucking loving friends miss me Rob. I don't care anymore, I have a new life to put together, all I wanted to do was go home, that's all I wanted. I am there now and everything is okay, have you any idea what I was put through, what I was forced to do?" Flashbacks arrived, I dry retched but nothing came out.
"Some of it Brent, some of it sweetheart but some I don't know about,you don't have to talk about it, please just you and me my friend, coffee only."
Of all the people I knew, I trusted Rob the most, I had trusted Bob my brother in-law until that went haywire, thanks to my stupidity but Rob was a friend and I trusted him, I trusted him.
He found a table, away from the matrons who were having their tea and cake and the waiter took our orders. Looking at my state he didn't even flinch, just carried on like he was trained to do. Rob ordered sandwiches for us both but I didn't eat them. He held my hands while running his thumbs over and over the veins that stuck out.
"Where are you living Brent? I have tried all our old haunts many, many times to find you, even the gym guys haven't seen you for months."
I laughed; I allowed it this time.
"I've been a bit busy these past few months Rob. If it all wasn't true you would think I've been living in a horror movie."
"Are you healing, I mean is everything all right medically wise?"
"Yes, I've been seeing a doctor, he's happy with my progress and in another couple of weeks I have to start seeing a psych (I lied). I am finding it very difficult to sleep; I sleep on the tiled floors because I wet myself in the night. I stay awake as late as possible and force myself to wake early so I don't end up in my own piss, and god forbid shit. I have the money I earned and the bonus I got for the job to live on, but I know eventually I will have to go back to work; it's not the right time at the moment. I have my name down for an apartment in my old block and have rung my friend at Nurse On Call, all I have to do is answer calls with a computer in front of me and I can do it from home," I rattled this off really not caring what I was talking about.
"So you are going to lock yourself away forever?" he asked.
"Yes,if that's what it takes for them not to get to me, yes, peaceful sleep, peaceful life, peaceful existence."
"No one is going to get you Brent, they are dead," he whispered.
"No, they will find me,' I replied adding,
"At the moment I'm renting a hotel apartment near the Treasury Gardens. I spend most of my time either indoors or in the gardens feeding my possums," I again laughed, not caring and I don't know why I was telling Rob this.
I collapsed into myself; I had to let him know, I just had to, so I whispered,
"I need help Rob, I need so much help." I looked into his eyes desperately, knowing he would help me. I wouldn't like it but I knew I had to say it; I had found some small strength to ask him, even tell him how I felt.
"Rob I can't ask anyone else, I can't ring anyone, I can't even buy a cake of soap on my own. I need clothes, I need a fucking toothbrush but don't tell them where I am, they will get me."
"I am here Brent and I can help you, nobody will get to you, I will protect you buddy, you can count on me."
I panicked,I had said too much, standing upright I started walking for the stairs, I felt release from talking to someone I knew who was decent and clean.
I heard someone shout at me then I felt a hand on my arm.
"Don't cut me and Conner out."
"He fucking shut me out so now I'm killing everything he ever meant to me Rob. I didn't mean a thing to him, nothing, I mean nothing," I ranted on.
"I'm not shutting him out, I'm shutting me out and Conner can go to hell."
"Of course Brent, we don't have to talk about anything but just know he does love you dearly, please call him, even if it's just to say your okay."
"No, he wouldn't let me in so I'm not letting him in. We both have been through some pretty awful times, I thought I could help him but he virtually told me to fuck off. All he wanted in the end was a nurse that stroked him when he was scared, someone to suck his dick when he wanted it, roll over when he felt the urge, not a lover who loved his absolute, whole being." I stifled a sob at this stage, I missed my Conner but there's no way I wanted to play any more guessing games with him.
I continued down the stairs, tripping and hitting my hands on the grey walls, totally disorientated.
I just wanted to get back into my cell.
I thought I saw Brent leave the hotel as I emerged from the Treasury Gardens to go into the city. What I saw was a hunched over, dirty, blond haired, stick man. He wore filthy jeans that hung off him and a shirt that looked like a sack and he had a wobble to his gait like he was drunk. I followed him as he looked at clothes racks outside some shops, then when I got closer I called his name, but he ran. I ran with him and as he was trying to get into the elevator, I took his arm and went in with him. I was shocked to see him like this, he had lost a lot of weight and his face was gaunt. My once body proud friend was a total fucking mess. I talked to him and he answered then we had coffee. I tried to get him to eat something but he said it would make him shit the bed.
He wasn't really listening to what I was saying but at least I got his phone number.
After he left I followed him to the hotel and asked the concierge what apartment he was in. He told me he knew who Brent was and what he had been through but only from the news. The management was very concerned about him, they had left water and food sometimes outside his door but he never touched it. He gave me the apartment number and I assured him I would be back with some help.
I then went to Conner's house; he had Ray and John staying with him. They are moving back from the burbs and just waiting for their house next door to be vacated. As Ray opened the door he took one look at me and said,
"You found him," while he broke down hugging me.
I nodded yes, tears streaming down my face.
He held me for ages as we both were trying to hang onto our sanity.
Conner was sitting at the table staring at a photo he and Brent had taken on his first flight, his mobile phone in hand, he was as usual looking for that elusive SMS and then John appeared with mugs of coffee.
I dried my eyes and sat next to Conner then whispered,
"I found him."
Conner stood up abruptly and looked around the room so I held a hand up to calm him.
I took deep breaths and I waited until I calmed, then said,
"He's okay for the moment but he's not well Conner, I mean mentally and physically not well, he's in a very dark place. He's starving himself to death and just so damn lost," I broke down, I couldn't help it, I couldn't help letting my emotions out.
John handed me a brandy and I skulled it down, it calmed me a bit. I took deep breaths as Conner looked vacantly at me, I had to wait for a minute then I found the strength to go on,
"He said to tell you all he's okay and wants to be left alone. Small steps Conner, small steps please, don't rush there looking for him because he will disappear again. He's staying at a hotel apartment building opposite Treasury Gardens and the management there is keeping a close eye on him. They know who he is Conner, he asked me to help him."
My eyes leaked tears but then my dam burst, I wept like someone had just been told his best friend had died but
gathered some strength after John got me another brandy, which I again skulled.
"He's filthy, dirty, his clothes are hanging off him, he's humped over when he walks and I can nearly see his bones beneath his skin. He doesn't eat because he messes himself during the night, he stays awake late and rises early to combat that so he eats very little."
"Oh Rob, I have to go to him, he needs me so bad, I have to find a way to bring him back," he sobbed.
"Small steps Conner, very gently and quietly, leave it for now and tonight we can sleep on it. He goes down to the Gardens around seven thirty every night to feed the possums and I'm thinking a small pizza would be a good start. We have to start getting him to eat as that's what is causing a lot of his problems and I think he knows that, it's the actual getting started he can't do, he needs to be handled with kid gloves, gently and quietly," I wept, he wept.
Ray and John held each other as I pulled Conner into my shoulder letting him cry it out.
Another night of demons and I moved myself onto the small balcony, it was cooler there. It had become so hot inside, I had all the windows opened but it didn't help. I woke very early, tried to shower but I had no soap so I gave up. I dressed in my old jeans, they were new not that long ago but now they were a shadow of themselves, the pair I had taken off I soaked in a bucket of water in the bath. Later, as people scurried from the city train stations to get to work I moved outside to the street and got a bagel and a small bottle of water. I then sat in the park eating half the bagel and saving the other half for my furry night owls. I dozed for hours, off and on. I had Internet credits put on my new phone as I thought at some time I would have to check my bank balance. I knew I hadn't used much of what I had but I should check anyway. I found there had been a hundred thousand dollars credited to my account today with a note,'I love you, please come home to us, Conner.'
I didn't care, he could throw the lot at me and he wouldn't get me to listen to him. Father Thomas knew the full story, Ray and John did but I was not to be trusted, I was just his nurse that let him use me at his every whim, so thank you Conner, I will take your money and you can go to fucking hell.
'Come home to us,' was replaying continuously in my head but how could I come home to your clean house Conner? I am a filthy pig and in no time I would foul up your clean home.
I cried, elbows on knees and hands on head for ages, I wept into my lap. The afternoon sun was going down as people passed, some walking fast, some slow and some stopping to see if I was all right, but none actually sitting with me, I felt detached, empty and alone.
Someone eventually did sit with me, he held out a pizza and asked if I wanted to share it with him, I didn't have to look and I wasn't hungry.
"Please go away Conner, please just leave me alone," I said, almost silently.
"I can't Brent, I love you too much and I want you to just share this meal with me please. Just the meal that's all, nothing else," he said. I could hear the nervousness in his beautiful voice so I took a piece of his pizza and started chewing it while pretending it wasn't my first decent meal in ages, my hand shook violently so I steadied it with the other one, it was my first meal for weeks and it tasted so wonderful.
I struggled through a second piece then I walked over to a tree and fed my bagel to the possums.
"Thank you, I do miss you but I have things to do, I have to go home." I kissed his cheek and left, my head held low and my legs threatening to give way at any moment, he didn't follow. The doorman said goodnight but I ignored him.
I felt a little better that night; I had at least eaten more than a half a bagel. In the morning I managed to get to a city store where I bought a tracksuit, some soap and personal deodorant. I even managed to have a coffee outside an Elizabeth street bistro. I knew I had to start eating but my brain was saying,'small amounts so you don't mess yourself.' The filth that was my living quarters was my sanctuary, no one came to my door and abused me and no one touched me, I felt safe there.