Roo McCormack was a local hero until he killed an opponent.
These days Roo is just another washed-up boxer working in a gym. History consigned his dreams of being a champion to the scrapheap. But buried deep inside him, there’s always the itch to box. For him, the irritation’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, and it’s taking all his willpower not to start scratching.
Jacob Tyler was born and raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. Jacob’s passion for the piano and his secret plan to audition for the conservatorium of music puts him at odds with his faith, the Elders, and his father. Jacob’s father is fanatical about his religion, and all he cares about is Jacob’s salvation.
Unexpected friendship leaves Jacob and Roo wishing they understood what was happening. It’s more than the knowing glances and unintentional touches of a hand. Combining those things with the scent of another body adds up to way too many hazards for the unsuspecting.
Though there wasn’t a sign outside the building, they knew what went on behind the closed door. After all, even a pair of truant sixteen-year-olds were smart enough to work that out. What with blokes coming and going all day and well into the night, it was a no-brainer. Mostly, during the week, the men came alone. Come the weekend, and there would often be groups, stag parties where most of the bunch were too drunk to do anything. All that mattered to them was that they had a good time.
“How many prozzies do you reckon work there?” Andy asked Roo.
“There’d need to be a few of them, going by the number of blokes going in and out.”
Roo hadn’t meant it to be funny, but as soon as he’d said it, the pair of them broke up and fell about laughing. Andy, his hands gripping invisible hips, began humping his equally invisible partner. They both found it hysterical. It was only when he’d had his pretend orgasm that their laughter stopped.
“You ever had a girl?” Andy inquired.
“Nah…you?” Roo thought of Andy as being more knowledgeable in that department.
“I reckon one of my sister’s girlfriends might be up for it if I play my cards right.”
“For real?” Roo only half-believed him. Andy was known for exaggeration.
“Cross my heart.”
The boys’ attention returned to the unsigned building. It was painted black and had a purple front door. A man in his thirties was heading for it, but he walked past and entered the next building.
“I reckon he’d have had more fun if he’d gone in the other place,” Andy decided.
“Have you seen what goes on in there?” Roo nodded, indicating the other building, the one with the sign saying The Edwards Gym, above its door.
“Yeh, once. These blokes were there. They were punching the shit out of each other.”
“How did you see that, Andy?”
“There’s a bloody great roller door opening onto the laneway, and I could see the blokes in there.”
“I’ll pass on doing that for fun.” Roo wasn’t afraid of using his fists when he had to. He’d already been in enough fights to know that he could take care of himself. “I’d much sooner be next door having a fuck.”
Andy, placing his hand on Roo’s shoulder, encouraged him. “What if we could find some moolah and get ourselves a session with the ladies. What do you reckon?”
He didn’t understand why the sensation of Andy’s hand on his shoulder was responsible for making his cock react. “I’d be up for it, mate,” he said, though he knew it was all talk. The closest either of them got to sex was when they jerked off together. It always happened back at Andy’s place, when his mum was at work and his sister was at school.
Picking up an abandoned milk crate, Andy, looking at Roo, voiced his latest brainwave. “Hey…you see that side window?”
“The one in the laneway, across from the gym?”
“We could stand on this crate and take a squizz through it. We could look into the massage place, maybe see something. What do you reckon?”
Though he didn’t say it to his face, Roo remembered that most of Andy’s ideas turned out to be bad ones. He shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I’ve seen cops going in there sometimes.”
“In their uniforms?”
“Nah. Plainclothes ones.”
“You’re making it up.”
Roo was better at lies than Andy. “You can recognize them.”
“That’s a load of bullshit.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Come on, Roo…we might get a look at a tart having it off.”
“Might also end up getting in strife,” Roo warned him.
“Don’t be such a wuss, mate.” Thinking for a couple of seconds, he said, “Tell you what, an offer you can’t refuse. What if I promise that you can have the first look?”
Though he wasn’t sure, he knew what a prick Andy could be. The guy would put it around that he’d been a wuss, and he didn’t want that, as it would seriously damage his street cred. “What the fuck.” Giving in, he held Andy to their deal. “I get the first look.”
Andy started across the street carrying the milkcrate. Roo sighed. He was still reluctant, but he followed him anyway.
Looking at the window, he shook his head. “It’ll be a bit of a stretch,” he said.
“Nah, she’ll be fine. You’ve just got to stand on tiptoe. The crate might be buggered, but it can take our weight.”
“You reckon?” Roo, looking at the crate, feeling less confident.
Andy tilted his head slightly to one side when he asked, “You getting cold feet, mate?”
“I’m willing to go first if you want to chicken out.”
It was easy to see that that was what his mate wanted. Roo had no intention of being called a piker, and he was going to do it to spite him. “No, I’m first.”
Standing on the dusty concrete with the crate in front of him, he moved the plastic cube slightly to the right. Drawing a deep breath, he said, “Right, here we go.” Standing with his feet on either side of the crate, he carefully avoided the middle bit, which was stuffed. A chunk of the plastic was missing, and the rest looked too fragile to bear his weight.
“Go on then.” Andy egged him on.
Feeling precarious, he didn’t know if he could stand on tiptoe. Trying to grip the narrow window ledge, Roo felt the milkcrate tilting on the uneven concrete. For a moment, he thought he was going to fall, but steadying himself, he didn’t.
“Can you see anything…any birds in there?”
He couldn’t because the glass was filthy. Wishing he was taller, Roo said, “Okay, here goes.” Gripping the window ledge, he lifted himself until he was standing on tiptoe.
“What can you see?”
“Stuff all.” There was no bed and no women.