Chapter 7 – Unexpected Guests

Marcus could barely contain his rage, but he had to stay focussed. He nodded his head and the three of them headed to the lift. They went down to the bottom level where the car park was located. They walked over to a car, an almost brand new black Lexus with dark tinted windows. Jimmy got into the drivers seat and John sat with Marcus in the back seat. “Now you will close your eyes and keep them closed” said John. “Or we can put a bag over your head. Your choice”

Marcus nodded and leant back and shut his eyes. It would be getting dark soon. He wondered where they could be going. Despite his fear, Marcus drifted off into a light sleep. He was woken when the car came to a stop. It was almost completely dark now. Jimmy got out of the drivers seat and opened a gate. They seemed to be in some sort of semi-rural area. Marcus wished he had stayed awake. At least he could have known how far from Melbourne he was.

“Home sweet home” said John.

In the distance there was a house. It looked like a modern farmhouse, but much bigger. They drove into a big garage, and the roller door shut behind them automatically. “Where do you reckon?” asked Jimmy.

“The bungalow should be ok. Can we get internet in there?” said John

“Yeah no worries. I will go and open it up. I will come back when it's ready”

“If you had talked to us back at Flemington, we wouldn't need to be here now”

“Mate I told you everything” said Marcus.

John didn't reply, he only shook his head. Jimmy returned and gave John a nod and the three of them left the back door of the huge garage and walked across to what they called the bungalow. It looked more like a house, but compared to the farm house it could be considered small. The front door was open, and it smelt like it hadn't been aired out for a while, but was clean and nicely furnished.

“In here” gestured Jimmy, nodding towards what was the dining room.

The three of them sat at the kitchen table. “Ok, lets try this again” said John.

“Nothing has changed. I'm telling you the truth”

“Sorry Marcus but I can't buy that. All of this” he gestured with his hand towards the farm house. “My grand father and father busted their asses to get that. I need to look after it for the sake of my kids too. Now if somebody is threatening to ruin all that for me, I will not be happy”

Marcus nodded. “So” John went on. “Tell me who you are working for. Who is giving you these tips”

“It's only been three weeks. I only used to ever put two dollars into the Melbourne Cup sweep every year. That's as far as it went” Marcus continued, reciting how he went with Dave to the pub, and how he would pick the horses on the bus every Friday.

John still wasn't convinced. “Ok, let's say by some flying freak of nature, what you are saying is true. If you are the one picking them yourself, you are going to do something for me tomorrow”

“Like what?” asked Marcus

“It's the Cranbourne Cup meeting tomorrow. Pick me the winners tomorrow. If what you are saying is true, and no one is telling you who will win, we should be sweet. Then you can go back to that hole of a town and we pretend this never happened”

Marcus realised he was not going home that night. He reluctantly accepted. “Jimmy, grab a laptop from the house can you. And call Leon and James, see if they are available, I have some work for them”

Jimmy left to go to the farm house. “So how come you never put a bet on any of these horses? And you are telling me you have no money. You could have made a fortune these last couple of weeks”

“I don't know. I'm not really a gambler”

“Mate, I am starting to think you truly are an idiot”

“That's not the first time I have heard that, funnily enough” said Marcus.

Jimmy returned with a laptop computer. He switched it on and opened up a web site with the fields for the next days racing. “Ok, here you go” said John. “Do not navigate away from that page hey. Jimmy, did you call the boys?”

“Yeah mate, they are on their way”

Marcus started to look through the race fields. Nothing was jumping out at him like it usually did. After a while he came up with his selections and wrote them down on a notepad.

“So this is it hey” said John. “Tomorrow will tell us quite a bit I imagine”

Marcus heard some voices outside. Two men entered the bungalow, they appeared to be Pacific Islanders or Maoris, and would have been six feet tall each.

“So Marcus, you will be our guest here tonight. I will call Mary and tell her we had a few drinks and you fell asleep. Oh, and meet Leon and James. They will be staying here with you tonight also” John said, smiling.

Marcus looked at the two men but they didn't say a word. “Jimmy, show our friend Marcus his room, oh and also order some pizzas. We can't let our guest go hungry now can we” said John, and then left. Jimmy showed Marcus into a room, it had a double bed, a television, a wardrobe and a desk. Marcus had a look at the window, there were security screens. “Don't even think about it mate. John doesn't muck around. It would be a shame for you and your family. Now the remote control is there. Toilet and shower down the hall. Pizza will be here soon, any questions ask the boys and they will help you out”

Marcus nodded and Jimmy left the room. He turned on the television and stared at it blankly. He could not believe what was going on, and expected someone to jump out and say he was the victim of some sort of television prank. Surely Mary would start to get suspicious. Hopefully she would talk to Dave and they could do something. Anything. He had the feeling this was going to end badly. One thing was for sure, he was never, ever going to the races again. At that moment there was a knock on the door. It was one of his minders, they both looked alike so he didn't know which one. “Pizza's here”.

He went to the kitchen and on the table there were three pizzas, garlic bread and a bottle of coca cola. He had eaten a pie when they had arrived at Flemington, but with the smell of the pizza he realised he was hungry. He sat down at the table, and the other minder sat across from him, not saying a word. The other one had gone outside, presumably acting as a sentry of some sort. He finished a whole large pizza, and grabbed the bottle of cola and returned to his room and started flicking through the channels. He soon drifted off to sleep, wondering what Mary and the kids were up to, and if he would ever see them again. He slept fitfully, waking up many times not knowing where he was. A couple of times he woke up and thought he was back in hospital again. That seemed so long ago now, almost an eternity.

Marcus finally fell into a deep sleep towards dawn and woke up with a start. The sun was shining brightly through his window. 'Well, at least I know what direction east is' he thought. He walked into the kitchen and one of the minders, maybe Leon he thought was sitting at the table. He didn't acknowledge him and Marcus did the same. There was a selection of buns and pastries on the table, most likely from the local bakery. He rummaged around and managed to find all he needed for a cup of coffee and sat down, chewing on his pastry. Soon something dawned on him.'I need to get out of here' he thought. 'If I pick the winners, why would he let me go? I could go straight to the police and tell them what happened. If I don't pick the winners, he will probably kill me anyway'. He thought about Mary and the twins. Would they do anything to them? He could never forgive himself if they did. But one thing was for sure. If they did, he would spend every last ounce of his energy to kill that prick.

He finished his breakfast and went to his room. He flicked on the television and started watching the news. He was somehow hoping that he being missing would be all over it, but nothing. Surely Mary would start getting worried soon. Just before lunchtime, Jimmy came to the bungalow. “Come with me” he said and they headed back to the main house. Marcus started looking around him. He had to know where he was. Marcus knew most of the western rural area of Melbourne, but this did not look like anywhere he knew. There were some low lying hills in what he thought was the north, and the entire property was surrounded by trees. They couldn't be more than an hour out of town, so that would be a radius of one hundred kilometres. A light bulb went off in his head.

“Hey Jimmy, can I just go back to the bungalow? I think I left my pen there. It's my lucky pen, I need to have it with me”

“A pen? Mate there's hundreds in here. Let's go”

“Yeah but not my lucky pen”

“Ok, whatever. Be quick”

Marcus went back into the kitchen. He was out of his haze of confusion, things were much clearer now. Leon was sitting at the kitchen table. “Hey mate, you haven't seen my pen here have you? Its a silver one”. Leon looked at him, shook his head, then looked away.

“It has to be here somewhere” said Marcus as he started rummaging around the kitchen. “Maybe it got thrown in the bin”. He had a quick look in the bin and found what he was looking for. 'Meeniyan Bakery'. It was on the wrappers form the pastries. 'Shit, that doesn't help. Where the hell is Meeniyan?'. There was a phone number on there too, but it didn't help either. Well at least he knew a little more now than before. It was something at least.

“Looks like it's not here, not to worry” said Marcus, leaving the kitchen.

“You took long enough mate. Come on” said Jimmy, who was waiting outside the bungalow.

“Couldn't find it anyway”

They walked to the main house. It was huge, it looked no more than two or three years old and obviously no expense was spared. They walked into what seemed to be a huge kitchen and dining area. There was a stainless steel kitchen bench in the middle of the room, with two range hoods and a multitude of modern appliances. A huge double doored stainless steel fridge was in the corner, along with what looked to a dishwasher of some sort. They walked down a hallway, and turned left into a dome shaped room. It had big windows facing the hills, and had two large leather lounges facing the windows. On the other side, there were leather recliners, about six of them, and they faced a series of television screens. It reminded Marcus of the set up they had at the pub. All of the screens were on, and just like at the pub, there were screens with price approximates, and live horse racing. There was a greyhound race currently running at somewhere called Healesville. John was seated on one of the leather recliners.

“Did you sleep well?' he asked Marcus

“Not really. What would you expect?”

“Don't be like that mate. Take a seat. The first from Cranbourne will be on shortly. Drinks and sandwiches are on the way”

Marcus sat on the recliner the furthest from John, nearest to the door. He stared blankly at the screens, not knowing whether he wanted his horses to win or not. Maybe they would let him go if it turned out he just fluked it. 'Nah, then he will think I was working for someone'.

“Ok, let's see. You reckon number four here in the first, Raid The Royals. Personally I don't think it can win. But it probably will won't it” John said cynically.

Marcus just shrugged his shoulders. The race started, and his horse went straight to the front. It looked to be travelling beautifully around the home turn, but when the jockey asked it for an effort, it punctured badly, finishing near the tail.

“Interesting” said John. Marcus said nothing.

The day went on, and not a single horse that Marcus picked won. Not even a place, the best result was probably fifth. “I knew you were bullshitting me” said John. “Now are you ready to tell me who you are working for?”

“Mate, I told you. I picked them myself”

“Could have fooled me” snapped John. “Hey Jimmy, can you get the boys in here mate?”

“Sure John” he said and took out his mobile phone and made a short, muffled call. “They are coming”

Marcus started to panic inwardly. “Look, obviously I got lucky. Now can I just get out of here? You know Mary will most likely call the police at any moment don't you?”

“Nah, probably not”

“What do you mean?”

“Well I spoke to Mary this morning. I said you were a little under the weather and still asleep and I was driving you home. She was nice enough to give us the address”

Marcus felt his blood start to boil. He started to shake, he just felt like strangling John, bugger the consequences. “Mate, I'm telling you…”

John cut him off. “Relax. Mary and your sons will also be a guest of mine for a while. I always believe in hedging my bets”

“Where are they? Are they ok? Mate if you even touch them I will kill you myself” Marcus said, looking John right in the eye.

“They are fine. I am not an animal you know. I just need to get to the bottom of this. All of you have taken a holiday for a little while, that's all. Mary was kind enough to leave a message at your supposed workplace and the kid's school. No one is going to miss you.”

Marcus realised he was in deep trouble. They could disappear and it would be weeks until someone actually started to get suspicious. He felt angry and helpless at the same time. The somewhat clear and concise thinking was replaced by a feeling of dread. He had to do something.

“Ok John, I am going to level with you. Enough of this crap”

“I'm all ears” replied John.

“What I am telling you is the truth. Let me tell you a little about my life.” Marcus went on to explain it all, the apprenticeship, the job, the car accident, the years of struggling, the depression. “The only place I ever felt comfortable was on that bus. I felt relaxed, I enjoyed it. That's where I would select the horses. I could feel it, the names would jump out at me. If I was back on that bus, I am sure I can do it again”

“Mate, that's about the biggest lot of crap I have ever heard. How could that make it any different? A bus? You have to be kidding”

“That's how it is. If I was on the bus, I am certain I can do it again”

“There is no way that is happening. You are just trying to find a way to alert someone. Maybe whoever it is you work for will be on there. No bloody way”

“You have my family. What can I do”

John pondered for a while. “Jimmy, give him his phone” he said.

Jimmy gave the phone to Marcus. “Ring your work place. Tell them Mary got it wrong, they have gone for their holiday but you will be staying a few more days before joining them” said John.

“We will take you to the bus stop in the morning. Leon and James here will also be on the bus. Any bullshit from you, even a hint of any bullshit, you know the consequences. You go to work. Get on the bus and go home. Then you come back here. There is a race meeting at Horsham tomorrow. I want the winners for the card if what you say is true”

“Ok, I think I can do that” said Marcus. It was a small hope, maybe he could write a note and pass it to someone at work, maybe Dave will work it out. He wondered about Mary and the kids. Were they really ok? What if he was bluffing? What if it was worse than that? “But how do I know my family is ok?”

“You don't trust me? Now I'm offended” said John with a laugh. “They are here. Upstairs in the penthouse. Mary has books to read and television to watch, the boys are playing video games. Come with me”

He followed John up the stairs. There was another man there, in front of a television screen. “Look” said John, pointing at the screen. Marcus could see a large room, there were a set of windows looking out towards the front gate of the farm. He saw the two boys in front of a huge television set, playing basketball or some other ball game on there. Mary was seated on a lounge chair reading. She shot a glance towards the boys and said something. They nodded their heads and went back to playing.

“Good enough” asked John.

“I guess so”

“Give me what I want, and we go back to living our lives. You in that shit of a town, and me, well, here”

“I doubt you will ever let that happen”

“Again, no trust. Must you hurt my feelings all the time?” John said, laughing.

Marcus hated him so much. He must wait. They went back downstairs and John said “Be ready bright and early. What time is that bus of yours?”

“It goes past my place at around 6.30am”

“Ok. Allowing for traffic, you leave here at four. You got that Jimmy?” Jimmy nodded his head.

Marcus did some quick maths. Two and a half hours. He was quite convinced that he was somewhere east of Melbourne. Just over an hour to Ballan, maybe half an hour in the city traffic. They were no more than forty of fifty minutes out of Melbourne. He had to find out where this town, Meeniyan was. Maybe tomorrow he thought.

After having Chinese for dinner, Marcus went to bed early. There were no labels on the take away box, so it was no help. He fell asleep and slept without dreaming until he heard a knock on his door. It was still dark. “I'm up” he called out. He got up a short time later and realised 'I can't go to work in a suit. I will need to stop home. Need my tools too'.

He made his way to the kitchen, and Jimmy was already there, along with Leon and James. “Morning” said Jimmy. Marcus just shot him a glance and said “I will need to stop home. I obviously can't go to work in a suit. I need to grab my tools too”

“We will leave shortly then. Can you get into your place?”

“Yeah, we have a spare key hidden”

After a quick cup of coffee, they left in the same car that they drove from back from the races in. Jimmy was driving with Leon in the front. James was sitting in the back with Marcus. Jimmy tossed James a blindfold. “Sorry mate. You can take it off once we reach Melbourne”. James put the blindfold on Marcus and they drove off. It was still dark and there was a chill in the air.

Marcus could feel them driving at a considerable speed, so it was obviously a motorway or highway of some sort. He noticed they kept slowing down, and were almost at a crawl. “Ok, take it off mate” said Jimmy and Marcus took off his blindfold. They were in the city, and he noticed a sign saying 'Western Ring Road' towards which they turned, and before long they were on the freeway heading towards Ballarat. They took the Ballan turnoff and soon they pulled up in front of the house. It was light now, and things looked peaceful as usual in the street. “Ok go and grab whatever you need to. Maybe grab some spare stuff too. James, you go as well mate” said Jimmy.

Marcus quickly found the spare key under the pot plant at the back of the house, and entered with James in tow. He went to his bedroom first, and changed into his work clothes, and also found some odds and ends such as socks and underwear that he may need. He went to the laundry and got his backpack with his tools in it, and then walked outside with James still following closely.

“So where is the bus stop?” asked Jimmy

“End of the street, turn right, about 200 metres”

“Where is the bus stop before yours?”

“Same way, just turn left instead”

“Ok. Leon, you jump out and get on the bus one stop before. James you get on at the same stop as Marcus. No talking. And remember what John told you mate”

“Yeah whatever” replied Marcus bluntly.

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