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 What is the Lie?

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Anthony van

PostSubject: What is the Lie?   Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:09 pm

Chapter 21


            Tom was baffled by the turn of events. He asked Gil whether he believed Rick could be guilty. Gil gave a solemn look and told him that you never knew anyone completely. There were things about Rick that they didn’t know … maybe couldn’t know.

Gil had a glassy stare at the road ahead. “Maybe there were things he got caught up in … got trapped so badly that he saw no other way.”

“So he killed? That doesn’t sound like Rick,” Tom pronounced doubtfully.

“That’s what I’m saying. What we thought we knew about him was probably a lie. We all live out a lie … every one of us. Nobody knows what we’re really like.” There was a tinge of angst in his voice. He looked across at Tom and expanded his theme in a calmer voice.

“What I think I’m trying to say is that we’re trapped by our circumstances, expectations of other people and we all create these imaginary public personas—we live a lie.”

Tom harked back to his own convictions and remembered his desire to be transparent … to live out his life truthfully. Gil went on, “I bet you’re living a lie … thinking private things, keeping secrets, just like everybody else.”

            There was a moment’s silence before Tom responded, “You’re right in a way Gil. I guess we all have our secret lives … our thoughts. But I know some people that try and say what they think, but with care … they have good motives and purposeful lives.”

“How do you know?” he said cynically.

“I guess I believe it about them; they seem genuine. Not like you or I Gil. You’re right. There’s so much I don’t know about you, and I’m probably a mystery to you. Our stuff is so important to us … things, position, recognition and being a member,” he said the last word with an inverted comma gesture. “I don’t want to be trapped by a lie,” he continued, half to himself.

“Anyway, they talk about a ‘truth that sets you free’. And I’m finding out more about it. As I said; the people I’ve met are a good advertisement for it.”

Gil snorted rudely, “You’re talking religion aren’t you? Bunch of superstitious garbage …”

“Have you looked into it?” Tom probed.

“No … don’t have to. It’s garbage.” He was adamant. There was a resentful sneer that lingered on his face before he made a conscious effort to appear more civil.

Tom reflected quietly, “I’m searching for the truth, Gil—maybe you should think about things that matter … about searching for the truth that sets you free. It must be better than dismissing it out of hand.”

Gil shrugged and didn’t comment any further on the subject. They had started entering the foot hills when Tom started thinking about how long he’d known Gil. It occurred to him that maybe he knew something of the family history.

“Gil, what do you know about my mother before she was married?” Tom began.

“What do you mean?”

“… about her pregnancy … when she had Ashley.”

Gil was taken aback. “Not much … why?”

“Oh, I don’t know … it’s just that you’ve been around such a long time, I thought you might be able to clear up some questions.” Tom looked out the window as they cornered sharply and saw a vista of the valley below that as a driver he wouldn’t have been able to appreciate. He missed seeing Gil swallow before he spoke.

“What sort of questions?”

“Well, about Ashley’s father; I was looking through my mother’s papers and I think she referred to him as Bert … there was a note from this ‘Bert’.”

“Never heard of him,” Gil replied stoically.

            Tom pulled the note from his pocket. He read it to himself again:

I think your parents are right. It would be best if the child is adopted out.


“What’s that?” Gil was curious about what Tom was doing.

“It’s the note from this Bert.” He read it out to Gil who shook his head as if it was just another of life’s sad tales. Looking at the scrap of card Tom started thinking about a father who had been blackmailing his mother for years … when it comes out in the open … when Ashley finds his mother, there is no secret to reveal. The payments cease and ‘Bert’ gets desperate. If only he knew who Bert was. He thought about who could be called ‘Bert’… Bertrand, Robert, Herbert, Gilbert!

            Tom gave a sidelong look at Gil. Incredibly it struck him then. The profile … the dark wavy hair … his lanky stature, all mirrored in a younger version he’d seen—Ashley!

Conscious of Tom’s staring, Gil reacted, “What?”

“Gilbert can be shortened to ‘Bert’, can’t it?” Tom submitted.

Gil stiffened, “Maybe, but so can lots of names,” he countered.

“True,” Tom agreed as he considered the import of what he was about to say next. He gazed with growing certainty that his accusation was well founded. “But, do they all bare the remarkable similarity that you have to Ashley?”

Gil distractedly deviated off onto the gravel shoulder and corrected his course before glowering at Tom. “You’ve got a nerve. After all these years you’ve known me and now, with such flimsy evidence, you accuse me of abandoning your mother?”

Tom retaliated, “You said yourself that I don’t really know you.” He looked up ahead and saw the turnoff to the cabin. Gil took it a little quicker than Tom would have liked and he sensed a fierce desperation in Gil’s glowering stare.

            Tom took the next step belligerently. “Of course that means that my mother has been paying you blackmail money for years. That’s why you’ve lived so well … why you’ve always been around. And when she stopped payment you got angry.”

Gil’s lips tightened and he began to simmer with rage. “You think you’ve got it all figured out.” There was a menacing tremor in his voice. Tom saw his hand reach beneath his seat and pull out a nine millimetre Beretta. The barrel levelled at his chest.

“You think you can shoot me in your car and get away with it? You’re crazy Gil.”

His face contorted into a vicious snarl. Tom’s heart raced and his body tensed as he saw the wooden bridge draw near.

            Gil manoeuvred a slight bend clumsily, trying to maintain the angle of the pistol. Once round he relaxed marginally as the car reached the creek crossing, and almost grunted, “You’ll just disappear. Nobody …” Before he could complete the sentence, Tom had flung his door open and a second after the wheels had thumped back off the sleeper bridge, he tumbled out of the door. Unbalanced by the dismount from the sleeper bridge, Gil had to steady his grip on the steering while slamming on the brakes. He fired the gun twice randomly in the general direction of his quarry before Tom vanished over the edge of the embankment and scrambled down to the stream. Driven by fear and panic he fled at breakneck speed back under the bridge downstream. Leaping across large river stones and running through the pebbled shallows, Tom rapidly distanced himself from the roadway.

            Gil had run to the edge of the creek and started moving upstream, assuming Tom had hidden himself around the turn in the water course. A distant clatter of pebbles alerted him to Tom’s escape route and he quickly altered the direction of his pursuit.

            Tom clambered up the bank and headed through the bush in the general direction of the cabin. He took great gasping, rasping breaths as he toiled up the steep hill behind the cabin. Occasionally he stopped and could hear the threatening steps of the hunter behind him crashing through the scrub. Because of his exertions, the aches and injuries of the previous week were announcing themselves vengefully once more. With renewed effort Tom dragged himself up the slope. He was heading ever nearer to the deeper upstream valley of the same creek which formed an arc around the cabin. Struggling with every step, he went higher and higher approaching the ridge which fell away toward the gully that the creek flowed along. His plan was to conceal himself under the dense ferns and underbrush of the subtropical gully.

            As he neared the rim of the precipitous descent to the, much narrower, swirling stream below, Tom paused. The calls of parrots and the distant cackle of kookaburras overlaid the upstream rushing thunder of a waterfall. No footsteps … no frenzied chase; had he eluded the crazed and calculating ‘Bert’. How could this be? Someone, whom he’d known all his life … who had been his host for the last couple of days … had lived this secret, cruel existence, and had been a constant threat to his mother. Gilbert had deceived them all. He’d been a malicious parasite all his life, while Tom had thought of him as a trusted uncle. It was all a lie. So, we were back to lies, thought Tom.

            A movement down below between two large trees suddenly had Tom pivoting and going into a crouch when he heard a sharp crack and felt a stinging sensation in his side. Staggering from the searing stab of pain, Tom toppled over the edge and plummeted in an uncontrolled avalanche of arms and legs down the steep incline. Hurtling over a ridge, he became airborne before plunging into a deep pool at the base of a small cascade of water. The current carried him through two turbulent rapids, tossed him about for almost a hundred metres and then deposited him on a gritty, shallow shore of the broadening creek.

            Blood seeped from a flesh wound in his side. Spurred on by the stinging and the surge of adrenalin, Tom propelled himself down the treacherous stream bed all the way back past the wooden bridge, This time he crawled along a branch to the farther side, climbed a large tree and huddled in the hollow of a broken limb, half way up the huge, gnarly eucalypt. He was shivering and exhausted. For several minutes he didn’t make any but the tiniest of movements in attempting to make himself more comfortable. There he remained, obscured from the ground by heavily leafed new growth just below. He waited for what seemed an age, but it was only twenty minutes later when Gil reappeared. He was stealthily picking his way downstream, gun at the ready, determined to obliterate this new obstacle to his plans. His manner of searching indicated that he wasn’t sure if he was looking for a body, or stalking his prey. He’d poke a stick behind boulders in the fast flowing stream; then he’d examine possible exits from the squat gorge, peering hesitantly over the top of the bank.

            Gil slowly worked his way nearer. Tom insinuated even deeper into the tree hollow. Suddenly a loud, piercing crow call metres above him rasped repeatedly, jolting him with a terrorising shudder. Its territorial cawing drew his pursuer’s gaze. Anxiously Tom hunkered down even further, horrified that some part of him might be visible from the ground. Tenaciously Gil inspected the ground. He hovered about the tree unsure if he noticed signs of footsteps. A scuttling rabbit, thirty metres downstream, eventually diverted his attention. He instantly moved off in that direction, assuming that it had been startled by Tom’s presence.

            The snapping of twigs and fluttering of underbrush signalled the would-be assailant’s deadly chase. Easing himself into a less cramped position, Tom followed his diminishing form. When he felt secure enough to move Tom stretched back and partially peeled away his blood soaked shirt. There was a painful slash across his stomach that still oozed congealing blood. The shirt was patted back to limit the bleeding with the knowledge, that ultimately, it would be a agonising exercise removing it. He was now confronted with a dilemma. He wanted to put distance between Gil and himself, but he didn’t want to expose his position by climbing out onto the broad, mottled grey background of the large trunk. If he left his departure too late, like a predator Gil might return to pick up the scent afresh and catch him unawares. 

            Decisively, he descended from the tree haven and hastened back upstream, backtracking up into the winding gully. This time he avoided the openness of the fast flowing creek, choosing to negotiate the thick abrasive vegetation of the steepening gorge sides.

            Soon he was crawling along a rock ledge that ended where a torrent of water cascaded down a near-vertical water fall. Edging up precarious, slippery footholds, Tom scaled around slabs of sheer rock through a tedious soaking spray. Refraining from looking down, he battled up the tortuous climb. Each agonising metre of progress brought him nearer to the top and relative safety.

            Finally, wet, aching and bedraggled, Tom collapsed in a clump of bracken. For several minutes he lay there regaining his breath. As the evening drew on he shivered convulsively. How would he survive? Someone was waiting not too far away, down there, hoping to eliminate him from the scene. But if he stayed, his injuries and poor condition, he was sure, would cause him to succumb to hypothermia. The shivering was almost constant and uncontrollable when the sun set. He knew he had to get moving. Maybe he could find his way to the road and hope for a ride.

            Just then he heard the distant sound of an engine. With the swirling wind it was difficult to determine whether Gil had driven off, or was just parking the Range Rover for the night. He listened intently, but heard nothing more. It was getting quite dark when he made an impulsive decision to head back down. Gilbert Trentham was probably cosy and warm inside the cabin. He knew he had to move while he was still able.

            Painstakingly Tom lowered himself down the slimy rock surface. His legs got the shakes as he barely recovered from losing his grip on the crumbling cliff. Eventually steeling himself to continue his descent, he concentrated on locating firm footholds. Stepping from one large tussock he found a protruding ridge close to the teeming cataract. Gradually he rested his whole weight on the narrow support. Just as he released his grip on a string root his foot slipped on the algae coated stone. Instantly he was dropping out of control, bouncing off outcropping ledges and into the roiling pool beneath—almost a re-enactment of his previous fall.

            Again, caught by the rushing current, Tom was tossed along the rapids, swept through a surging convergence between large boulders, down a smaller waterfall into the pool of his first plunge. The turbulent water carried him down the same bruising journey, till he dragged his sodden, beaten body to the shore.



Tom wasn’t sure how long he’d been unconscious, but he came to, chilled to the bone and shivering. The night sky showed a spray of stars in the gaps in the forest canopy high overhead. Thoughts of death welled up. What did it mean to die? Was he ready? He knew he wasn’t. He had to find the truth. He had to live the truth and understand the purpose … his purpose. He remembered his original desire to discover this truth. He was going to talk with William Grose. Teeth chattering and shaking violently, Tom prayed for help to escape his delirium.

An idea began to form in his mind. He could sneak back to the cabin. If Gil had gone he could warm up in front of the fire and grab something to eat. If he was still there he might be able to steal the car. The first problem Tom encountered was that he could hardly walk. Every time he got to his feet he would lurch and reel dizzily before grasping a sapling or rock. He would stagger a few steps and then stumble onto the rough ground. After several painful falls, he opted for crawling to increase the probability of his surviving what was now a virtual trek of a few hundred metres. So Tom struggled on, scrabbling on all fours. On and on he painfully crept, all the way back to the cabin.

He was oblivious to how long it took to reach the small rise near the cabin. It had been slow and painful, so when he wriggled to the top of the rise and saw a four wheel drive vehicle he moaned with disappointment. He lay flat on his face trying to gather his strength when there was a sharp crack of a branch behind him. Tom felt utterly vanquished. The effort had taken too much out of him. Was he to be shot in the back? Where was the bullet? He merely surrendered to the grasping hands turning him onto his back. He expected to see Trentham’s leering face jubilant in victory. It took him a minute to focus and recognise Burton’s unmistakeable smiling face.
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