Dead and Kicking

Dead and Kicking by Geoffrey McGeachin

Book: Dead and Kicking by Geoffrey McGeachin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Geoffrey McGeachin
paddlewheels attached to a floating pontoon. From time to time there was a silver flash and then a splash as a fish jumped clear of the water.
    ‘The fountains and paddles oxygenate the water,’ Cartwright explained. He pointed to a sideboard. ‘We’ve got fresh croissants and
pain au chocolat
, baguettes and cold meats and cheeses, yoghurt and fruit, or the cook can do you eggs or whatever. And if you want grilled fish, we’ve got plenty.’
    ‘The coffee’s fine until I wake up,’ I said.
    I looked at the view and sipped my coffee. Both the caffeine hit and the view were pretty spectacular. There were hills on every side of us, not quite as dramatic as those surrounding the valley at Dien Bien Phu, but still impressive.
    ‘So what was it like hearing they were making a movie about your life? Must have been a bit weird.’
    Cartwright shrugged. ‘I’m a bloke who’s been awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, so weird is all relative. Reckon it’s going to be a good film?’
    ‘You can never tell at this stage. Apparently the producers offered the cast and crew working on the first
Mad Max
film a profit share in lieu of wages and got laughed off the set. The picture took over a hundred million bucks worldwide, so that should tell you something. It’ll either be good or it won’t – that’s show business.’
    ‘I always thought Mel Gibson should play me,’ Cartwright said, ‘back when the idea for the film first came up. Much too old now, of course. What’s the bloke they’re using like? He looks the part, I’ll give you that.’
    ‘You’ve seen him?’
    ‘Not in the flesh. I’ve been checking out your stills on the internet.’
    ‘He’s an actor, what can I say. Intense, dedicated, committed, neurotic, psychotic, self-focused, self-obsessed, self-loathing, egocentric and gentle, caring and kind. Pick any two, except the last three.’
    ‘Not a poofter, is he?’
    This was an interesting conversational turn. I shook my head. ‘Who knows? He’s got a wife and a couple of kids back in Australia, and if you’d had the local cops in Saigon dust most of our female extras for his fingerprints I doubt they’d have come up empty-handed.’
    ‘Still, you never know, I guess,’ he said. ‘I mean Jack Stark and VT … that was a bit of a surprise.’
    I had a feeling I knew where this was going and I didn’t much like it.
    ‘That’s right,’ I said, ‘you never know. And people tend to use the word “gay” these days in polite company, just so you know. You fancy another coffee? I’m having one.’
    Cartwright shook his head. I walked over to the sideboard and helped myself to a croissant and some more coffee. I’d hoped it might be a good way to change the subject, but it didn’t work.
    ‘VT is a good bloke,’ Cartwright said, after a pause, ‘and he’s still a good-looking bastard. Must have been drop-dead handsome when he was younger. It’s a bit of a shame, don’t you think? It just doesn’t seem right, somehow.’
    I took a deep breath and turned around, but just before I opened my mouth to set Cartwright straight on a few things, I caught the twinkle in his eye.
    ‘I mean,’ he said, ‘you’d bloody think VT could have done a whole lot better for himself than a rough nut like Jack Stark.’
    It was a nice little ambush and I’d walked right into it. Cartwright was smiling and seemed very pleased with himself.
    ‘You bastard.’
    ‘Had you going for a bit, didn’t I?’ he said. ‘And I’ve changed my mind about that coffee, if that’s okay.’
    ‘It’s great coffee. You grow it around here?’ I asked, handing him a cup.
    Cartwright nodded. ‘It’s local, from up on the hillside. This whole place was a coffee plantation in the old days. French planter built the house in the 1920s.’
    ‘And you put the fish ponds in?’
    ‘Nope, they came courtesy of the United States Air Force back in the seventies. A B-52 strike took out a lot of the coffee plantation but left

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