My girlfriend Kristen and I moved from the "dangerous" streets of Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn and the East Village of New York City to the seemingly safe and tony neighbourhood of Darlinghurst, Sydney. Our new home was at the tip of the dick of Darlinghurst, where the girls walking the streets at night cross over to girls that are really boys that ply their trade in the aptly nicknamed Ten Buck Alley. Its real name is Premier Lane; and from what we've heard at night, as the sounds of slurping and sucking blow up to our balcony, those are some premier ten-buck blow jobs. It warms the heart that in these times of recession and inflation that the price of a blow job remains steady and true.
The actual girls wouldn't bother us when we walked around the neighborhood at night and they were, for the most part, sweet. One of them, Angela (certainly her real name), even saved a neighbour's kitten from being run over in the street. Of course there were often loud fights over money and drugs between pimps and their "bitches," but they wouldn’t usually last that long. One lady of the night hollered to high heaven when she was chucked out of a workman’s ute--he had kept her clothing, most likely as punishment for the surprise he got when he put his hand between her legs. All in all, we were quite happy with our slightly seedy but colourful neighborhood. Coming from New York, it made us feel more at home.
Then a junkie prostitute broke into our house and robbed us of everything. She also took her time to change out of her clothes and into my girlfriend’s. The presumptuous prostitute went through her underwear and bras and took her stylistic picks. Skirts that were a little too short for Kristen, tops that revealed a bit too much cleavage, and high heels that make her mince all went into the bag. But what she liked best she decided she couldn’t wait another minute not to wear; so she took her ratty, knees-all-worn- through, 1980s Jordache jeans off (that would have been a nasty scene to walk in on), threw them on our bed, and changed into something a bit more appropriate for her night's activities.
Once she was done with her clothes and shoe shopping, she turned to her putana coups de grâce, all of the precious memories contained within Kristen’s baubles. Now that she had a new wardrobe to walk the streets in, it was time to turn her attentions on how to pay for her next fix. Luckily for her I had just caved in and bought a Macbook Pro that I couldn’t afford. Unluckily for me, neither could she. Along with some other obvious valuables, she made off with enough gadgets to make her pimp/fence happy enough to keep her high for the next week. Everything was neatly packed into Kristen’s black backpack and she went out the way she came in: through the tiny bathroom window and over the back fence, an ugly junkie version of Catwoman. Since she was overloaded with goodies she left behind the bag that she came with along with a few choice gifts for us including tons of condoms and syringes. Great trade!
A drunken lady at a house party next door was taking a piss in the upstairs bathroom when she noticed a tall blond woman slowly climbing over our back fence. She finished her business and teetered back downstairs to mention the sighting to her fabulous hosts.
"Are your neighbours running a brothel? Do ya know ’em?"
"No, they're a group of twenty-something professionals, why?"
"Well, I jhust saw what looked liike a blond prosthitute escaping from her brothel. She had a black backpack on. I wonder who’t could’ve been, he-yup?"
What a rich imagination. It never crossed her drunken mind that someone sneaking over a fence carrying a loaded backpack at 11 PM on a Saturday night just might be a thief.
After the police came and took our statements we slept amid the disaster zone that was our room, being careful not to disturb anything for the forensics team coming the next morning. The next day a real crackerjack team of "experts" came to dust for fingerprints. In all the flurry of rummaging-and-breaking-in the junkie had apparently left no fingerprints; or they just couldn't find any in their tireless 20-minute search. Once our CSI team took their leave, we went through our stuff to find what was left.
That afternoon I was leaning on our second-story balcony overlooking Bourke Street and saw a small, dark-skinned girl walk by wearing my girlfriend’s clothes and her distinctly ugly black backpack. I ran downstairs in time to catch up with her buying a chocolate bar at the corner store.
"Where did you get that backpack? It's mine."
"No, this is my backpack, I don't know wha you're on about. It's full of me clothes, mate."
"Bullshit. Give it to me now or I'm calling the cops."
The little junkie, whose name I later learned was Tiara, squirmed and took off with a junkie buddy. I called the police and followed her towards their mecca: Kings Cross. She ditched the backpack, which contained most of my girlfriend’s stolen clothes and shoes, down an alleyway. I retrieved it and followed her until I could point her ass out to some beat patrolwomen who promptly arrested her. She claimed, maybe truthfully, that some guy in Kings Cross gave her the bag of clothes as a gift. What a generous gentleman.
So, I went looking for him at the pusher bench at the intersection of Darlinghurst Road and Roslyn Street. I started harassing all the junkies, prostitutes, and dealers, asking them about anybody trying to sell the rest of our stolen stuff. I had just gotten into a particularly heated argument with one of the bitchier denizens when a guy, clearly one of the junkies friends, started fucking with me.
"The little pissant ain't even a fucking cop. Let him ask his questions and we'll fucking stomp him."
I told him that I lived on Bourke Street and that we'd been robbed the night before. Strangely, he quickly changed his attitude. Turns out that Snowy lives a couple of houses down the street from us and knows everyone in the Cross and he'd warned them about thieving in his 'hood. Right away one of his cronies said that he'd seen Shorty with a bag of laptops and shit trying to sell them down Roslyn Street. Snowy then said to his entourage to put the word out that he's in the market to buy some laptops from Shorty. He also told me that once that fucker Shorty, whom he's expressly warned before not to rob in his 'hood, shows up with the laptops he'll beat the shit out of him, get our stuff back, and turn his sorry ass over to the cops. Turns out that Snowy hates thieves. He used to be a junkie back in the day but has been clean for almost 20 years. He doesn't even drink. But he does do the community a great service by dealing weed. And we’d been looking for a solid connect in Sydney for a while.
Over the next few days I hit up all the pawn shops and sketchy Arab convenience stores. The neighbouring business owners in the Cross told me that they buy stolen goods since they have the cash. And judging by the way they answer the innocent question, "Have you had anyone come in off the street trying to sell any laptops or anything?" with, "Who tell you to come in here? Why you asking me this? Who tell you? No, get out my store." then it seems like a pretty good bet that they do, indeed, buy stolen goods. Later I learned that the police continually raid these same stores and find caches of hot property that they confiscate. But no luck for this Sepo. Trying to get a junkie to snitch isn't as easy as it sounds since it's hard to get a fix when you're dead. Shorty showed up at Snowy's place and got worked over pretty good but said he didn't have any laptops. He'd probably already sold them.
I would see junkie princess Tiara across the street selling her bony ass for cash. Nightly she would parade down our street wearing Kristen’s clothes and shoes, new ones every time, our very own junkie fashion show with Tiara the model and Kristen the reluctant furnisher of garments. Kristen was fucking furious. I approached Tiara a couple of times to try and get her to squeal on whomever had so graciously "given" her the backpack but she wouldn’t talk except to threaten to have me killed. What a sweetheart. At least I got to yell back at her for an hour on the street. And even then none of our lovely neighbors came out of their homes to see what all the commotion was about. Now that's what I call a caring community. In my opinion, you should at least come out and gawk at the free entertainment. But Tiara, being part aboriginal, did have something to say regarding people and community; specifically, to "get the hell off of her land." And she inexplicably claimed that the clothes in the bag were still hers, and I guess technically she's right: any possessions we brought to her land automatically became de facto hers.
A week or so later a guy named John, (I know, not as colourful a nickname as Shorty or Snowy), stopped by Snowy's to sell three hot laptops. Snowy passed along Laptop John's mobile number and I set up a meet to buy them. But he only showed up with one and it wasn't mine. So I bought it anyway figuring that I could return it to the grateful owner just as I hoped someone would do for me. And it was a steal at $250 bucks for a newish Acer. $200 went to our slimy entrepreneur, Laptop John, while apparently $50 went to the unscrupulous computer tech who hacks the user password. I told John that I was interested in Macbooks and that I could do the password cracking for him (a lie, but it's OK to lie to thieves).
I was able to return the laptop, and get reimbursed within 35 minutes of my purchase. Lo and behold the laptop owner runs a business in the neighborhood and had been robbed over the weekend. Barbara wanted me to try and get back her other two laptops and she was willing to pay considerably more than the regular $250 a pop. So I was back on the case. The next day John calls me up with the deal of the stolen century; six brand-new Macbook Airs still in their boxes for the unbeatable price of $500 a piece. Since I'd recently been robbed I didn't have that kind of cash laying about but I set up the deal anyway--on the condition that he first get me the other two laptops that he was selling the day before. I was thinking about starting a good-Samaritan business: become the guy that buys all the laptops off these thieves, then return them to their rightful owners at cost, hope for a reward and rack up some karma points while I'm at it. But just as the deal was about to go down, Laptop John's mobile went dead. I kinda hoped he did as well but he was probably just arrested.
And with that, my solid line for the Fenced-Goods-R-Us business plan went belly-up.
In the end, someone is happily typing away on my new MacBook and someone else is wearing my girlfriend's jewellery and a couple of junkies are getting blissfully high. The only thing we got out of it was a dependable pot dealer that we would never, ever cross. So the ordeal wasn’t a total loss.
IAN Q. ROWAN