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AIDAN DE BRUNE

THE DOPE-RUNNER
WORKING THE DRUG TRADE IN SYDNEY

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover 2017



First published in The World's News, Sydney, NSW, 15 Oct 1930

First e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2017-11-25
Produced by Terry Walker, Colin Choat and Roy Glashan.

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.



THIS book is a product of a collaborative effort undertaken by Project Gutenberg Australia, Roy Glashan's Library and the bibliophile Terry Walker to collect, edit and publish the works of Aidan de Brune, a colourful and prolific Australian writer whose opus is well worth saving from oblivion.



Illustration


THE slinking figure of a short, thin man, dressed in shiny, thread-bare clothes, slid from shadow to shadow in Riley Street, Woolloomooloo. At times he hesitated, waiting until some chance pedestrian had passed some point on his route.

Continually he thrust his hand far down in the wide side-pocket of the ancient, loose fitting overcoat sprawling from his shoulders, fingering some article. His restless eyes moved continually, searching each house and alley-way—everything that moved.

"'Lo, Ed." A man lounging in a doorway spoke contemptuously as the man passed. "Goin' yer rounds?"

Ed Barlow nodded, and shuffled on. He came to Bourke Street and up to the corner of William Street. There he waited, in the deeper shadows, scanning the main street with furtive eyes. A constable strolled carelessly across the head of the road. Ed drew farther into the shadows, almost flattening himself against the wall.

Minutes passed, and the runner remained practically motionless; only the quick movement of his head in a queer, cocking movement, the restless darting of his eyes around, showed he waited in some set purpose. A clock chimed the hour. Ed counted the strokes in a subdued murmur. At the seventh bell he nodded, satisfied.

He slouched forward into William Street, turning up towards Darlinghurst. His manner had become less furtive, almost aggressive; yet he kept, as if from force of habit, close to the shop windows. He passed Loftus Street and loitered before the church on the east side of the street.

"Slip it, Ed." A man spoke from the deeper shadows in which he lounged. "The usual, eh?"

Ed nodded. His hand came from his overcoat pocket, moving quickly behind him. Something that rustled passed from the runner to the man. Ed waited, his hand still behind him—staring up the street, indifferently.

"Right-o!" A piece of paper was slipped in Ed's hand. Without looking round, he shuffled on, the paper still gripped between his grimy fingers. Again at the Cross, he paused for a moment, then shuffled down towards Rushcutters' Bay.

Opposite the Stadium, he lounged for some minutes against the railings bounding the reserve, watching the crowd awaiting entrance to the night's fight. A thin smile formed on his lips as a man came across the road to him.

"Goin' to th' fight, Ed?"

"No."

"Waitin' for anyone?"

"Yes. A white man!"

"Seen Mick?"

The piece of paper the runner had held in his hand fluttered to the ground. The man stooped and picked it up, glancing at it as he did so. He returned it to Ed without comment.

"Not goin' to th' fight. Well, well!" The man laughed. "S'pose you've got yer own game t' play."

He hesitated before turning and crossing the road, muttering a few words in an undertone.

"Well, s'long, mate. See you later." He stepped into the road and dodged between the stream of cars to the opposite pavement.

Ed Barlow turned eastwards, moving almost rapidly in his sly, slinking tread. He came up to Edgecliff, and looked around him, as if seeking some place. A moment and he crossed and entered a small general shop.

"Quarter o' tea, mate." Ed dropped a few coins on the counter. As he did so the paper he had been carrying again escaped his grasp, and fluttered down to the counter.

The man swept the coins and paper into his hand, then turned to a shelf and took down a small packet of tea. Without wrapping it, he handed it to the runner.

"Goin' strong?" Casually the shop-keeper tore the paper into shreds. "Didn't expect you t'-night."

"Didn't expect t' see you." Ed grinned unamiably. "You've 'ad a long spin."

"Three weeks." The man spoke indifferently. "It passes on to-morrow."

"Where?"

"You'll be told. Mick will be outside th' Cathedral next week; usual times."

The runner nodded and shuffled out of the shop. In the road he boarded a tram, alighting at King's Cross. Avoiding William Street, he dived into the narrow streets abounding in Woolloomooloo. Now he carried a dirty pocket-handkerchief in his hand.

"'Ow's Ed?" A woman, standing in a doorway, spoke jeeringly as the runner passed. "Got anything, old son?"

As she spoke her fingers moved up to pinch her nostrils. Her eyes gleamed dully. Through her ill-clad, spare frame ran a little shiver of excitement.

"Got th' price?"

The woman glanced around quickly, furtively; then extended her palm, on which lay a half-note. Ed snatched it quickly. His left hand came from his pocket and covered hers. When she withdrew her hand a little square packet was clutched between her fingers.

"When again?" she asked greedily.

"Wednesday."

"Not afore?"

"Too dangerous." Ed went to shuffle on. "Double tricks to-night. Wickham's gettin' 'ot."

"Damn 'em!"

Ed laughed. He turned into Cathedral Street and crossed down to the wharves. Continually he halted at some challenge by man or woman. Again and again notes and packages changed hands. He came up Riley Street to William Street, and slunk up towards the Cross again. At the Post Office corner a young girl waited.

"Got anything, Ed?"

"Yer ain't paid for th' last."

"Oh, don't be a nark, Ed—I ain't got it. True. My luck's dead, absolutely."

"Rot. Yer don't hit 'em 'ard enough."

"How can I without it? Ed, give me it. I swear I'll pay you next week, honest."

Illustration

"How can I without it? Ed, give me it.
I swear I'll pay you next week, honest."


"I ain't no charity bloke." The runner grumbled. "Get th' oof, an' I'll get yer the stuff. I can't say better."

"You've got it on you." The girl's dull eyes gleamed. "I only want a pinch, Ed: just a little pinch." She rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. "Just one sniff. Ed."

The runner shook his head. Yet he waited, his bleak, fishy eyes searching the girl's face.

"There's a bloke lookin' at yer," Ed muttered. "Cotton 'im?"

"Oh. him." The girl glanced at the man indicated disdainfully. "Not my sort, Ed."

"Yet 'e's good for a note." The runner's voice was insinuating. "I'll wait. 'E's good for a note, and that'll get you what you want. Come on."

He waited a moment, then continued:—

"He's waitin'. Don't be a fool, May. Look 'ere; get onter him and meet me 'ere in a 'our. I'll go an' see Madge."

Without waiting for a reply he trailed, across the road and down a narrow lane, entering a block of flats. On the first floor he rang a bell. A girl, haggard and worn, her nostrils shiny and worn with the continued friction of her hands, opened the door.

"Oh, you, Ed. Got it?"

"Some."

"How much?"

"Two. Price's gone up."

"'Course. What's it now?"

"Note each."

"Gawd!" The girl laughed harshly. "You make it hot, Ed."

"I 'as ter pay it."

"And pass it on—with interest. Oh, well, he's here, and has the bird. Come in."

She stood aside, motioning the runner to enter the small sitting-room. Ed looked about him curiously as he entered. The room was empty.

"Where is 'e?" The runner turned suspiciously on the girl. "You said 'e was 'ere."

"So was Mick." Madge crossed the room to the couch. "You've got two on you, Ed?"

"Yep."

"And want a note each. What do you make on them, Ed?"

"Damned little. You said 'e was 'ere."

"So he is." The girl lolled back, showing a length of limb. "He's here, and wants to see you, Ed."

"What do you mean?"

"Got those two packets, Ed?"

"Got the price?"

"For the right stuff, Ed." The girl wrenched open a drawer in a cabinet close to her hand. "Seen these before, Ed?"

"Wot?" The man made no motion to advance.

"These packets, Ed." Madge spoke softly. "You should recognise them. You brought them here."

"Wot do y' mean?" The man's little eyes gleamed wickedly.

"Snow, Ed."

"Well?"

"Snow—or what you call snow—Ed. The stuff you've sold us girls over past months. Recognise them, Ed?"

"Rot!" The runner's courage had returned. "You kept 'em, eh? Tellin' th' tale, ain't you? See you doin' that!"

"Keeping them, Ed?" The girl's voice was soft as silk. "Still it's true. I've kept 'em, Ed. Seen Mick to-night?"

The man nodded. Suspicion burned in his eyes. The palms of his hands were moist and sticky.

"Yes, you saw Ed—in William Street. Corner of Loftus Street, wasn't it? Didn't you see me there, Ed?"

The man did not reply. Some inkling of what the girl meant was penetrating his fogged brain.

"Yet I was there." Little dimples played around Madge's mouth. "I was there—because Mick asked me to watch. I trailed you to 'Moocher' Brown, and saw you get the stuff. Why? Because Mick asked me to."

The man blanched, and half turned to the door, halting at the girl's imperative call.

"Wait a bit, Ed. You wasn't always in such a hurry to leave me. Remember...No, to-night it's sufficient to remember you sold me—these."

With a rapid movement she scooped from the drawer a number of packets and flung them on the ground at the runner's feet.

"Snow, Ed, snow! Your snow." Sudden fury blazed in Madge's eyes. "The snow you think good enough for us girls. What do you do with the other snow—the snow you get—to sell to us?"

With a sudden dart the girl stood between Ed and the door; her eyes blazing, her figure tensed with anger.

"You sold us the real stuff once, Ed. The snow that stole our senses, made us your slaves. Then greed possessed you. You sold us fakes—snow that was not snow. Do you know what you did...then."

Half crouching, her hands working, she advanced a step towards the runner.

"You gave me back—myself." Her voice cleared. "I found I could do without the—snow—you brought me. But I continued to buy when you brought your fake to me. Do you want to know why?"

Mechanically the man nodded, as If against his will.

"You thought I was your slave—the toy of the drug you brought me, and...and I fooled you. I watched you. I saw you meet Mick...and I found means to know him! I took him the stuff you sold me—and he laughed. He told me to watch you. He showed me how I could punish you."

"Madge! I'll..." The man cringed before the girl.

"You'll what?" Madge laughed harshly. "Mick told me to watch you. I did to-night. I saw you go to Moocher Brown. He gave you the real stuff, Ed. I saw you go round your dupes, distributing—what?"

"You've sold your dupes; you've sold the gang—now you'll be sold. Yes, sold, Ed. Got two packets left, Ed?"

The man nodded, dumbly.

"Give them to me."

Almost without hesitation the man handed over the two packets of cocaine.

"That all you've got?"

Again he nodded.

"Then get out!" Madge stepped from before the door. As he stumbled blindly across the threshold the girl called him. "Ed!"

He turned, glowering at her with puzzled eyes.

"Wickham's downstairs, Ed." She laughed at his sudden start. "But that can't worry you, Ed. You haven't any cocaine on you."

"Wickham's there? God!" The man dropped on his knees. "Madge, let me stay here...until he goes. Wickham! If he gets me!"

"You've got rid of the snow, Ed." The girl laughed mirthlessly. "Without it...Oh, get out!" The man did not move. "Say, Mick!"

An inner door opened, and the man Ed had met before the church in William Street, early in the evening, entered. For a moment he stood surveying the runner with amusement.

"'Lo, Ed! Got rid of your load? Good man! Quite a salesman, ain't you?"

"Tell him to go, Mick," the girl exclaimed, passionately. "He...he makes me sick!"

"Hear what the lady says?" Behind the drug distributor's amused air lurked a relentless ferocity. "Understand, get...out."

He advanced a step, and Ed backed into the short passage. A moment, and he bolted through the door, down the stone steps, on to the street.

"'Night, Ed." A cool, easy voice followed a heavy hand clasped on the runner's shoulder. "Haven't seen you for quite a time. How's trade?"

Ed looked up. On either side of him were tall, burly men.

"Nothing to say, Ed?" The police-sergeant grinned cheerfully. "Got any snow, Ed?"

Without waiting for a reply, quiet, skilful fingers explored the man's pockets. From one of them the police officer brought out the packet the runner had received from "Moocher" Brown.

"Tea, Ed? Go in for tea, eh. Umph, don't feel like leaves here. Mind if I have a look?"

The coloured wrapping was quickly torn away. Where should have been tea was a number of little flat white paper packets. Sergeant Wickham opened one, and sniffed delicately at the contents.

"Cocaine, Ed. And I thought that girl was pitching me a tale. Well, well. Now, we'll take a little walk, Ed. Best night I've had for quite a while."

Under the heavy urge of the officer's hand the runner turned down the street. Hardly had he moved a pace before, from a window above, fell a number of similar white paper packets to those Wickham held in his hand. Ed looked up, at the sound of mocking laughter, at Madge.

"By-by, boy," the girl mocked. "While you're resting, think where you can sell the real stuff—not the fake—when you get it."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is in the Australian public domain.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.