You can never judge an academic book by its cover. Simon Dyson, a quiet assistant professor, is a man of hidden depths. To the world he presents as a harmless, innocuous, shy and retiring intellectual. However, the man who lurks behind that public persona is far more interesting … and dangerous … and driven.
I shouted Marvin brunch at a cosmosexual café we both liked in the old kiosk of a park on the beach. It was outrageously expensive, but I felt guilty—well, not really, but every so often I liked Marvin to think I did. In fact, one of my crutches had tangled around his feet when he’d opened the bathroom door, and he’d tripped, cracking his head against the doorjamb.
We’d organised our guests for the night, and had just finished shopping for dinner and were loading up the car when I sensed someone standing right behind me.
“Hello, Simon,” the man said, leaning familiarly on the door arch of my opened hatchback.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Marvin,” another voice said.
“Too late, Cupper, I already pressed the emergency button. GPS will have the cops here in less than five minutes.”
I’d put two and two together quickly enough to reach for my crutches as soon as I’d heard Marvin say the man’s name. The tall blond man who’d spoken to me kicked them out of the way.
“That’s not nice, Felix,” I said.
Their quick glance at each other showed a moment of panic. I recognised the look. I’d seen it on the faces of punters ever since I’d fled to the streets when I was a child. It was the look of someone caught with their pants down. Shock at the realisation they weren’t as safe and anonymous as they thought they were. If we knew their names, it was probably pretty certain someone else did too.
Cupper, the short one who’d waved a gun in Marvin’s face on the day they’d come to ransack our house, went to grab my shirt collar. It was a very bad move. Even with my weight on one leg, I was still a fighter. I slapped his hand out of the way.
“Try that again and I’ll break your fucking nose,” I said. “Now, piss off before the cops get here.”
“Break my nose? Yeah, you and whose army?”
Unfortunately, some crooks had a more developed idea of their own mean streak than the reality. Neither of them knew how to look after themselves. I summed it up in a split second. Bodies angled wrong, tension in all the wrong places. They were used to using muscle and body weight, not combat fighting.
Felix hit the ground first—my signature shot, my powerful right hook, knocked him flat on his arse. If Cupper hadn’t reacted so quickly, I might have enjoyed the sight of the tall Scandinavian lying on his back, gaping, wondering what had happened. Instead, his friend, who’d taken objection to the suggestion I might break his nose, grabbed a handful of my hair and tried to land one on me before I could react.
Marvin tried to get between us, but I shoved him to one side. My knee came up between Cupper’s legs at the same time I headbutted him. He roared with anger and kicked my plaster cast violently, while trying to get a punch around my guard.
“Fancy-boy boxing is it,” he yelled just as I saw Felix rise into view over his shoulder. Cupper drew back his arm, clenching his fist—I couldn’t waste time playing games, so I slugged him good and proper. A short, brutal stab right on the bridge of his nose. I felt the bone crack. His eyes crossed briefly, and then he fell backwards like a ton of bricks onto the tarmac of the shopping centre parking lot.
There was a split second when all three of us realised Cupper wasn’t getting up in a hurry—I’d knocked him out. People who’d been coming out of the shops to their cars during the few minutes in which our altercation had been taking place started to gather around. A large man, around my own age, glanced at the cast on my leg and at the man sprawled motionless at my feet and called out, “Need a hand, mate?”
Felix drew back to throw a punch at me, but then realised he needed to save himself, and tore free from Marvin, who’d grabbed his upper arm. He smacked Marvin across the face, knocking off his glasses, and then fled down the central arcade of the shopping centre, the large man who’d offered to help in pursuit.
“My frigging glasses,” Marvin yelled after him. They’d been trodden on by either Felix or his pursuer.
“Are you all right, Marvin?” I was furious, but more worried about Marvin’s glasses than the ferocious pain in my leg. I glanced down. The wall of the side of the cast was dented—it looked as if it had been broken—and there was blood seeping over the top just beneath my knee.
He was staring at the ground in front of me. A large spreading puddle had appeared behind Cupper’s head. It was then I realised his eyes were open, motionless, staring into the sky.
“It was self-defence,” I shouted.
“I understand that, Mr. Dyson, but a man is dead because of your actions. We have to take you to the station to be questioned.”
Two police cars had arrived almost simultaneously, sirens blaring, lights flashing. I was on the ground at that point, clutching uselessly at my leg, almost screaming with the pain, and shouting at Marvin to call Squid, and after him Manny when Squid’s phone went to answering machine. “Tell Manny to get onto Mordecai Buttons,” I yelled through clenched teeth.
“No, you can’t handcuff me, I’m sorry,” I said to the police officer who was trying to restrain me. She’d tried to grab me forcefully by the arm to take me to the police car when I’d declined her gruff invitation to follow, but I’d shaken her off—admittedly, my reaction had been fairly aggressive. “You don’t understand. You can’t touch me. I have aphenphosmphobia … no, don’t touch me!”
She ignored me and tried to fasten one handcuff over my wrist—more aggressively than I thought appropriate.
Bad move. Instinctively, I punched her.
All hell broke loose.
Wheelchair is a slow burn contemporary psychological crime thriller about a man who suffers from both OCD and PTSD, a man who is unwittingly caught up in a cross-border war between rival crime gangs—a conflict that almost leads to his death, and more than once. It’s a study of compulsion and of disability, and of the many faces of emotional dependence and sexual compulsion. It’s about how some men cannot just love or make love because their hearts or their bodies lead them to it, but who can only connect emotionally and physically through self-imposed rituals which involve struggle or self-abasement.
More About Garrick Jones – From the outback to the opera.
After a thirty year career as a professional opera singer, performing as a soloist in opera houses and in concert halls all over the world, I took up a position as lecturer in music in Australia in 1999 at the Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music, which is part of CQUniversity.
Brought up in Australia, between the bush and the beaches of the Eastern suburbs, I retired in 2015 and now live in the tropics, writing, gardening, and finally finding time to enjoy life and to re-establish a connection with who I am after a very busy career on the stage and as an academic.