"Hold it right there!"
The man giving the order was wearing a grey security uniform. On his left hip was a walkie talkie, encased in black leather. One hand rested on the instrument, as though it was a six-gun, while the other hand extended slightly away from his body, toward the object of his command.
Ganley Toogood was a thin man, in his early thirties. His cheek bones were so pronounced that his face reminded one of the hollows and ridges on a cow's rump. Everything about him was, in a word… straight.. Ganley lived by the book, and he expected others to do the same. A thin, closely cropped moustache underlined his perfectly combed black hair. Between the two were the dark nervous eyes of an equally nervous man. He addressed his order to a taller, heavier man in green running shorts and a yellow singlet.
The tall man had his back to Ganley. He was pressed against an industrial bin that came up to his chest. On hearing the order, his arms slowly emerged from within the bin. He turned even more slowly to greet the security guard. On his face was a huge grin, like he was having a good laugh at the situation in which he now found himself. His grin was heightened by a missing front tooth. In his outstretched hands was a flat of out-of-date eggs. Several were broken; and raw egg-white dripped from one corner of the flat.
It was Greg Candy, a two-metre tall Scotsman. The big redhead looked like he should have been tossing cabers rather than rummaging around in industrial bins behind the Buy-Rite Supermarket on an unusually warm August afternoon in Sydney. Greg and the bin were inside a huge cage-like enclosure. Between him and the security guard was a wide, cyclone mesh gate. Greg gave the gate a flick inward with one foot, to bring it fully open, and he strolled casually through it toward Ganley.
"Now what can I do for you?" asked Greg, as smoothly as if he were a doctor's receptionist. He was still holding the flat of eggs. They were still dripping, and Greg was still grinning.
"You can put those eggs right back where you got them," said the guard, trying to retain his role as the one in charge of the situation.
"You wouldn't wanna keep some hungry people from having a decent feed, now would you?" asked Greg in a deep, but kindly patronising voice.
"I told you to put the eggs back," growled Ganley, who did a quick draw of his two-way radio to emphasise his point. "They're the property of Buy-Rite Supermarket. If you don't put them back, I'll be forced to call the police." Store policy was to start with a warning in a situation like this. But Ganley knew that he could call for police assistance if his orders were not followed.
"C'mon! You can't be serious," said Greg. "Buy-Rite threw them out! My friends need 'em." He dropped his chin down on his chest, and continued speaking through sad, upturned eyes. "The cops aren't gonna 'rest me for feeding some poor street people cracked eggs, are they?" There was not a hint of fear in Greg's voice, and this upset Ganley more than anything the intruder had to say.
"They can, and they will!" said the guard, raising his voice. He pressed a button on the side of his radio.
"Mike, can you give me a hand? I've got a bin raider round the back."
"Look, it's only some silly old eggs," pleaded Greg. "You could just look the other way this one time. Think how you'd feel if you was hungry and this was all you could get."
"If you really want to help your friends, then put the eggs back," said Ganley, replacing the walkie-talkie. "They've been treated with poison. Buy-Rite does it to all their discarded food, to keep people from stealing it. If you give it to anyone, you could be responsible for them getting sick. You don't want that to happen, now, do you?"
"Get serious! This food isn't poisoned, and you know it," Greg shot back.
He had been working his way toward the opening of the little cul-de-sac that they were standing in, and Ganley had been dragged along by Greg's bravado. Greg was just about to drop the eggs and run for it when a second security guard poked his head around the corner of the building, directly in front of him. It was Ganley's partner, Mike.
"What do we have here?" he asked. "Another rubbish rat, eh?" This guard was a bit taller than his mate and a lot heavier. But most of his weight was around his middle. While Ganley came across as a bit too delicate to be a security guard, his mate was more on the other extreme. Now the two men effectively blocked Greg's escape.
"I've asked him twice to put the eggs back and he won't do it," said the smaller guard.
Greg's plan to draw Ganley away from the bin was too risky now; and since the guard was prepared to let him leave without pressing charges, he decided to cut his losses and co-operate.
"Okay, I'll put 'em back," he said, as he turned toward the bin. "But I want ya' to know that what you're doin' is really wrong." He spoke over his shoulder as he walked back toward the enclosure, "It's a sin, you know, to let stuff like this go to waste when there's hungry people who could use it."
"You don't need to talk to Ganley about sin," said his newly arrived companion. "He's a flamin' preacher. Aren't ya, Ganley? Always goin' on with all that God crap. Tell him, Ganley. Go on, tell him." "I just work here part-time," Ganley said to Greg. He was visibly embarrassed by his mate's crude description. "But, like it or not, the law is the law, and you've got to abide by it."
"Law? What law?" exclaimed Greg. "Are you telling me that the law says I can't give some out-of-date eggs to hungry street people?"
"Like I said, it's Buy-Rite's property. You shouldn't even be back here. I could arrest you just for trespassing. Now dump the eggs and be on your way." Ganley was more relaxed now that he was in control of the situation.
Greg approached the opening into the bin cage, but Mike jumped through the gate in front of him, reaching the bin just before Greg got there.
"Hey, check this out, Ganley!" Mike was standing at the side of the bin. "Come have a look! You really have uncovered a rat's nest this time!"
Ganley joined the others inside the enclosure. The two guards peered over the edge of the bin at a young woman in her twenties crouched down amongst the empty cartons, rotting fruit and other rubbish. Her hands were covered with spilt yoghurt, and as she brushed long brown hair out of her eyes, some of the yoghurt rubbed of f onto her hair and face. She looked up at them sheepishly and managed a weak smile. "Da-dahhhh! Sprrrrrrung!" said Greg, with a smile of encouragement to Diane, his friend in the bin. The whole thing appeared to be nothing more than a game to him.
Diane was the most limber member of the team, and so it was usually her job to climb into the bins and hunt through the rubbish for edible treats. Greg's job was to carry anything Di dished up to him, from the bin to the van. The van was stationed nearby, in the parking lot. Greg had been listening for any clue from the guards that they had seen him taking food to the van earlier. So far there had been none. "So you're a preacher, are you?" Di said with a sneer, as she stood to her feet and stretched her cramped leg muscles. She had been listening to the conversation while hiding in the bin. "And what does Jesus say about helping the poor?" Greg squinted his eyes in anticipation. He knew from his own observations that Ganley was not about to accept the truth in what she was saying.
"He doesn't say to take stuf f that isn't yours," Ganley responded. "If you want to help the poor, do it with your own money, not with someone else's." Who were these people, to lecture him on theology, when they had been caught red-handed stealing from Buy-Rite?
Diane let out a nervous little laugh. "Stealing? You call this stealing? God owns the lot of it; but the system would rather see it all go to waste than let someone eat it without paying. I call that stealing from God. And you're a part of it!" With her hands on her hips, her whole body pointed at Ganley in condemnation.
"I'm not going to argue with you," said Ganley. "I've got a job to do, and I'm going to do it. Now get out of there… right now!"
"That's right. Do your job and collect your paycheque and let the poor go to buggery for all you care. How callous can you get? And you call yourself a preacher!"
"Enough of that kind of talk, young lady, or I will call the police." It wasn't clear whether Ganley was more of fended by Diane's profanity or by her dig at his morality. He went on, "There are ways to help the poor, but this isn't one of them." The guard was losing control once again.
Diane was climbing out of the bin by this time. She was a short slip of a woman, not weighing more than 50kg; but Ganley was experiencing why she had been nicknamed Dynamite. Like Greg, she wore only shorts and a T-shirt. The toe of one running shoe smeared yoghurt down the side of the bin as she slid to the ground.
"Oh, aren't you the gracious saviour of mankind," she said with her back turned to Ganley. As her feet touched the ground, she turned and said, "Go ahead! Call the police. Let everyone hear about how Buy-Rite treats the poor; and let a hypocritical preacher be the one to blow the whistle. Go on! I dare you!" She folded her arms on her chest.
"That does it. Send for the police, Mike," Ganley said to his mate. Addressing the pair through eyes that blazed with hate, he said, "I'm not going to be intimidated by a couple of thieving bin raiders. Now we'll find out who's breaking the law and who isn't."
Mike stepped outside of the cage and turned away from them as he punched numbers into his mobile phone. He was enjoying the prospect of doing something besides just warning people. A genuine arrest would brighten up an otherwise boring day.
Greg, in the meantime, shot a quick frown in Diane's direction. She had started something now, and it wasn't going to be easy to get her or himself out of it. With his head turned away from Ganley, he indicated the street at the back of the supermarket with his eyes. Diane smiled to show that she understood.
"Can you hold these for a tick, mate?" Greg said as he stepped forward to hand the eggs to Ganley. Before Ganley had a chance to realise what was happening, he had grabbed the eggs, to stop them from falling to the ground. At the same instant, Greg pushed through the gate and broke into a run.
"Stop him!" shouted Ganley as he threw the eggs to one side. Mike replaced his mobile to lend a hand, but Greg was already running toward the corner of the building, and Ganley was already of f after him. Greg moved quickly, but only quickly enough to get into the parking lot before he let Ganley grab him by the arm. The heavier guard was lumbering up the drive to give assistance.
Diane had the opening she needed. She slipped out of the cul-de-sac and sprinted out of sight down the back street. When he could see that Diane was on her way, Greg broke out of Ganley's grip with one heave from his giant frame. He was of f again just as Mike arrived on the scene. And that's when the two security guards were treated to an exhibition of just how fast the big man could move when he wanted to. He was over the fence, through the adjacent park and out of sight in a matter of seconds. His pursuers gave up before they had even cleared the fence.
When Greg and Diane were each sure that they were clear of the guards, they found public phones and called the base to arrange a rendezvous. An hour later, they sneaked back to the van and drove it away. What the guards had not realised earlier was that Greg had already loaded up most of the discarded food before his oppressors had arrived. Greg's real concern had been that Ganley may have locked the gate shut while Diane was still inside the bin. He had been trying to draw Ganley away from the scene so that Diane could escape undetected.
As they were driving out of the parking lot, Greg and Diane were still discussing the incident. "You did push him, Dynamite," said Greg.
"He needed to be pushed," said Diane stubbornly. "He's a preacher, and he should know better. Once they spotted me, I knew we couldn't go back there anyway, so I figured, 'Why not give him something to think about?' 'Sides, even if he had arrested me, it's nothing to be ashamed of. We were just helping the poor."
"But others mightn't see it that way, Di. We was helping ourselves too, y'know."
"We're poorer than most of the people we help."
"Anyway, what's done is done," said Greg with a shrug. He seemed incapable of staying angry with anyone for long.
But what had been done was not done yet… at least not as far as one zealous security guard was concerned. He had spotted Diane just as she climbed into the van, and even as they were driving out of the parking lot, Ganley Toogood, Baptist Pentecostal preacher cum Buy-Rite security guard, was writing down the van's registration number.