Chapter 8.    Bondi Beach

On Monday, the group slept in. It was to be their of ficial "rest day" for the week. Activities throughout the day included chess, reading, and just generally relaxing. The number one topic of discussion was the court case, and particularly how it would af fect their plans for Tuesday night. Some of them felt that the court case could result in further complications which would stop them from being able to go ahead with the Bondi project. They argued that there really was no risk in acting quickly; but that there could be more risk later, now that the police knew their address, and if they decided to keep closer tabs on them. Because Dynamite was not to be involved directly in the painting, the general consensus was that they should take a chance, and go ahead as planned.

Everyone except Diane and Sean stayed up late on Monday night, and slept in even longer on Tuesday than they had on Monday. This was to prepare them for the long night ahead of them on Tuesday.

Diane purchased walkie-talkies and binoculars from two separate K-Marts on Tuesday afternoon, while the others buried the paint drums near the beach retaining wall without incident. The ten-litre plastic drums could have passed for makeshift picnic baskets, so no one took notice. Sometime after midnight on Tuesday, the bin raiders' van pulled up on the road parallel to Bondi Beach. Inside, Dave, Greg, Juan, and Anna were putting on dark tracksuits, gloves, and balaclavas. In the driver's seat, Cherry was adjusting the binoculars, and trying out one of the two-way radios. Greg carried the matching handset.

They planned to be on the beach by the time the 2am security check took place. Huge lights shone out toward the ocean from the elevated walkway atop the wall; but the brightness of the lights made it impossible to see anything in the thin shadow cast by the wall itself. If the painters stayed close to the wall, they would be almost impossible to spot, either from above, or from the beach, because of the blinding lights overhead.

From the van, Cherry would be able to notify Greg via the two-way if anyone approached the wall from the road. The open area between the road and the beach was level with the top of the wall. It would be out of sight to the painters, who would be standing down on the sand facing the wall. If Greg received a warning from Cherry, he could then signal the others to remain still until the all clear came through the tiny speaker tucked in his ear.

By 1:30am, there were only a few people strolling along the beach, and none of them noticed the four painters moving quietly through the trees in the foreshore park at the south end of the beach. One by one they dropped gently over the edge of the wall. Greg paced out the required number of steps to the first drum of paint, and the others dug it up without speaking a word. Buried with this first drum were four trays and four paint rollers in plastic bags.

When 2am rolled around, there was only one pair of lovers remaining on the beach, and they were facing away from the wall, looking out on the water. The security guard did his rounds along the footpath at the top of the wall, and then he left. When Cherry gave the word, the team began their work, while Cherry kept a sharp eye out for movement from the couple on the beach. At around 2:30, the lovers stood to leave, and Cherry notified the painters to lie low. The couple turned and walked directly toward them.

The young man and woman ascended the steps immediately next to the painters, who were all lying face down in the shadow of the wall. The shadow and their dark clothing had worked. They were practically invisible.

But the young couple were not about to go home yet. They seated themselves comfortably at the top of the wall and continued their lively chatter.

The four painters were trapped. Cherry could see the pair sitting atop the wall, and she informed Greg that they were there. Lying in the sand just below the two, Greg did not need word from Cherry to know of their presence. The lovebirds were close enough that he and the others could hear them laughing and talking above them. What were they to do? All of their plans would come to nothing if the lad and lass did not leave soon.

Time passed, and finally Dave got an idea. He quietly removed his balaclava and gloves, and then, without a word to the others, he stood and walked boldly up the steps and past the couple. He had been hoping to embarrass them enough to make them move on, but it had no ef fect at all. "What's Dave doing?" asked Cherry through the walkie-talkie. Cherry did not know that Greg was too close to the scene to respond; but even if he had been able to respond, he could not see from his place in the sand what was happening above him.

Dave was dancing with himself. Around and around he spun, acting out the part of a psychotic, in an ef fort to unnerve the couple. Instead, they were amused and they almost encouraged him. Dave increased the tempo, working himself up to a frenzy, but it still did not work. Then the dance changed into something with a little more spice. "Hyahh!" Dave would shout at a sea gull, and then make movements with his hands as though he was directing the bird's flight through the air. "Hyahh!" and the deranged puppeteer would cast his spell on another seagull. The couple was getting nervous now, but they still were not leaving. Then Dave tried his trump card. "Hyahh!" he said louder than ever, as he raced toward the young girl, stopping just before he reached her and sticking his chest out like he had just achieved some kind of spiritual control over her. His face was contorted in a look of maniacal anger, as though the couple had intruded on his domain.

"I was afraid the bloke would think it was his duty to shut me up," Dave recalled later. "But they were pretty certain that I was a mental case by this time, and they both got up and left." Greg had hardly been able to contain his laughter while listening to Cherry's report over the radio, and while hearing first-hand the shouts coming from just above him. The group had lost almost half an hour as a result of the interruption, but they set out to do as much as they could before the next inspection.

Work was nearing completion when a car drove down the hill at the unfinished end of the wall, just in time for the 4am inspection. Cherry spotted the car and informed the painters, but the car's headlights must have shone on the slogans at the far end of the beach, where the arc of the wall came in line with them. The car stopped and a powerful spotlight, mounted on the driver's side, was turned onto the freshly painted wall.

The vehicle was still on the roadway, a good 300 metres away from the painters. From where the graf fitists were huddled, they could not be certain whether they had personally been spotted. They moved closer together in the shadow to discuss tactics.

"Get your gear of f and bury it in the sand," whispered Dave. They did this without moving out of the shadow. They buried the final drum of paint, the trays, and the rollers as well. The door to the boat shed, which was built into the side of the wall, was only 20 meters away, and it was still unlocked. Dave and Juan had a look inside, but it took only a moment to realise that they would be trapped like fish in a barrel if the security guard should think to check for them there.

Using the binoculars, Cherry could see the car better than the others, although she was situated farther away from it than were the painters. She reported that the guard was still in the car, probably phoning for police support before approaching the group.

Anna's escape route was to have been the path around the clif f at the end of the beach farthest away from the security patrol. Greg made a last minute decision to go with her. They were wearing only joggers, running shorts, and T-shirts by this stage, so they climbed the steps to the top of the wall, and loped casually along the footpath, away from the spotlight. The spotlight did not move, suggesting that the guard had not, as yet, seen the painters, and that he took Greg and Anna to be what they appeared to be - early morning joggers.

As the first pair were disappearing up the hill, Dave and Juan decided to take the same escape route. But they were no sooner on the footpath than a police car arrived just behind the security car.

Cherry informed the others of the arrival of police support, and then said that she was going to go off the air, just to be safe. She hid herself in the back of the van, while the two joggers picked up their pace. They struggled not to panic while the police and security guard conferred. It was still dark, and if they could just reach the path atop the cliff, they stood a good chance of being able to hide in the bushes growing along the side of it.

The police car started up, skirted the foreshore and then headed up the hill toward the clif f. It reached there at the same instant that Dave and Juan started down the darkened path. The police shone a light after them and shouted out for them to stop, but the two men kept going. When they had turned a few bends, and could not hear the police behind them, the pair left the path and climbed a steep embankment leading up to the road and away from the beach. They did their best to stay out of sight until the sun came up and people began to stir on the streets. At 6am, all of the painters met up with Cherry at a prearranged picnic table in Centennial Park, a couple of miles from the beach. They had not quite finished their project, and there had been some dangerously close calls, but they were all enjoying the adrenaline rush that accompanied their successful escape.

News coverage later that day, of the longest single piece of graf fiti in the world was ample reward for their ef forts.

K-Mart obligingly refunded the cost of the binoculars and walkie talkies, when Diane said that they were "unsuitable".

Dave and Greg made a trip to the beach later that day to find that none of the buried clothes had been discovered by the police. They dug everything up, loaded it all into the empty paint containers, and then buried it at a predetermined site in Kuringai Chase National Park, a few miles north of Sydney.

Juan had earlier disposed of all his project notes, so that the base was now free of any clues, and there was no sign of paint on any of them or on any of their clothing. Their riskiest caper had been a resounding success.

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