July 2007

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Rose Lacson & Langley George Hancock

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

When her friend Connie pointed out the advertisement in the morning paper, Rose Lacson told her she was crazy. She was just passing through, after all, on a 30-day tourist visa. A prolonged stay in Perth was not something she'd considered.

There was also the little matter of experience. Admittedly, Rose had been around the block more times than average for a convent-educated daughter of the Manila middle class. She'd already been an interior decorator, an insurance broker, a black-marketeer and a pantyhose model. She'd even tried her hand at matrimony a couple of times, but the self-assured 32-year-old had never before been a housekeeper. A servant, no less. Hired help.

Still, it was worth considering. She was at something of a loose end. Business prospects were unpromising, her daughter's boarding-school fees needed to be paid, and Connie was eager for the companionship of a fellow Filipina. Rose dialled the number and, crazy or not, found herself with the job.

Her first day, 21 April 1983, was "a fiasco". Her employer had already left for work. Although he was well-off, his Dalkeith house reflected a tight fist. The washing machine was dilapidated and the vacuum cleaner was antique. Come noon, he stomped through the front door for his customary lunch of cold meat with bread and butter, eaten alone in the television room. More than twice Rose's age, he was gruff and abrupt.

"Good afternoon, sir," said Rose. "I am here to serve you."

Langley George Hancock was newly widowed. Hope, his wife of 37 years, was less than three weeks dead. His daughter, Gina, was not a naturally warm person. The emperor of the Pilbara had nobody to care for him. The cantankerous old "knockabout bushman" was lonely.

He took a long, lingering look at the new maid, peering through thick glasses at her denim mini and thin white blouse. "Hello, hello, hello!" he said.

Before long, Rose was finding ways to make the boss feel special - like turning down the collar of his tennis shirt or giving him a stress-relieving massage. The skinflint prospector had met his match. Two years later, Rose Lacson became Rose Hancock in a poolside ceremony at the Sydney mansion of Lang's millionaire tax advisor. For a wedding gift, he ordered the construction of Prix d'Amour, a home truly worthy of his bride.

It was there, in the guesthouse, that Lang died in 1992. Nagged to death, according to Gina. Soon after, Rose married a real-estate developer. Prix d'Amour has since been bulldozed and the site subdivided.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

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