Destroying Cleisthenes’s Legacy
I hadn’t seen Dobson for some time. I heard he had not been well, hence his
incarceration in the ‘home.’ When I arrived he was seated by a large window looking
comfortable in a thick green jumper and brown slacks. He was greyer, older and
thinner, but his eyes still sparkled. He greeted me with a smile and the wave of his thin
hand. We shook hands and I seated myself opposite.
At first we talked of old times. He still had the same old laugh and the ready smile. As
time went on I was beginning to wonder if this was the only reason he had requested to
see me; to reminisce about the old days. Then when I thought we had run dry he
became serious, reached forward and with some effort, held my hands firmly.
‘Listen. The Function, you know, it still exists,’ he said.
I had to scramble my brain for it was a name I had not heard in a long time.
‘The Function?’ I said. He nodded.
‘Yes, remember them? The bastards still exist. Even now,’ he said, gripping my hands
The Function. Thirty or more years ago that name was everywhere in the
Department. The sleepless nights it caused. The strain on the personnel was enormous.
Even Dobson had nearly cracked and he was lithe and agile then.
‘How do you know?’ I said.
‘I do. Trust me,’ he said.
The Function was the name given to a cabal of young army officers who, it was
believed, had been planning a coup to remove the government of the day and set up a
military dictatorship. Nothing had come of this of course and the name of the group had
receded into oblivion, until now.
‘But that was some thirty to forty years ago. And it came to nothing,’ I said.
Dobson looked around, presumably in case anybody was listening.
‘Look, it was all nonsense, they didn’t exist,’ I said.
Dobson glared at me with those bright eyes of his.
‘Oh, but they did exist and they still do, different chaps of course but the same
motives. And they are going to move soon. The pandemic, you see. It’s given them the
opportunity and the means. Politicians stuffing things up. That general, the commander
of the Covid-19 response team, he’s one of them. He undermines all the politicians on
the National Cabinet. Talks over them. It’s only a matter of time.’
Dobson leaned forward in his chair. He tightened his grip on my hands.
‘In those days you were not a senior in the Department. I was. And I tell you now,
what those bastards were planning was real. They planned the takeover of the entire
government. They even had an execution list. State premiers and bureaucrats as well.’
I leaned forward. I had not heard this before.
‘Who told you this?’
Dobson smiled and tapped his nose.
‘It was true at the time. And trust me, it’s going to happen this time,’ he said.
‘But this is Australia. Things like that don’t happen here.’ I said.
‘They all say that.’
I looked around not sure what to say.
‘So, if this is true, do you have any details, any idea when this will happen and how it
will be done? And, more to the point, who exactly is involved?’
Dobson was now deadly serious.
‘Start with the general. Follow him, monitor him. He has close friends officers in the
other services. You must take this seriously and move quickly. You are a senior man
now in the Department. It all rests on you,’ he said, becoming breathless.
Half-an-hour ago I had walked into the nursing home free of any national
emergencies and concerned only with the organising of my youngest daughter’s
wedding. Now this.
But was Dobson losing it? Was this the ramblings of an old man cut off from reality?
‘It’s going to happen old boy, unless you do something,’ he said.
But those were his last words. He lay back in his chair, gave a huge sigh and lay still. I
leaned forward and checked his pulse. Dobson was dead. The next hour or so passed in
a blur. Doctors and nurses emerged from corners of the building. Dobson was
inspected and carried out to God knows where. A senior nurse said his family would be
Finally, I stepped out into the cold air and headed to the car park. Still shaken by
what Dobson said and his rather swift exit from the planet, I drove my car out of the
grounds and onto the motorway.
Unfortunately, my mind was confused and I didn’t see the black car slip into the lane
beside me. Nor did I hear the gun shots.