This story is now part of TRUST and SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES
He had an excellent view of the mountains on the other side of the valley, or at least he would have if it had not been dark and had he not been dead.
He was about fifty years old — carrying a little weight. He had a receding hairline, and he lay just off the road, about three metres down the side of the hill.
A motorist called it in.
And despite a full moon, he didn’t know the make of car involved.
Didn’t see the driver.
Didn’t know the victim.
Didn’t want to get involved.
Neither did I if it came to that, but I didn’t have a choice.
At the time, I’d been at the small country police station for about three years. I liked it, but none of us was under any illusion as to the station’s future. The new state government had been ‘rationalising’ police resources since they came to power a little over a year before. In effect, this meant that small regional and country stations were being closed and local communities were expected to fend for themselves or wait two hours for a police car to arrive from the nearest large country town.
My little station was one of the last to still be in operation.
Michael Long was an estate agent with a fat bank balance, a large house and a black dog. None of which was located anywhere near where he was found. It took a little while to identify him because of the few things he had with him — his boxer shorts and someone else’s windcheater. He was wearing socks but not wearing shoes. My first thought was that this bloke had left somewhere in a very big hurry. Oh yes, and the bike wasn’t his either. The bike was not going to be much use to anyone because it was severely damaged and looked like it had been run over at least twice.
Someone hated that bike or was it the bloke who was riding it?
I’ve been a cop for a while, and a bloke in his boxer shorts and socks spells ‘married man caught in the act’. Not to say that he pulled his socks on before beating a hasty retreat. Married men usually keep their socks on because they know that they will have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to go home to the wife. Socks are notoriously difficult to find in the dark, and besides, the floor is going to be frigid at that early hour.
So, that accounts for the socks, and the boxer shorts were a no-brainer because a bloke will cover his family jewels even if it means taking a few extra seconds before escaping the wrath of a large angry husband.
As it turned out, the bike belonged to the next-door neighbour. He probably jumped the fence and grabbed it to make his getaway. It almost worked. He’d travelled about ten kilometres before the dark coloured Lexus four wheel drive caught up with him.
By the way; if I’m ever found dead because of a hit and run, you should go looking for a Lexus four-wheel drive; from what I have seen, it is highly likely that this will be the vehicle that got me. Bloody things should be outlawed.
His wife didn’t know about his after-hours activities, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her. Giving a ‘notice of death’ is the toughest part of this job. She was going to find out soon enough. She didn’t ask a lot of questions, but she did ask if he suffered much. I didn’t think he did, so I said no. She was in shock, as you would expect, and I got the feeling that she thought he had been involved in a car accident. I let her believe it. Tomorrow was soon enough for the truth. The truth always sounds better in daylight.
Thinking that this was going to be an open and shut case, we interviewed the husband of the wife, a Mrs Wilson, who reported the disturbance, and that was where things started to get interesting.
He was in Melbourne at the time, and he had a hall full of witnesses, and to his credit, he didn’t own a Lexus four wheel drive.
Despite the reporting witness’s lack of identification skills, we did find out very quickly the make of the car involved. There was a bloody great Lexus symbol lying on the road close to the impact site, and paint samples were later to be identified, much later; I could have grown a reasonable length beard in the time it took for results to come back from the Lab in Melbourne.
So, if the husband didn’t do it, who did?
He was definitely giving Mrs Simpson a good seeing to, and she gave us a lurid description of their time together. I’ve never seen the young constable take such detailed notes. From all accounts, Michael Long was very athletic for his age, and rather creative if Mrs Simpson is to be believed, and she was. Just to be on the safe side, the young constable asked her to go over it all again.
Ours was a quiet district. We had the occasional road accident, a bit of vandalism and the odd theft from cars, but what was shaping up as a murder was not our usual fare.
Fortunately, the brass thought that it was a nothing case, so they left it to us to untangle. I’ll bet that the Police Commissioner wished he had that decision to make again.
Within a year he would find himself out of a job, the Police Minister and the planning minister would resign, and the government would limp along for two more years before being buried under a landslide at the next election.
All this was to come, but for now, I had a potential murder to solve.
I’d like to say that I cracked it on my own, but as you know, that’s not how life goes.
The big breaks come with a slice of luck. That slice came my way in the form of a retired newspaperwoman. Janet Moffat was a star reporter for The Age newspaper back when newspapers were printed on paper. She’d moved to the mountains to get the nasty taste of the city out of her mouth. But, as they say, once a newspaper woman, always a newspaper woman.
She wandered into my office a couple of days after the hit and run was reported in the press. She said that she knew the bloke who had been knocked off his bike, and she had information about his business dealings. I was present, but at first, I wasn’t actually listening if you know what I mean.
You’ve probably read all about it by now so I won’t bore you with all the details, but I will remind you that this partially clad bozo was up to his testicles in land deals that went back more than a decade. A lot of people stood to make a lot of money after waiting for a very long time for the conservative government to get back into power.
Michael Long had made a lot of money brokering most of the deals, but he too got sick of waiting for the conservatives to return to the government, so he decided to do a bit of subtle blackmailing. He severely underestimated the resolve of ‘the big end of town’ to not only make a profit but to keep their anonymity.
The Lexus was driven by an ex-SAS officer who knew how to keep his mouth shut, but by then it was way too late. A handful of the smaller players broke down and sang sweetly to the Royal Commission. The ex-SAS bloke was the only person to do any serious time, and the massive land deal became one of the largest vacant blocks in the Southern Hemisphere.
The newspaper lady won a Walkley Award for her series of articles that kicked it all off, and I got a commendation and three death threats.
Mrs Long got to keep her house, but it turned out that the rest of Mr Long’s estate was mortgaged up to his annoying little bow tie. Fortunately for Mrs Long, he had put the house in his wife’s name, for tax reasons.
Mrs Wilson went on to have affairs with the local Mayor and at least four councillors before her husband caught up with her.
I lived happily ever after, or at least I have up until now, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.