Until recently, Thursday was my favourite day of the week.
When I was a kid, it was Friday — only half a day in a classroom and sport all afternoon with the sweet promise of the two-day weekend stretching out into the delicious distance.
Then I grew up, and Saturday was my day to love and be loved. The movies, a romantic dinner, and maybe, just maybe, a long night with a willing warm body.
I’m losing my love of Thursdays — it may come back, but today the aura is ruined.
“Senior Sergeant, you mentioned that the victim was aged 50, worked as a Real Estate agent and was found on the side of the road. Is that correct?”
“Yes sir, exactly as it says in my report.” The bloke asking the blindingly obvious questions, and ruining my Thursday was Inspector Verago. Or ‘Verago the Impaler’ as he was lovingly known to all those who loathed Internal Affairs.
“The Lexus was located, but not for several days,” he said.
“We were operating under the assumption that the victim was struck by an angry husband and it took a while to eliminate him from our enquiries.” I hate the jargon, but when you are speaking to a duck, it is best to quack so that you know you are being understood.
“Why did it take so long to track down the car?” he said.
“It took three days because we are a small country station and all our forensics are handled by Melbourne Central, and the case was not considered to be a high priority at that stage.”
“Why didn’t you consider it to be a high priority Senior Sergeant? More important things to be getting on with?”
The sarcasm was to be expected. The Police force runs on sarcasm in the same way that politicians run on bullshit — and besides, he wasn’t here for a friendly chat, he was here to see if he could hang this cluster-fuck on me, and thereby take some of the heat off his masters.
“It was our number one priority sir. I was referring to senior management in Melbourne, sir.”
“It doesn’t say that anywhere here, Senior Sergeant.” He pronounced Senior Sergeant as though he felt my rank was honorary, or at least temporary. If I didn’t find a way to get out from under this mess, he was going to be right.
“Your report doesn’t say where the victim was heading, were you able to ascertain that?” he said.
“Away from where?”
“From what we can piece together, mostly from Mrs Simpson. He thought her husband had come home unexpectedly, and he legged it out the back door and over a neighbour’s fence where he commandeered a bicycle. He proceeded to peddle in an easterly direction for approximately 10 kilometres before being struck from behind by a Lexus four-wheel drive. So, in answer to your question — away.”
There was that jargon again — quack, quack.
“All of this should have been in your report Senior Sergeant,” he said.
“Most of it is sir — just not all in the one place.”
Precious minutes of my beloved Thursday were ticking away, and I was no closer to working out if this half-wit had already decided that I was to be the fall-guy.
“I noticed that you included in your report that the victim’s dog howled at the precise moment that he was killed. How did you know that, and why did you include it in your report?”
“The victim was a real person. A flawed one to be sure, but a real one nonetheless. He had a wife and kids and a dog, all of whom, presumably, loved him. The detail about the dog came from his wife, and I thought that it was unusual enough to include in the report.”
The cold truth — the dog was the only creature on the planet who loved this bozo, so I thought it deserved a mention. When the facts were printed in the newspapers, it was evident that the victim was a self-interested arsehole who made a speciality out of servicing lonely wives, but rarely did the same for his own. His kids thought he was a loser, and the community felt that he was a typical Estate Agent — always out to do his clients out of their money. On the other hand, his dog loved him unconditionally, and to his credit, he treated the dog well. Any bloke who was kind to his dog deserved to get one positive mention in a sterile Police document.
The inane questions continued for about two hours.
I made a pretty good job of answering them, and I knew that my report was thorough and there was little room to accuse me or my team of negligence. But only time would tell.
If his job was to fit me for the role of scapegoat, then that is what I will be. If he has any integrity left he will know that time will show that I did my job well and I’m hoping that he won’t want to put his signature to a lie.
Early in the afternoon, he buggered off in his shiny official car, and everyone in our tiny country station breathed out.
I told the team that after shift we were meeting at The Royal — the only decent pub in town. The drinks were on me which meant that everyone would be there.
We knew that the future of our station was tenuous before the slightly bald, philandering Real Estate agent got knocked off his bike. Now it was positively precarious. There was only one thing for it — enjoy the days we had remaining. Heaven, and a bunch of brass hats, only knew where we would end up, but we knew we had done our duty, and no one can do more than that.
I proposed the toast.
“May the black dog who howled when his master left this world find a warm bed and a happy home, and may the bastards who are splitting us up find cold comfort and a broomstick up their arse.”
There was that jargon again — quack, quack.
This story is now part of two of my books —
SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES
It’s been parked across the street for the last couple of days.
Blue. Mysterious. Inviting.
Not the sort of car that you usually see parked in this neighbourhood.
Amazingly, the local punks walk right past it. Almost as though it’s invisible.
Anything other than an old banger is up on bricks and stripped of anything saleable within half an hour.
But not this time.
What is it about this car?
Does it belong to the local drug lord?
That seems unlikely.
I know most of them and their taste is mostly in their mouth.
Their idea of a car is something loud of sound and ostentatious in colour, with plenty of room in the boot for a bag of ‘shooters’ and a few kilos of whatever is the flavour of the month.
No. It’s something else.
Neighbourhood legend has it that the lady who lived across the road, not very far from where the car is parked, ran away from her husband with a bloke who worked for Penguin; the book publishers, not the bird.
The story goes that the boyfriend had recently received a promotion and was moving to Paris to run the French division of Penguin. Apparently he asked her to run away with him.
She is supposed to have hesitated for only a moment, before saying ‘yes’.
Legend also has it that she grabbed her passport, and the couple headed for the door.
A lurid legend has it that he popped the question, so to speak, immediately after having made mad passionate love to the married lady from number eighteen. Not only did she not take anything with her, she was reportedly not wearing underwear; which is not as crazy as it seems. They had been ‘going at it’ all afternoon so it stands to reason, for reasons of practical access, that she would be devoid of certain items of clothing. Local legend does not record what the Penguin executive was wearing and no one seemed to care; then or now.
My practical side can see the Penguin bloke buying his stolen prospective bride a whole heap of clothes and baggage and other stuff as soon as they got to the airport, but most people just like the first part of the story; apparently practicalities are a dampener to romance. This seems silly to me, but what would I know?
The married lady, stroke Penguin lover, left behind a bewildered husband and a leg of lamb slowly cooking in the oven. The husband was too distraught to eat that night but he had lamb sandwiches for the rest of the week.
The abandoned husband had sensed that something was wrong with their marriage but he just couldn’t put his finger on the problem. Sex had been infrequent of late and there were a large number of ‘Penguin Classics’ in piles around the house but, at the time, he didn’t make the connection.
In the coming months he learned how to cook and he read a lot of classic literature. His favourites were ‘The Catcher in The Rye’ although he could not understand why the book featured in so many high profile murders, and ‘Fahrenheit 451’, where he enjoyed the irony of having firemen burning books. He also enjoyed the characters who had memorised books and could recite them for whomever was interested.
He had become like one of those ‘book reciters’ and he had become the sole person who held the memories of a marriage that came to a sudden end.
He was foolish enough to expect that she would someday return.
He knew that she was restless, and that whatever it was that she needed, he was not able to give it to her.
This was easily the most exciting thing that had happened in this quiet [some would say boring] little street. So it will come as no surprise that this story took on a life of its own. People who traveled to Europe for their holidays returned with, what they swore, were stories of what happened when the couple reached Paris.
Within a year or two, the woman received a book contract with Penguin; a four book deal, on the strength of an unpublished manuscript that she presented at the London Book Fair.
Some said that she had used her lover to leverage the deal, but others said that she had genuine talent as a writer of fiction.
Her first book sold well but it was her second book, ‘Sleepy Street’, that made a splash back here. It was the story of an ordinary suburban street and all the exotic goings-on behind closed doors.
The book became a massive bestseller and everyone who lived in our quiet little street could see themselves in the characters of this popular work. Many wondered how she knew all the intimate details of their sordid little lives.
Most people barely remembered her.
To them she was almost invisible, but not anymore.
As a result of the book, and the resultant embarrassment, many relationships ended and many properties were sold, so much so that our little street is populated by a whole new cast of characters.
I’m the only person who still lives here who might recognise the famous author and former neighbour.
It just occurred to me that the car across the road is a French classic.
I think I’ll sit in this window for a little while. She has to come back to that car eventually; and when she does, I’ll be waiting.
I haven’t yet decided what is the best course of action.
I might just sit here and watch; but on the other hand……..
Painting by Cheryl Kelley
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