The Inquisition

Part two of Batting Practice

“We’ve asked you in here today, Detective Sergeant, to ask you if you know anything about the assault on Senior Constable Frank Morgan?” said the man who had identified himself as an officer from Internal affairs. 

I don’t remember his name now, as I didn’t make a note of it then — no point. He was just the first wave — the monkey, not the organ grinder.

“Do Internal Affairs officers get a special clothing allowance — more than we mere mortals in Robbery? I only ask because that is a particularly handsome suit. Well cut, well fitted — handsome.”

This was an old trick, and it showed him up to be relatively inexperienced in the business of extracting information — the next officer I spoke to would be better at his job — assuming there was to be a ‘next officer’.

Throw your suspect (or in this case inquisitor) a question designed to distract them and yet require an answer — breaking their train of thought.

“No, not that I know of. Maybe. No, I don’t think so,” said the young Detective Sergeant.

“Not to worry. By the way, I reserve the right to be questioned by an officer of equal or higher rank. You just won’t do young man.”

Always be on the front foot. Never retreat.

“I’m a Detective Sergeant. I said so at the beginning of our interview. I’m like you,” he said.

Back foot, and nothing like me.

“So, you did. And why am I here again?”

He repeated his question after straightening his tie and shuffling his papers (always have documents in an interview — your subject will be wondering what you have on them — on paper).

I paused for a longish time, shifted in my chair, scratched at my ear and finally said, “I don’t know SC Morgan all that well. I’ve only spent quality time with him once.” When I beat the living shit out of him with a cricket bat.

My inquisitor seemed a bit flustered — not sure where to go next.

“You do know that Senior Constable Frank Morgan is married to Detective Constable Helen Morgan, from your squad?”

“Yes, I do. She was recently assaulted, wasn’t she? Did they ever catch the evil bastard who did it?” I said through gritted teeth.

“Investigations are ongoing,” said my inquisitor and it was the first time I had heard him mumble. He knew what I was getting at, and he was embarrassed that her recently pummelled husband had not been charged. This was a good sign.

“How is SC Morgan going?”

“He’s recovering. Won’t be back at work until after the operation on his knee.” More shuffling of papers.

I was determined to not directly say that I had nothing to do with SC Morgan’s beating. It’s a small point, but I don’t like to lie — not directly.

“I don’t think I can be of much help to you. Did SC Morgan give a description of his assailant?” I was reasonably sure he hadn’t, but a bit of fishing wouldn’t hurt.

“No. His memory of the incident is a bit hazy.”

I thought so, and it probably had something to do with my parting comment to him as he lay holding his damaged knee.

“Here is a list of all the people you have taken kickbacks from over the past twelve months.”

I pushed the list into his top pocket before I put the bat in the boot of my car and drove away.

“No help with CCTV footage?” I said.

“No. His home system wasn’t switched on — for some reason.”

“Neighbours?”

“Too far away and the resolution’s crap. Just a man and a dark coloured car.”

“Pity. Are we done? I have the ungodly to apprehend. It’s my job.”

“Yes. That’s all — for now. We may want to speak to you again.”

I’d heard what I needed, but I will put my cricket bat in the shed when I get home. I had considered burning the evidence, but Dean Jones signed that bat. Buggered if that arsehole Morgan is going to make me incinerate my favourite bat.

The young Internal Affairs officer gathered up his papers and left the room without making eye contact.

I stayed seated and stuck my little finger in my ear and gave it a bit of a twirl. I pulled the finger out and inspected it — shiny but no wax.

I checked my phone for messages and stretched my arms up in the air in an exaggerated stretch, all for the benefit of the people behind the mirrored panel.

Calm and relaxed.

Unhurried and with nothing to hide.

SC Morgan would probably walk with a limp for quite some time, and he will think carefully before laying a hand on his wife.

I felt satisfied that I had dealt out a bit of justice, but I could not help feeling that I had crossed a line.

A line I had so far been on the right side of.

The ungodly were waiting, so I gathered myself and left the room — striding down the corridor towards the sunlight.

“Just one more thing, Detective Sergeant. Do you play cricket?” said my inquisitor, who had stepped out of the second last office before the doors to the street.

“Not since I represented the Police Force, back in the nineties,” I said without thinking.

My young inquisitor was better than I thought he was.

I’d underestimated him.

I won’t do that again.

White Plastic Chairs

f58b226a52b5f5b3d39848b293431c63

Chapter One:

Neighbourhood Of Widower Dogs: Chapter Two

“Not what I expected,” I said.

“What were you expecting? Table cloths, silver service?” she said.

“A table would have been nice,” I said.

“We only get forty-five minutes for lunch, and it only took us,” she looked at her watch, “ten minutes to walk here.”

During the night and on weekends, Habib’s Kitchen opened on the forecourt of the Shell service station some ten minutes walk from what used to be Coburg Teacher’s College, back in the day. These days, the predictable buildings have been repurposed to become a high school and then the privately owned, Baker Institute. Business is not thriving, hence the eagerness of Victoria Police to rent the inexpensive venue. Who gave a fuck about the comfort of the participants? Not the brass, that’s for sure.


“The chairs are comfy,” said my host, who had ordered our lunchtime feast.

Most customers get back into their cars and drive away, but as a concession to midnight dinners with a ‘skin full,’ the proprietor has provided six white plastic garden chairs — easy to hose down in the morning before going home to bed.


“Have you had a stint in ‘Traffic’?” I asked.

“Of course. Everyone does ‘Traffic’ when they start out.”

“Ever been to the impound yard?”

“Once or twice.”

“Ever get lost in that place?”

“Almost,” she admitted honestly. “Why do you ask?”

“It’s these chairs — triggered a memory.”

I took a bite of my ‘extra sauce’ special while she delicately tried to eat her ‘no chilly’ with poise.

“We have time. Tell me your story.”

I love talking with other cops. The general public gets bored quickly, and I think that what we do freaks them out — they’d rather not know how the sausage is made.

“Ever heard of Backdoor Barry?”

“No, and I don’t like lurid sex stories,” she said.

“Don’t let his name put you off. It’s nothing like you are imagining. One day I’ll tell you how he got his nickname.”

“One day?” she said, with the lift of an eyebrow. “Do you think this relationship has a life beyond lunch?”

I ignored the minefield that had been laid before me.

“Moving right along,” I said. She smiled and took another bite. A small bead of sauce oozed from the corner of her mouth, and her tongue retrieved it. I tried not to think about her tongue — I get distracted easily.

“It’s going back a few years,” I tried not to sound too much older than her, “there was a woman who did a bit of work for the bloke you haven’t heard of — I can’t believe you don’t know Backdoor Barry!”

“Get on with it, we don’t want to be late for HAVING A POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CORONER WHEN WE THINK HE MIGHT BE HIDING VITAL EVIDENCE.”

“Are you sure that’s what the lecture’s called?” I said, and she gave me a look.

“Anyway, there was this woman, we’ll call her Susan.”

“Cause that was her name?”

“Right. So she got car-jacked at the Rising Sun Hotel, which is where Backdoor Barry hangs out. The carjacker takes off in her car and gets totalled by a taxi as he exits the carpark. Mayhem ensues. Some important items are in Susan’s car, but she cannot get close enough to retrieve them.”

“People come from everywhere when there’s a car accident,” said Open Window with a touch of glee. She was starting to get into it.

“Our colleagues arrive along with an ambulance and the Towies. The whole nine yards. Being a resourceful person, Susan hatches a plan. After borrowing a car from Barry, she parks it in front of the local fire station, blocking the doors. She sat across the street at an all-night burger truck. They had white plastic chairs as well.”

“What was she waiting for and why park the car there?”

“All will be revealed. Patience, my girl.” She leaned forward, and for a moment, I thought I was going to get punched.

“So, there she is, eating a burger and waiting for the Fireies to notice her poor choice of a parking spot. A quiet night meant she had to sit on the hard plastic chairs for hours. Eventually, they noticed and called us. We arranged to have the car towed out of the way.”

“To the impound yard?”

“Yep. So Susan gets a taxi to the yard and fronts up to collect her car. I remember the clerk’s exact words — ‘I know your car is red lady, but that don’t excuse you parking in front of a fire station.’ She apologies, pays the fine, collects her car and drives it back to The Rising Sun Hotel where she lets the barman, Boris, out of the boot. While the red car was in impound, Boris had climbed out of the boot, retrieved Susan’s suitcase from the damaged vehicle and climbed back into the boot of the red car along with the suitcase.” 

“A tight fit, I would imagine? So how did you find all this out? Did it come out at the trial?”

“Never was a trial. The carjacker died in the crash. After a lot of paperwork — case closed.”

“So how do you know all this?”

“That’s the stuff they don’t teach you in these courses. Getting to know people, dodgy people. Having them owe you. That’s where the information comes from. I got Barry drunk one day, and he told me this story so that he didn’t have to answer my real questions.”

“Did I mention, you interest me Leather Jacket?”

“No, but I guessed, and it’s Catastrophe Jones to you, Ms Carter.”

“I’ll try and remember.”

Thursdays.

thursday

 Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 11.25.15 am IMG_3286This story is now part of TRUST and SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES

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.”

“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?”

“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.”

“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?”

“Away.”

“Away from where?”

“From what we can piece together, mostly from Mrs Simpson. He thought her husband had come home unexpectedly, and he legged 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.”

“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 truth was that 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 cold Police document.

The inane questions continued on 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 we were meeting, after shift, 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 tiny country station was tenuous before the slightly balding, 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.