Precious and the Librarian

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As a general rule, librarians consider dogs to be something that are best kept on the street side of the door.

Precious was the exception.

The library staff at the East Side Library liked their job. It wasn’t well paid, but the hours were reasonable.

The south-east corner of the building had been damaged during the war — one of the many air-raids. The town council didn’t have the funds to carry out the repairs so that part of the building had been inaccessible to the public for many years. The government engineers had reinforced the structure with massive beams of oak — one of the few things that we had in abundance after the war. So the building was safe, but there were no plans to restore it, ‘books come way down the list’, was the official reply when the head librarian sent in her yearly formal request for building repairs. It irked her that the countries that had been defeated seemed to be benefiting from reconstruction while her library lay wounded all these years after victory.

Because the damaged part of the building was not considered to be officially part of the library, Jane Delbridge did not have a problem with Terry and Precious enjoying its privacy and comfort. It was cold in this section of the building, but not as cold as sitting out on the footpath in the snow — even if she was wearing the sleeve of one of Terry’s old army jumpers as a coat.

Mrs Delbridge lost her husband in North Africa during the war, and she looked upon ex-solders with warmth and respect. Terry and Precious went to the library every Monday and Thursday — regular as clockwork. Mrs Delbridge left the side door open so Terry and Precious could enter without drawing attention to themselves. The door frame was warped from the explosion so it did not open easily. Terry thought about repairing it but decided against it — too obvious.

The room that they shared was partially open to the air, but the roof was still intact and the hole was not on the ‘bad weather side’ of the building, so water was rarely a problem. None-the-less, time was eating away at the building and Mrs Delbridge was rightly worried that the council would use the deteriorating condition of the building to justify pulling it down. It stood on prime real estate and the council could use the resultant flood of money for desperately needed projects. Fortunately, many of the library’s customers were influential members of the community and they made it clear that the building was off limits.

The room with a view as Terry called it, had an old table and a dusty couch that had been rescued from a building that was being demolished. The hole in the wall let in more than enough light to read by. Precious claimed one end of the couch while Terry sat and read at the other end. Cups of tea would mysteriously appear from time to time and the rings of countless cups were imprinted into the unpolished surface of the small table.

Choosing a book was the most difficult task. The library was well stocked from before the war and they had inherited books from libraries that were more unlucky. The library staff spent many hours repairing damaged books because they knew that just like money for building repairs, money for new books was way down the list.

Terry enjoyed detective stories and Mrs Delbridge had introduced him to Chandler and Hamett. She also headed him towards Green and Maugham. She was looking after his mind. He had been spared and now she would show him the wonders of beautiful words.

Sometimes, just for the enjoyment of it, Terry would read to Precious. She seemed to enjoy A Moon and Sixpence,  but he wasn’t sure why. She didn’t like Dickens, which was a shame, but she did like Conan Doyle. Terry did all the voices and tried to make it as exciting as possible. He worried that Precious  might get bored waiting for him each night. The truth was that Precious didn’t need to be entertained. All she needed was to be close by — close to Terry. That was enough for her.

It’s important to know how much is enough.

Read All About It

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“Thanks, kid. Every little bit helps,” I said as the paramedic I was talking to loaded the victim into the back of the ambulance.

It wasn’t going to turn into a headline story, but I thanked her all the same.

This is how the big stories come — tip-offs from cops, ambos, firemen and ordinary people.

I’m constantly rushing — heading to someplace where a bad thing just happened. I get there after the danger has passed. I watch from a distance — somewhere safe, ever vigilant for an angle, a hook, something I can hang the story on. A tug on a heartstring that makes you want to put down three dollars fifty and pick up the Saturday Argus. With a deadline every week I’m always on the lookout for the next story, good or otherwise. Sometimes the otherwise leads to somewhere exotic.

That’s why I went back to her apartment.

Her story was old news, but she was stunningly beautiful, and the reception for the newspaper’s latest owner was just an excuse for another bored millionaire to show the world how important he was — not my natural habitat.

I write a column for a major Australian newspaper — I’m an endangered species.

I used to believe that what I wrote made a difference, now all I want to do is to continue to put food on my family’s table. These days everyone with an iPhone reports the breaking news, and I bitch about it to anyone who will listen — my wife says I’m turning into my father.

As I walk away from the departing ambulance, my phone rings — I always answer my phone.

“How big was the fire?”

“Are there any bodies?”

“Thanks. I’ll get right over there.”

Traffic was heavy, which gave me the opportunity to talk to my wife when she called.

“You have your Tux for tonight?” she said.

“Yes I do,” I said. It had been hitting me in the back of the head every time I stomped on the brakes. “But I’d rather not go.”

“If they are thinking about dropping your column you’d better put in an appearance. No sense giving them an excuse,” she said, and she was right.

My wife’s a doctor, a general practitioner. She works for someone else, and that lets her have time with the kids. Between us, we do okay financially, but if I lost my job we would probably not be able to keep the house, and I love that house, peeling paint and all.

Besides, I don’t think that I have the courage it takes to be unemployed.

The wind was biting at my ears as I got out of my car so I pulled my dark blue beanie down as far as it would go. My wife says that this old woollen hat makes me look like a tuna fisherman or I’m getting ready to rob a bottle shop. The hat keeps my head warm, and it makes me look ordinary — people open up to ordinary looking reporters.

The fireman introduced me to the young girl, still clutching her dog.

“The man rushed into the fire and helped the people come out. I told him my dog was stuck in there and he ran back in. He saved my little dog, but he had to lie down because the smoke got inside him and he couldn’t breathe good. They took him away in a ambulance,” said the little girl.

Her mother had been on the phone, and she moved it away from her ear as she walked towards us.

“He didn’t make it,” she whispered to me and hugged her daughter.

I asked the little girl what she would like to say to the man who saved her dog and she said, “Thank you. I love my dog, and I hope you get better soon.”

This story will sell papers.

A little girl’s cry for help, a small dog and a bloke who didn’t hesitate and didn’t make it home that night.

The hotel ballroom was packed with famous people.

Money, jewels and ambition.

I sat at the bar trying to increase my courage levels in the only way I knew how — very old Scotch whisky. My Tux still fits, and I look good in it, but I’d rather be wearing my fisherman’s jumper and warm woollen hat. Different uniforms open different doors. Tonight it was formal attire.

Drinking expensive whisky, that someone else is paying for, demands a spot of people watching.

I didn’t think I had been staring, but maybe I was. In any case, she walked over to me at the bar carrying a half finished glass of sparkling white wine, her purse and her iPhone. Her white shimmery gown left little to the imagination and certainly did not cater to pockets.

She reproached me for staring, but there was little venom in her words.

“I was just trying to work out where I know you from,” I said.

“I know you, Mr Fox,” she said.

“How do you know me?”

“From your cheesy photo.”

“The one from my column?” I said.

“That superior look on your face is most annoying,” she said.

“That was taken a while ago. I was in the last throws of my youth and fame.”

“Before the Talkies?” she said.

“Ouch.”

“Does anyone still read your newspaper?”

“I still have a few fans who like to get ink on their fingers on a lazy Saturday morning. I get the occasional email, sometimes an actual letter. I’ve been told that I’ve been hashtagged, but it didn’t require stitches.”

“I too like to hold a newspaper, and your column is always well written, in an old-fashioned kind of way,” she said. “It must depress you seeing all those horrible things.”

“Sometimes. I’ve seen some stuff,” I said, and I was beginning to wonder where this was going.

“People seem to open up to you. Is it because you ask the right questions?”

“Usually people want to tell someone their story, and I happen to be there at the right time.”

“Now you’re being modest,” she said, and I’d had enough.

“Why are you at this party?” I said.

“My boyfriend’s bank came up with the money to make this purchase happen,” she said. “Cushy job you have, people watching all day.”

“Look lady. I have to listen to people’s crap all day. Now, I’m off the clock, so get to it or leave me in peace.”

“It’s a long story, and my apartment is close by, the Manchester Unity building. We could walk there.”

“I didn’t know anyone lived in that building,” I said.

“There are still apartments in the tower.”

“Is this about your husband’s death?” I said, but I was interrupted before she could answer.

“Mr Lubin would like to see you now Mr Fox,” said the supercilious woman in blue.

I was introduced to Lubin as the reporter who helped to free those children. Lubin looked at me for a moment then went back to his conversation, but not before pushing a cream cake into his mouth.

What a prick.

What did I care? Now I could get out of here and out of this suit.

I saw the woman in the shimmery white dress as she was leaving.

“Does that offer still stand?” I said.

“Yes, it does,” she said, and we set off on foot, and I wondered what she had in store for me. It still felt like an otherwise,  but you never know.

Wendi Radin was married to Wyatt Fago, the television presenter. Fago was well known and well loved by everyone who didn’t know him. I’d met him a few times. He was the kind of bloke who treated you badly unless he thought you could be useful to his career.

He went missing and turned up several months later under the rubble of an old building that had been torched for the insurance money. Three homeless men died in that blaze along with Fago, but Fago was found under the rubble in a basement — he had been dead for some time before the blaze. The owner of the building was arrested, but the police were unaware that Fago’s body was there until the wreckers moved in months later.

The case was now stone cold.

The streets were still populated, and I love Melbourne at night. A bunch of young women dressed in pink tutus buzzed around us as we walked The hens night had been a good one from the look of the future bride.

“Good luck luv,” I said, and I meant it — marriage ain’t no picnic.

“Won’t need it, penguin. My bloke’s a diamond,” said the unsteady bride to be. One of her hens caught her just before she veered into traffic.

Wendi Radin waved her security card at the guard on duty, and he let us in through the Collins Street entrance. I got the feeling that he didn’t like the look of me and it threw me for a moment — then I remembered that I was out of uniform.We walked past the darkened cafe named after the year the building was opened, 1932, and pushed the button on the ornate elevators — top floor. The hallway was unrestored, unlike most of the rest of the Art Deco building, but you could see how good it must have looked. The light fittings were dusty and original. The door to her apartment was guarded by a modern keypad which looked out of character with the wooden panelling. She punched in four numbers, and the door opened. My mother would have been proud of me as I stood aside and let the lady enter.

Her sitting room was not large, but it did have the only window in the apartment that took advantage of the fantastic view across the city. St Pauls Cathedral was off to the right as I gazed out at the lights and activity some ten floors below. She came back into the room carrying an official looking folder.

I sat at the small writing table and leafed through the evidence statements and a grizzly set of photos. She handed me a very large glass of whisky.

“A splash of water would have been nice,” I said as the strength of the drink walloped me in the back of the throat.

“I thought you might appreciate a bit of anaesthetic while looking at those photos. Besides, I find that a drunk man reveals his true character.”

“You must have some clout lady. This is an original case file. Detectives won’t let anyone near one of these,” I said, and she didn’t answer. I expected a smile or a wink, but I got nothing. She’d be a tough poker opponent.

“You could get someone into a lot of trouble for having these,” I said.

There wasn’t much in the folder that wasn’t common knowledge. The date on the police report reminded me that some fifteen months had passed since his body was discovered. The contents of the small evidence bag were intriguing.

“Whats with the tiny keys?” I said.

“I don’t know,” she said, and her poker skills were still in evidence.

She motioned for me to join her on the white leather couch. There was a scrapbook on the coffee table — all Wyatt Fago, all the time.

I read out loud a bit of an interview he did for Celebrity Magazine.

The first thing you notice about Wyatt Fago is that he can turn on his persona like a light switch. One minute he is on the phone to his agent f’ing and blinding about some stuff up and then, click, he is in interview mode. He really doesn’t care what I write about him; he is Teflon coated — the public love him and his glamorous ex-model wife. They are TV royalty, and now that Birt and Patty are getting on a bit, they are poised to wear the crown.

“Wow. Quite a review,” I said.

I leafed through the clippings and photos.

“Is that the Gold Logie?” I said.

“Yes. He smiled a lot that night, and he was pissed off when he finished runner-up the next year.”

We sat in silence for a moment before I excused myself and went to the bathroom. I hit the wall when it comes to whisky, and I was now on the other side of the wall longing for a soft pillow and horizontal disposition.

“Time for me to go,” I said when I returned.

“I hope you don’t think I wasted your time,” she said, and it was my turn to show her my poker face.

I sat on the train and tried not to fall asleep. The walk to Flinder’s Street Station and the cool night air had sobered me up somewhat, but the motion of the train was too much for my tired eyes.

I could hear the conversations as I buried my head in my rolled up coat — excited chatter about a movie I had not seen — talk of the workplace and the relief at not having to go back for two whole days — boyfriend troubles — intimate conversation between two workmates who had become lovers, only two more stops and I have to get off — the weekends are so long without seeing you.

I exchanged pleasantries with the security officers at my lonely station and wondered how they keep themselves occupied on the station with the lowest number of patrons in all of Melbourne, “We jump up and down a lot,” said the female officer. “Aren’t you the reporter who helped to free those kids?” said the tall male officer.

I smile, the way I always do and say, “Yep.”

I walk the short distance to our little house, hidden in a dead end street that didn’t have a street name until a few years ago.

My wife and I fell in love with this hidden house years before we were able to buy it.

Anywhere else, and this house would seem old fashioned and a bit run down, but to us, it was a miracle. It had survived bushfires and near misses with developers, and we felt a duty to keep it safe. The oak tree that stands outside our bedroom window predates our century-old house by several decades, and it reminds us, every day, that we too have put down roots.

This is our safe haven — my family are here and all the disturbing things I have to deal with need not touch them.

That is of course, as long as I leave it all outside the gate.

The Sock Behind The Couch

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“Why the smile?” asked my husband as he sat at the kitchen table. Several sheets of newspaper were protecting the surface as he dismantled an old kerosene lamp.

“I’m just happy and do you have to work on that at the table?” I said without a hint of annoyance. I was too self-satisfied to be annoyed about anything at that moment. I had worked out how to get access to the secrets inside the Electrotch laboratory without setting foot in it. Worked out yes — guarantee of success? — in the lap of the gods. It was a good plan, and I’d gone over it in my head a dozen times.

I had two choices — firstly I could go ahead on my own and present the information to Barry as a neatly wrapped present — the idea appealed to me very much, but if it went wrong I would run the risk of pissing off the one person who was the key to my new exciting career. I’d dangled a huge prize in front of Barry, and he would not be well pleased if I yanked it away.

If I ran the idea past Barry, and he said no, my ego would take a big hit, but if he said yes I would be protected if it went pear shaped.

“I’m being careful, and I drained all the fuel out of it before I started,” said my husband, “besides, I want to spend some time with you. We haven’t talked much lately. What have you been up to?”

Counting out all the fifty dollar notes I have hidden in my wardrobe, stealing industrial secrets from people who would cheerfully have me killed if they knew where I was, being fucked by deranged pharmaceutical executives who like it from behind and getting my all seeing, talking doll to memorise secrets for me to sell to the highest bidder.

“Just the same old boring housewife things. I found one of your lost socks behind the couch, washed the boy’s basketball uniforms and washed the dog, and all before lunch,” I said.

“You do live an exciting life my darling,” said my husband without looking up from his task.

The lamp was fixed and the table cleared in time for dinner.

Our two ravenous teenage boys joined us in the kitchen at the usual time, and my family sat down to share a meal together. As I joined them, my mind was elsewhere, but they didn’t notice. The meal was on the table, and their world was safe and warm. They talked about their day, and I decided to ring Barry and set up a meeting. My bravado was waning, and I needed the safety of Barry’s permission.

Seven and a Half

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“And what is your name, little one?” I was sitting in Audrey’s family room which wasn’t huge and looked a lot like it did the last time I was in it when the McKilntocks still lived here. Audrey had not made many changes to this fully furnished rental. Most women would have added and removed, but not Audrey.

It was a bright and sunny afternoon that reminded me of my childhood.

“My name’s Betty, and I’m seven and a half,” said Audrey’s daughter, still dressed in her local private school uniform — two sizes too big for her. “She’ll grow into it, and I won’t have to deal with the Mother’s group again anytime soon.”

“Your age was going to be my next question, but you beat me to it,” I said with a friendly smile. Betty smiled back — she got the joke. It is always easier to get to know a child if they appreciate your sense of humour.

Betty had been trying to read a book when I interrupted her. She was amazingly gracious for a seven and a half-year-old.

“Is that something you have to read for school, or is it for pleasure?” I asked.

“It’s for school, but I don’t mind. I like learning big words,” said Betty.

“I’ll bet you do — with those bright eyes. I’ll bet you know heaps of big words,” I said.

“Not heaps,” she corrected me, “but quite a few.”

“Do you have a favourite word?” I asked. Children like absolutes — biggest, highest, loudest, nastiest.

“It changes from day to day,” — good answer — “but today I would say that vegetarian is my favourite. Yesterday it was princess and tomorrow I think it is going to be imagination.”

“Those are all excellent words,” I said with conviction.

While our conversation was continuing, Audrey was in the kitchen with only the island bench separating us. The kettle had boiled, and freshly brewed coffee was appearing. Audrey had not asked if I wanted brewed or instant and I found that interesting. The coffee appeared on an enormous antique silver tray. The cups did not match, but they were both exquisite examples of nineteenth-century pottery making — all English in origin and were showing their age. The sugar bowl was the prettiest, and the coffee pot held just enough for four cups. The silver spoons were solid silver and also did not match. Audrey had enough taste to know that having everything look alike was not always the best way to show that you appreciate beautiful things.

“My compliments on your taste Audrey. These are lovely pieces, and I’ll bet there is a story behind each one of them,” I said as the coffee was being poured into my cup.

“Thank you. Most of these pieces come from my grandmother. She died when I was still young, and I barely remember her, but she insisted that these pieces of china be held for me,” said Audrey.

“I discovered a lot about my grandmother after my mother died. I found her diaries in an old box in my mother’s attic. I sat there and read until the light went out of the sky,” I said.

“Were they interesting?” asked Audrey.

“More than you can possibly imagine. She was an amazing lady — a war hero and much, much more. She has been an enormous inspiration to me,” I said when I remembered that I was supposed to be getting her to talk and not telling her my life story.

“I wish my grandmother had left some diaries. I would love to know a bit more about her life. My mother is wonderful, but she is not a good storyteller. I think her mother was hard on her. I don’t think they had a close relationship.”

While we were talking, Betty had taken herself and her oversized school uniform into her room which came off the family room. She left the door open, and I wondered how many more years would go by before the door would be firmly shut to keep the adult world at bay.

“When my boys were Betty’s age, they slept with the light on and the door open. Is Betty the same?” I asked. This was no idle coffee time conversation on my part. An idea had been forming in my head since my meeting with Barry.

“She has a princess nightlight, and her door always stays open. I guess all kids go through that phase,” said Audrey.

And there it was.

The opening I had been hoping for.

We talked about the usual family things for a while, and I guess I was impatient — I wanted to take a fully formed idea back to Barry, so I took a chance.

“My husband has this routine when he gets home from work. I leave him alone for a bit then I sit and listen while he tells me about his day. I’ve never met most of his work colleagues, but from his nightly debriefing sessions I feel like I could pick them out of a line-up,” I said, and Audrey smiled politely. She hesitated for a moment, and I considered whether I should have spent more time gaining her confidence before heading down this road — the wait was agonising.

“Basil’s job is very demanding,” she said followed by another long silence — I resisted the urge to fill it.

“His work is very important — he’s very important. That’s why the company is picking up the bill for the rent on this house as well as paying all our moving expenses and Betty’s school fees. Your friends, the McKlintocks were a bit greedy about the rent, but the company didn’t quibble. They need him to be close to his laboratory — I guess our needs come second.”

Another long silence.

“He isn’t supposed to talk about his work, but he does. He talks to me. I don’t understand a lot of it, but it makes him feel better to talk out loud about it. I worry about his health. He’s under a lot of pressure.” She looked panicked, as though she ought not to have said anything, but she too needed to unburden herself to someone, and I got the feeling that her mother was not the sort of person who you could unburden to.

And there is was.

The second and most important part of the sting.

Barry was likely to burst a blood vessel.

Susan and Fireman Ken

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Barry’s message was curt and to the point, meet me — usual place — Tuesday — 2 pm.

I had to cancel an appointment that I didn’t want to keep, and I planned to hit the ‘outlet shops’ in Richmond after my meeting with Barry so that the day might not be a complete waste of time. I knew this wasn’t a new job — I could tell from the message. This was something else, and I hoped that it wasn’t one of Barry’s meet one of my dodgy mates. Barry sees it as his responsibility to introduce me to anyone who can help me in my newly chosen career. I probably shouldn’t complain, but mostly these meetings are a waste of time.

On this day I wasn’t disappointed at all.

He was sitting next to Barry as I arrived. He was handsome and also brave, and I knew this because he was drinking a beer from the bar — and in one of the hotel’s glasses!

Sam is handsome and funny. He seems to enjoy his work, and he has that unique I don’t give a fuck what you think of me attitudes that attract women in large numbers. I asked him about it as we walked back to our cars and he said, “Yeah, I’m aware of it, but these days, I’m a one woman man. Not that I haven’t taken advantage of it in the past, it’s just that now I’m married and that means no fooling around. Having said that, in a previous life I would definitely have given you one.”

“I’m touched,” I said.

“You would have been,” said Sam, “and in many different places.” We both smiled and went our different ways.

Apart from being incredibly wealthy and being married to a beautiful heiress, Sam finds things — he likes to keep his hand in — I could find a use for such a man.

Before all this happened, I sat at Barry’s table and listened to the men talk and wondered why I was there.

“I want you to meet someone Susan. This is Sam Bennett. Best private investigator in Melbourne.”

“Australia,” added Sam.

“In Australia,” said Barry. “He could find a politician with integrity.”

“Let’s not get carried away,” said Sam.

I knew I was going to like him. He had eyes that made you want to be close to him and you knew that if there were trouble, he would stand by you and not run away. In short, he was not like most of Barry’s contacts.

Sam could tell a good story and several beers later, he talked about how he gathers information.

By this time, Boris the barman had joined us at the table, and we listened as he recounted an adventure told to him by ‘Fireman Ken’.

“I learned very early on that it is a waste of time talking to the president, the top dog, the bloke who runs everything.

Why? Because these blokes are just cheerleaders.

It’s their job to tell you that everything is just fine; everything is going great. That’s why the CEO of some big company goes on television to squash all the rumours about his multi-billion dollar company. It’s to give his broker time to liquidate his holdings without driving the price down. Within a week or two, there is a small item on page nine about a CEO who skipped the country on his private jet with two large suitcases stuffed with everyone else’s money.

So that’s why I don’t bother.

It’s my job to find out stuff. So, if I want to know what happened in a hospital, I ask a porter.

They have nothing invested in the politics of the place, and a ‘twenty’ seems like a lot of money to someone on minimum wage. They are ‘invisible,’ so people talk when they are around them, as though they aren’t there.

So, when the shit hit the fan at 206 Rae Street in Fitzroy, I asked a fireman. The lowest ranked fireman I could find.

His name was Ken, and he was a big bloke and a little bit too old to be a rookie. He had done all sorts of things previously but being a fireman seemed like a steady job to Ken, so he tried out and succeeded. Which was an achievement in itself, because they don’t make it easy. The physical stuff was easy enough, but the academic side proved to be a challenge. Ken left school in year nine.

That’s probably not the best way to put it; Ken was asked to leave. Apparently, there was a girl involved, but Ken said there was a whole bunch of them, but one, in particular, caused his sudden exit from the halls of academia. The principal’s daughter was a year older than Ken, but Ken was fully grown, and at six foot four he was almost as wide as he was tall.

The Principal gave him a choice, leave, or he would call the police. Ken decided to leave. Apart from the continuous supply of girls, he wasn’t really enjoying himself anyway.

A couple of dozen jobs and some years later and Ken finds himself as part of a crew that is called to a house fire in Fitzroy.

The senior man knocked on the front door, but it did not open. At this stage, there were no visible signs of fire, so the urgency level is low.

A voice came from inside the house.

“Go away.”

“I’m sorry madam, but there has been a report of a fire, and we must come in and make sure that there isn’t any danger.”

“Go away.” The female voice was becoming more insistent, but so was the senior fireman.

“Look, lady, we’ve got a job to do. Just open up, let us have a look around, and we will be on our way.”

“Go away.”

“Open the door lady, or we are going to break it down.” The senior turned to Ken and gave him the nod. Ken got into position and began to swing the axe when the door opened just enough for the old woman to stick her head out.

“Go away, we ain’t got no fire.”

The senior pushed past her and the men moved rapidly through the dark hallway to the back of the house.

As they moved out into the back yard, it became apparent where the fire was. Two large couches were well alight, and as the property backed onto a creek, the neighbours on the other bank had probably called in the fire.

It was quickly extinguished, and probationary Ken got the grunt job of filling out the report, which included listing that every room in the house had been assessed as free from fire. This seemed strange to me, but Ken said that ‘unexplained’ fires often break out in multiple locations within a house; this is shorthand for arson.

Ken did as he was told and the last room to check on was the one they went past as they first entered the building.

The old lady had hold of the door knob.

“You don’t need to check in there.”

“Yes, I do,” says Ken, and brushes her aside.

When he opened the door, he saw a table with about eight blokes sitting around it. They were playing cards, and by Ken’s guess, the pot looked like it contained about ten thousand dollars. These were obviously dodgy and seriously dangerous people. Ken was worried that they might remember his face, but it seemed that no one in the room took their eyes off the money while the door was open.

“Everything seems to be fine in here,” says Ken and quickly shuts the door. Fortunately, the truck was packed and waiting for Ken to finish.

“Drive. Drive now,” said Ken in a voice that suggested that he would someday make an excellent senior officer.

I asked Ken if the bloke I was looking for was in that room and he said he was. He also asked me not to tell anyone who told me. As I mentioned, Ken was a big bloke, but he seemed genuinely scared. This was a wise reaction. The bloke I was looking for was a bad person. He’d done a reasonable job of faking his own death, but now that I knew he was still alive, I’d pass the information along to the police. They wouldn’t drag their feet either. They wanted this bloke badly, and they were disappointed when it appeared that he had been killed. No body, but plenty of evidence to persuade the top brass to shift their resources to another case. I knew a particular Detective Inspector who was going to be very pleased to hear my news.

My clients would not pay me until this bloke was arrested, but I could wait.

Always talk to the little fish; they know what is going on, and they can always use a little extra spending money,” said Sam.