“So, what did he say?” I said.
“It doesn’t matter. We have to go home now, right now,” said my wife.
This all happened about four months ago, and it would be just another story except that it happened a few more times and with increased frequency.
I just read that back, and it sounds confusing — let me clarify.
The first time was with my wife; all the other times were random people — I just witnessed it.
All of the occurrences had the same things in common, a whisper followed by a sudden burst of action — often including a reversal of direction.
I just read that back, and it seems less confusing, but still a bit messy.
I’ll try again.
When I asked my wife, on the way home, what the tall semi-handsome man had whispered in her ear, she said that it was not so much what he said, but how he said it — the timbre of his voice.
“I know it sounds crazy, but a whole lot of my life flashed in front of my eyes, and I realised I was headed for,” she hesitated before saying, “ruin.”
“What sort of ruin,” I said, “the regular kind or a more interesting, exotic version.”
“I’m not kidding, Steven. I’m serious. Remember when Johnno gave me that tablet at that party (Helen was never big on details — it has always been my job to keep up)?”
“Yeah, I remember. You were out of it for days. You wanted me to scrape the bugs off the wallpaper and make a paste. We didn’t have wallpaper, and there weren’t any bugs.”
“Exactly. The whole thing was terrifying.”
“It didn’t stop you from taking anything Johnno put in front of you.”
“This did,” she said and slumped back in her seat as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
For the record, I’d been hanging around because I had a feeling that if I cut and ran, she would self destruct in a matter of weeks. I didn’t have a plan.
I long ago worked out that women and cats will do what they please, and men and dogs need to get used to the idea.
Johnno was and still is a good bloke, but he has a self-destructive streak you could land a plane on. So far, he has avoided death and destruction, but I have no idea why.
Let me take that back — I’m beginning to work it out.
The big bloke who whispered, ever so delicately, into my wife’s ear was wearing a long black coat, probably wool: large brass buttons, double-breasted, wide lapels.
I really wanted that coat.
The only concession to the heat inside the dance club was that he had the coat unbuttoned.
As I intimated earlier, I’ve seen him a few times since that night. Each time, he danced up to a female and whispered in her ear.
From that moment on, they were a changed person, and now I come to think about it, they were all customers of Johnno’s.
So that’s what it’s about.
“Do you realise that someone is stealing your customers? No, I don’t mean ‘stealing’, it’s more that this someone is turning your customers off your particular brand of wears.”
“I knew something was up. My customer base has halved in recent time. I figured that someone was undercutting me — it happens.”
Johnno was easily the most chilled out dealer I’d come across.
“How come you never buy from me?”
“I don’t buy from anyone. It’s against my religion to put anything in me that I don’t understand.”
“No. I’ve just ‘been there’, and it doesn’t interest me anymore. I get high watching my Helen live her life. She’s all I need.”
“Did you talk her out of buying from me,” said John. He wasn’t angry, just curious.
“No. It was this big bloke in a wool coat.”
“I’m serious. He’s been picking off your customers, one by one.”
“Holy shit. I know that bloke. He tried to talk me out of dealing a while back. Said I was wasting my life. I told him I was fine as I was — not lookin’ for a change. He leaned in and whispered in my ear. I wasn’t sure if he was going to have a go or kiss me. I’m not sure I could have taken him in a fight — big bloke.”
“What did he say when he whispered in your ear.”
“That’s the weird thing. It didn’t make any sense. It sounded like Latin or Aramaic or something.”
“You studied Aramaic?”
“Yeah and a bunch of other languages. I’ve got a bunch of degrees.”
“I remember, and you got them all while being completely off your face. While I, on the other hand, struggled through.”
“You did okay.”
“I guess I did, but I always envied your ability to easily remember stuff,” I said.
“I remember something else.”
“You remember everything Johnno.”
“The bloke in the coat looked confused after his ‘lean in’. I asked him if he was okay, and he asked me if I felt different. I told him I didn’t, and I’m pretty sure he swore in Aramaic, which was cool. The first thing you do when you learn a new language is to learn all the swear words. Icelandic swear words are the best, It sounds like you are coughing up a baby seal.”
“Johnno, this bloke is trying to put you out of business.”
Johnno thought about it, scratched his head and sat down.
“I’ve got a bit put away …”
“And a dozen degrees.”
“Yeah, that two. I could find something else to do, don’t you think?”
“Definitely,” I said, and I smiled the kind of smile you employ when you watch a video of a dog rescue — you can get back to your life knowing that the world is right again — at least for the time being.
“The bloke in the wool coat will be happy,” I said.
“I guess so.”
Johnno’s remaining customers were a bit pissed off, but he stuck to his guns. Drug addicts can always find another source — fickle bunch on the whole.
Helen’s decided to start an alternative school with all the money she isn’t spending on illegal substances, which is good. Who wouldn’t want and ex-addict as a school principal?
Last I heard, Johnno was working for the United Nations translating stuff so that annoyed diplomats could understand each other.
They gave him a car and everything.
I asked him how often he has to translate into Aramaic and he said there wasn’t a lot of call for it.
Good bloke Johnno, but not much of a sense of humour.
“My uncle had one. We used to sit in it and pretend we were driving. Anywhere really. To the moon, down to the beach and for some reason, to the shops,” I said.
“So you bought it from your uncle? He kept it in remarkable nick.”
“No, for starters, my uncle died ten years ago, and even if he was alive, he’d be old, really old. They probably would let him drive,” I said, and I was beginning to get annoyed.
“So, what’s the point?” said my soon to be ex-friend Derrick.
“The point, Derrick, is that I’ve achieved a lifelong dream. I now own a car just like the one my uncle owned.”
“Didn’t your uncle get done for offering sweets to not quite legal young women?”
“No, that was another uncle. I’ve got a whole bunch of uncles. One was an Antarctic explorer. Another one had an ice-cream shop empire, which he duly lost when the casino opened. Another one was quiet and boring and told excellent stories. I liked that one.”
“And one was a kiddie-fiddler?”
“Not technically. He never managed any sort of fiddling, but he got six months for trying. Can we get back to my car?”
“It’s true that it’s sometimes hard to start and it doesn’t like Australia’s hot weather, but apart from that …”
“It has wipers that don’t really work?”
“I’m working on that, but it does have a one-piece windscreen. It was a big deal back then.”
“When was ‘back then’?”
“Shit! That’s a long time ago.”
“Yeah, right? And here it is seventy-one years later. Chicks love old cars.”
“Do they love your old car?”
“Not as much as I’d like,” I said, and my enthusiasm was beginning to sag.
The ‘do chicks love your old car?’, was kind of the point, and I was reluctant to admit that it wasn’t working. I’d spent all the money I’d saved. Took me three years to get that money together and my sex life was just as crap as it was before I’d bought the car.
Derrick went back to wherever it is that Derrick comes from, and I was left with my thoughts.
I cast my mind back to when I was a kid and the conversations I’d had with my uncle.
It meant nothing to me then, but now I come to think about it, I do remember my uncle saying that he wasn’t getting much action at home since he’d bought that car.
He was indeed pissed at the time (I didn’t think much of that then either — most of my relatives smelled of alcohol – I thought it was probably deodorant).
“Sex is impossible once you get married boy, don’t do it!” he said, and I think he passed out.
To be honest, I didn’t know what sex was back then, and I’m beginning to forget what it is in the here and now.
Gotta get rid of that car.
All good things come to an end, and so it is with this series of stories/chapters.
Reluctantly I say goodbye to the cast of characters from the Fallen Angel Pizza series.
This story stands alone, but if you would like to catch up with the whole series from the start then you can read, The Christening, Flying Pizza, Position Vacant: Pizza Delivery Driver, And Just Like That He Was Gone, Profiler.
Just like athletes’ foot and bad-taste Christmas jumpers, retirement comes to everyone.
Well, almost everyone.
“Raise your glasses for a good copper going out to pasture,” said Chief Inspector Spacey, who looked to be about nineteen years old.
Plastic goblets were raised, and the soon to be ex-Inspector McBride wondered how these young people came to be in charge.
Not enough arse kissing was his conclusion, and he was right.
He hadn’t ‘played the game’ in his time in the Force.
Inspector McBride was leaving the Homicide squad after two stints lasting more than twenty years.
McBride’s sixtieth birthday was not for another few months, and he could have served out his time, but now was the best time to leave.
Their beloved daughter had moved out of home to be with her university friends. Now he and his wife, Helen, could get to know each other all over again.
The nest was empty.
There was the possibility of travel, but McBride preferred the idea of sleeping in and possibly never getting out of bed except for walking the dog.
Then there was catching up on reading and spending some time in the kitchen (he loved to cook, but there never seemed enough time).
The squad room was full of people who would not give him a second thought six months after he was gone, and he knew it. It didn’t worry him — that’s the way things go. Life goes on, and most coppers are too busy to be sentimental.
This gathering would break up when the bubbly ran out. Nice of the Chief Super to lay on a spread. Most coppers didn’t get an official sendoff.
McBride had taken on legendary status.
Some of his cases were taught at the Police Training College in Melbourne.
Rumour had it that he ‘always’ got his man.
His men nicknamed him ‘the Mounty’.
Despite his reputation, it was common knowledge that ‘the winged killer’ was his Moby Dick.
Later that night, McBride and his wife would meet up with Wilson and his wife. Their friendship had spanned three decades. Wilson was now the Chief Superintendent of the entire Eastern region of Victoria. McBride was proud of his friend’s achievements and a little jealous — but not so much that it showed.
For now, there was moderately good bubbly spoilt only by the taste of plastic and the ever-present schoolboy police humour.
It was getting dark when McBride gathered up his jacket and took one last look at what was his desk. He touched the timber surface gently. He’d had to fight the logistics department to hang onto the old desk.
As he left, a chorus of, “The mounty is leaving the building,” broke out. What was left of the celebration crew looked a bit the worse for wear.
McBride smiled and gave a final wave, and what he thought a ‘Mounty’ salute might look like.
The taxi was waiting for him at the front gate.
Someone had ordered a Silver Service limo, “All paid for in advance, sir. Where would you like to go?”
“Home seems like a good idea.”
The large inflatable Canadian Mounted Policeman barely made it into the back of the limo next to ex-Inspector McBride. It made strange squeaking noises as he pushed it into position. McBride smiled in just the same way that all small boys do when someone farts.
“I’ve never seen one of those before,” said the driver who was in full uniform, including a cap with the logo of the hire company attached.
“Me either,” said McBride. “It’s a kind of joke. I was a policeman and I had a reputation for always catching the killer, which wasn’t true. But you know how the truth never gets in the way of a good nickname?”
“I’ve never had a nickname,” said the driver somewhat sadly.
“You can have mine if you want it?”
“No, sir. That wouldn’t be proper,” said the uniformed driver.
“On second thoughts, before you take me home — do you remember where Dark Angel Pizza used to be?”
“Yes sir, I do. Best pizzas in Melbourne. It was a shame when it closed down — all those years. I believe the owner died.”
“Can you drive me over there?”
“Of course sir, but I’m sure it’s just a boarded-up shop these days.”
“Let’s do it anyway. The place has a ghost that I can’t put to rest.”
The driver was intrigued, but he didn’t comment.
McBride pressed the button and rolled down the tinted window and stared at the building that, for many years, sold excellent pizzas and once employed an enigmatic pizza delivery driver who liked to be called Raphael.
The building still had its faded sign, Dark Angel Pizza.
“Do you remember the bloke who delivered pizzas from here, about twenty years ago? Rode a bicycle, had a winged helmet and wings attached to his leather jacket?”
“Before my time sir. We only migrated to Australia about ten years ago.”
“He was quite a sight and he’s the one that got away.”
“I don’t understand sir.”
“It doesn’t matter. Home now I think.”
Il Barcaro was in full swing when the two couples arrived.
The head waiter greeted them as they entered the restaurant from Little Collins Street. Construction on the tall building opposite meant that a handful of parking spaces had come back into service.
The two wives had bought new outfits for the occasion, and Chief Superintendent Wilson has blown off dinner with the Lord Mayor of Melbourne to be with his old friend.
Tony, the head waiter and part-owner, greeted them as though they were his favourite customers — that was his way.
“Treat everyone the same. Treat everyone with respect.”
He showed them to their table and asked if they would like a drink.
The ladies ordered something pink and sticky, served in a cocktail glass.
The men asked for Scotch — the good stuff.
“Anything for you Inspector,” said Mario, who had been given the responsibility of looking after the table.
The menu was heavy on seafood, which didn’t suit McBride, so he asked for a pasta starter’s larger serve.
“Ex-Inspector,” said McBride, “and how did you know?”
“You are famous Inspector. Not many honest people left in this world and you are considered to be one of the few.”
Mario put out his hand, and McBride shook hands with him.
The staff of the restaurant stopped what they were doing and applauded.
“Are you a movie star?” said the lady on the next table who was wearing a small fortune in jewellery.
“No,” said McBride, “an honest copper. Apparently, I’m a rare commodity.”
“Good for you. You go get ’em sarge.”
“Was that your doing Wilson?”
“You booked the restaurant. I thought you paid them to be nice to you,” laughed Wilson.
“You’ve been in the papers dear. Almost all of them. You’ve had a long and successful career and people are grateful.”
“I guess,” said McBride, who was a little embarrassed, but also enjoying the acknowledgement.
“Your drinks are on the house — go crazy,” said Mario.
The McBride party were among the last to leave. The City was still alive, despite the hour.
“Fancy a walk ladies?”
“Down to the river, Federation Square. Look at the water. Arrest a couple of drunks, that sort of thing.”
“Sounds good,” said Wilson and the two couples walked down the hill and turned left into Swanston Street. Along the way, a taxi got a bit close, and McBride threatened to arrest the driver.
“No warrant card, old son. You’re a civilian now. No more sword of justice for you,” said Wilson, and he was aware of how sad that all sounded.
The couples sat on the bank of the Yarra and looked at the lights reflected on the water. No one needed arresting, and the two couples ambled (because they didn’t want the evening to end) back to their car and drove home.
At the Wilson home, the old friends embraced, and the evening was over, and so was McBride’s career.
“What the hell am I going to do now?” he said to Mary.
She didn’t answer, but she did hug him very tightly.
Ex-Inspector McBride sat on his couch watching the Cricket on TV.
His wife, Helen, was making their lunch — an avocado salad.
McBride was enjoying a beer after working in the garden most of the morning.
When a knock came from the front door, McBride told his wife he would see to it. He put his beer on the coffee table then moved it to a nearby drink coaster — not worth risking the wrath of the lady of the house.
“Good afternoon Inspector,” said the young man in the leather jacket.
“I know you might be thinking about trying to arrest me, but I’m strong and young and you aren’t and I really don’t want to hurt you. No offence, it’s just the way things are. You could ring the police, I won’t stop you, but I’ll be gone before they get here.”
“What do you want?” said McBride.
“I thought you deserved an explanation.”
The young man with his chrome helmet stood waiting for McBride’s decision.
McBride weighed up his chances of overpowering the young man he remembered as Christopher Dawson, aka Raphael — the Winged Killer — his Moby Dick.
“You’d better come in.”
Raphael moved past McBride, and his wing brushed across his face leaving a tingling sensation. A sensation he’d had described to him by a young custody constable, so long ago.
Raphael stood in McBride’s lounge room with the second Test Match’s sounds between England and Australia playing in the background.
“Helen. Can you come out here? I have someone I want you to meet.”
Helen McBride stepped into the room, fixing her hair as women will do when visitors arrive unexpectedly.
She was holding a wooden spoon used for mixing cakes.
She stopped, opened her mouth slightly as the wooden spoon tumbled out of her hand and onto the floor. It made a unique sound, bounced a couple of times and came to rest in front of a tall young man with white wings protruding from his leather jacket.
Raphael stooped down and picked up the sticky spoon. He handed it to Helen, who took it, still with her mouth frozen half-open.
“This is Raphael. The winged pizza delivery driver I told you about all those years ago.”
McBride turned to Raphael and asked, “Are you still delivering pizzas?”
“Yes,” said Raphael, “but that’s not what I came to talk to you about.”
“Where have you been for the past twenty years?”
“You wouldn’t understand if I told you,” said Raphael.
By this time, Helen McBride had regained her composure. She sat on a footstool and listened to what was to become a surreal conversation.
“It’s a place called Standarderin. Obviously, it’s not around here. I was sent there because of what I did. I had to stay there and work and get my head straight, as you would say.”
“For twenty years!”
“Time doesn’t affect us the way it does you. It wasn’t long in the scheme of things. I’m just glad I was allowed to come back and continue my work.”
“What is your work, exactly?” said Helen, finding her voice.
“It’s not easy to explain, but to put it simply, I tidy up a bit.”
“You’re right, I don’t understand,” said Helen.
“Okay, look at it this way. When people decide to be human…”
“Yes you all do, but when you get here there are hundreds of things that conspire to confuse you and maybe bump you off course. My job is to help selected females to get back on track. They get into relationships with violent men and I try to coax them away. It’s harder than it sounds.”
“Why don’t you work with the violent men?” asked Helen who was really getting into the swing of this conversation.
“Because it isn’t why I’m here, and besides, these men are usually too far gone to listen.”
“So, what happened on the Hemingway Estate?” asked McBride.
“You know when I said I don’t work to persuade the men? Well, I made an exception. I knew where he was hiding and I knew that he’d killed her. I was angry. She wasn’t the first woman I was unable to influence. I’ve lost many good souls over the years, but this one got to me. I was so close. She was going to leave that day. I had a place for her to stay, but she wanted to go back for some personal things. You Humans have a lot of trouble leaving things behind.”
“So he caught her and killed her.”
“Yes, and it broke my heart. All that blood and despair. I broke our rules and I went looking for him. I found him. I tried to speak to him, but all he wanted to do was argue and fight. I warned him about how strong I am and he laughed. He said something dirty about her and me and I hit him very hard. He didn’t get up. I remembered how upset you were about her being dead and no one telling the police. I took the man’s body to the pizza shop and told the owner to tell you what had happened, which I guess he did.”
“I’ve been in terrible battles and killed many beings and I don’t want to be that person anymore, that’s one of the reasons I accepted this assignment. I want to help not hurt.”
“So what now?”
“The young man who killed his partner and in turn was killed by me is sorry that he wasted his time here and he has forgiven me as she has forgiven him. They have started again in the hope of getting it right this time, and I’m back at my old job.”
“Aren’t you worried about getting caught for that man’s murder?” asked Helen.
“It was a long time ago and most of the officers who investigated the case are dead or retired, and besides, I have powerful friends and remarkable abilities. I’ll be okay as long as I stick to my purpose.”
“I’m pleased you came, but I’m still not sure why you bothered. I can’t cause you any grief, I’m retired.”
Raphael stood up, and McBride and Helen stood up instinctively.
“This is a special assignment for me. A one-off you might say. You two have lived the life you came here to live and you should be proud that you stuck to your guns and didn’t waver. Even though you were only blessed with one child.”
Raphael looked at Helen.
“Even though you were passed over for promotion, you maintained your values and you never took the easy way out, or the easy money or the dishonest shortcut.”
Raphael beckoned the couple to come closer.
McBride watched as Raphael’s wings grew larger until they almost touched the ceiling.
Raphael wrapped his wings around them both, and they were enveloped in a fluffy white cloud.
“What you will experience, isn’t for you just yet, but I’ve been asked to show you something special.”
McBride held his wife’s hand, and she squeezed it very hard.
“Oh, my God it’s amazing!”
Neighbours reported seeing a blinding light coming from McBride’s house in the middle of the day halfway through Australia’s second innings versus England.
Ex-Inspector McBride assured the emergency services workers who arrived at his front door that all was fine.
“We were just cooking a pizza and things got out of hand.”
If you would like to know how we arrived at this story/chapter, you may want to read The Christening, then Flying Pizza, then Position Vacant: Pizza Delivery Driver, then And Just Like That He Was Gone.
“Until this taskforce was established, Christopher Dawson had slipped under the radar,” said the moderately attractive woman.
A trained eye would have noticed that she was nervous, and the room was full of trained eyes. Fortunately for her, they just wanted the meeting to be over, so they were less than observant.
“Exhaustive research, revealed his name several times in domestic violence cases going back more than a decade. Always as a peripheral character. He has never been wanted for anything. Never been a suspect.”
“Until now,” said Inspector McBride to his Sergeant.
The speaker gave him a glance.
“Several women have stated that he helped them escape violent partners. So how is he constantly on hand in these situations? It has been hypothesised that he is receiving information from someone inside the police force.”
“First I’ve heard of it,” said the Inspector and the speaker gave up her campaign of withering looks — police officers seemed immune.
The speaker was Inspector Glenis Waters.
She had worked her way up through the ranks and had studied psychology in her own time. She specialised in criminal profiling and had spent time in the United States at the FBI’s headquarters.
She was considered a ‘rising star’, particularly after writing a profile of the Sandpit Murderer. She described him in remarkable detail, down to the unmatched socks.
“We have discounted this theory because of the widespread nature of the domestic violence cases. There is no central registry for domestic incidents.”
Inspector Waters paused. If it were blokes who were getting the shit kicked out of them, there’d be a central registry, she thought.
“So there is no-one who had access to all the incidents.”
“What we have here is a classic hero type. A guardian angel delusion. A tiny brain that needs significance. I’m not sure yet why he broke his carefully constructed mould and branched out into murder, but I do know that he now has a taste for it and we need to stop him,” said Inspector Waters.
“What’s with his costume?” said a voice from the back.
There were a variety of police officers wedged into the muster room. Some were directly involved in the task force, and a couple had invited themselves out of curiosity — curiosity about the case, and curiosity about the star profiler.
Inspector McBride and Sergeant Wilson were sitting on a desk at the back of the room.
“His winged helmet and leather jacket are a sign of his flamboyance. The wings are obvious.”
“Not to me,” said Sergeant Wilson.
Another attempt at a withering glance.
Withering glances aside, McBride and Wilson felt that they had been judged and found wanting.
The chief commissioner summoned them to his office some three weeks prior.
“I want this bozo caught! We do the police work in this state, not this nutbag. I’m getting calls from the Minister and I’m sick of reading about this bloke in the papers. Sort this out. Get a task force together.”
Inspector McBride wanted to ask where the money would come from, but his Sergeant stopped him just in time. These meeting types were traditionally one-way conversations, finished off with a “Yes Sir,” at the end.
“Christopher Dawson does not appear to exist prior to about ten years ago, which means that he probably came here from interstate. We’ve sent out a general alert and are waiting to hear back, but in the meantime, here’s what we have found out.” Inspector Waters consulted her notes.
“He’s probably from bloody Queensland,” said a voice from the back. A light smattering of laughter broke out.
Inspector Waters waited for it to die down.
“He doesn’t have a driver’s licence, which fits with why he delivers pizza on a bicycle.”
“We have people working on the idea that he might have been involved in a road accident back in the day. Maybe he was driving or was hurt by another driver,” said Sergeant Wilson. The eyes in the room were on him, but he didn’t have anything else to add.
“There aren’t many photographs of this man, with the single exception of the newspaper shot. It’s a profile shot and a bit shaky, but it shows enough to tell us that this man has not changed his appearance, in the slightest, in more than ten years.”
“Maybe he’s Dorian Grey,” said a young female, who was sitting on the window sill. She’d rather noisily opened a window before she sat down.
A young constable asked his mate who Dorian Grey was, and his friend said he was a local pimp. The young constable seemed even more confused.
The general absence of laughter made the young female feel on the outer. Either the occupants of the room were not well-read, or they just didn’t like her. She decided on a mix of the two.
“What about CCTV?”
“I was coming to that and it’s weird. The local station went looking for footage around the time of the newspaper photo. Nothing. Some of the businesses in the area delete their footage after forty eight hours, but some keep their footage on a cloud server. Every one of them reported the same situation. Whenever they should have recorded the pizza delivery driver ride by, the footage was blank. Only for a few seconds, but blank. All the stores use different storage companies so that rules out hacking. Even if this bloke was skilled enough to hack all these accounts, he should have missed one — it’s the law of averages.”
Inspector Waters banged her hand on the lectern, which was her first sign of emotion.
“Why not delete the whole file?” she added. No one had an answer.
Someone’s tummy rumbled, and the people around them laughed.
“I know it’s lunch time so I’ll sum up what I know so far. Other than what I’ve mentioned, we know that he lives a simple existence. He doesn’t have a lot of possessions. He always wears the same clothes — no one reports seeing him anywhere near a laundromat. He doesn’t eat at local cafes and doesn’t appear to eat at home. No groceries in his cupboards, either that or he stopped to gather them up when he left in a hurry after the murder — unlikely, if you ask me.”
Inspector McBride dug cellophane lollies out of his pocket and offered one to his Sergeant.
“Might stop us from starving,” said the Inspector. His Sergeant took one with a smile.
“He always rides a white bicycle. No one reports him walking any distance — possible due to an accident?” The Inspector looked in the direction of McBride and Wilson, as an acknowledgement.
“His chrome helmet seems to be homemade and the wings stuck to his leather jacket are remarkably well maintained. How does he manage this? Does he have spare sets somewhere. He has to renew them sometime. Is someone supplying them?”
“Going back to something you said earlier,” said the female sitting on the windowsill, and the room gave a groan, which increased her belief that it was her they didn’t like.
“How do we know that he hasn’t changed much in ten years.”
“Sorry, I forgot to mention, we have a photo that someone took when he was working at Bazza’s Pizza in Benalla. They had a camera and asked for what passed as a selfie, back in those days.”
A slightly out of focus photograph flashed up on the screen that had previously been showing the newspaper shot. Three smiling females and one serious man looked at the camera. The man was dressed in the same jeans and leather jacket, and he was holding his chrome winged helmet under his arm as a soldier would when standing at attention. His hair was dark and wavy and was unkempt in a way that suggested that he didn’t worry much about his appearance.
His eyes were the first thing you noticed — piercing, but kind and gentle. They made you want to hug him or buy him a beer — probably both.
“The woman on his right, is one of the women he ‘saved’. She still had the photo when we contacted her. She was reluctant to part with it. I had to take a photo of it on the spot, which explains why it’s a bit out of focus.”
“As you can see,” the photos were placed side by side by constable Perkins, who prided himself on his I.T. abilities, “he looks exactly the same. Hasn’t aged a day.”
“Blokes get it easy in the ageing department,” said the window sill.
“Piss off, you sheilas have all those wonder drugs — anti ageing shit. All we have is beer and a comfy couch,” said someone who was too hungry to care anymore.
Generous laughter, including the window sill.
The mood toward her had softened, even if she was at the end of the joke.
“Okay. I know you creatures are hungry, so I’ll ask if there are any questions?”
Sergeant Wilson hesitated before asking, “Why do you think this bloke went from saviour to killer?”
Inspector Waters stretched her arms above her head and gave a customary sigh that comes with a stretch. She put her arms by her side and looked at Sergeant Wilson.
“Maybe he just got fed up. Do you ever feel that way Sergeant?”
Sergeant Wilson didn’t answer.
The room emptied at the pace you would expect. Inspector Waters was invited to lunch by the station commander.
“There is a good Chinese restaurant close by?” he said.
“I don’t mind where we go as long as it isn’t a pizza place,” said Inspector Waters and the Commander smiled.
The holding cells at Ocean Grove Police Station. The custody sergeant is trying to explain the disappearance of a prisoner. The cells are colder than the rest of the station, and high windows are admitting light. The walls are painted in the public service green that seems reluctant to be an actual colour. The floor is old fashioned linoleum, and the custody sergeant keeps glancing down at it in the vain hope it will open and swallow him.
“I brought him to you for safekeeping. I could have stuffed him in the boot of my car and taken him back to the city, but no. I entrusted him to you,” said Inspector McBride, without a hint of anger in his voice. This seemed strange to both of the sergeants. The custody sergeant was used to being yelled at by his chronically constipated Chief Inspector.
“When did you last see him actually in the cell?”
“I saw him when he got his dinner, but constable Willis says he was still in there at lights out — ten-thirty last night.”
“So somewhere between ten-thirty and six o’clock this morning, my suspect evaporated.”
“Well, yes. As far as we can tell. The cameras are old, and they don’t work in the dark. Never needed them to, until now. The cell door was definitely locked. No other way out.”
Sergeant Wilson peaked around the open doorway just to be sure. Definitely only one way out.
Sergeant Wilson and his Inspector had spent the night at the Seaview Motel which didn’t have a view of the sea, but you could hear it when it got quiet. The rooms were small but comfortable. Their rooms were next to each other — they both smelled the same — must have been something about the cleaning products they used.
Breakfast, which was included in the price, arrived on time. Bacon and eggs with tomato and avocado. Sergeant Wilson liked avocado, and he always pronounced it correctly.
Wilson was ready first, so he waited outside the Inspector’s room. He leaned on the car and listened to the ocean between the sound of passing traffic. Small birds were ignoring him as they rifled through the native bushes.
Sergeant Wilson didn’t like being away from home.
The two policemen knew something was up when the constable on the desk wouldn’t make eye contact.
“We’ve come to speak to our prisoner,” said the Inspector.
“If you could wait here a moment, sir, I’ll get the custody sergeant.”
“They’re a bit formal for a country station,” said Sergeant Wilson.
“Something’s up,” said the Inspector.
“So, did he say anything before he disappeared into thin air?” said the Inspector.
“I had a long chat with him last night before I clocked off. He seemed like a nice bloke. Told a good yarn, said he loved his job and I said that delivering pizzas seemed like a strange occupation. He said that it gave him time to think and he enjoyed meeting new people. Like I said — he seemed like a good bloke.”
“Did he say anything else?”
“He said he was hoping that they would forgive him. I assumed he was talking about your case, but the young constable who tucked him in said something similar, only he told it that the prisoner said he HAD been forgiven. The prisoner seemed quite excited. Said he was looking forward to getting back to work. The constable brushed it off — you hear all sorts of crazy stuff down here in the cells.”
A cafe on the foreshore which did have a view of the ocean. The two policemen from the city are having lunch, fending off ambitious seagulls, and talking about their next move.
“That big bugger has designs on your ham roll, Inspector.”
“Forget about the gulls sergeant. What are we going to do about our winged pizza deliverer?”
“Nothing we can do. We didn’t lose him. Just have to wait for him to resurface. Love to know how he got out of that cell though. Didn’t seem like the kind of bloke who could walk through walls.”
The two men drove back to Melbourne, going the long way, around the coast — The Great Ocean Road — one of Australia’s wonders and a huge tourist destination for the state of Victoria.
Inspector McBride’s wife was waiting in the driveway when he got home. She hugged him and risked crushing their baby son. McBride hugged her, and the baby played with his hair.
“Did you get your man?” said Helen McBride.
“Yes and no.”
The Inspector didn’t like to bring his work home with him, but Helen was interested, so he filtered out the heinous stuff and talked to her about the details around cases’ edges. Helen was fascinated with the hunt for the pizza delivery rider. The wings on his jacket and the chrome helmet sounded exotic.
“We caught him easily enough. He didn’t try to run. Came along peacefully. He seemed tired and worn out, and I believe he would have told us everything, except …”
“Except that he disappeared out of his cell overnight. Not a trace. I would have said it was impossible, but the more I work on this case, the less likely I am to use that word.”
Helen had the dinner ready, and the Inspector played with his son until the child fell asleep in his arms. The parents watched a movie and turned in early. The baby would be awake at the crack of dawn, so sleep was a luxury.
An unremarkable double fronted house in a nondescript street in suburban Melbourne. A man opens the front door to a pizza delivery.
“What are you dressed up for? Halloween’s months away mate,” said the young man in jeans and a singlet, “how much for the pizzas?”
The young man fishes in his jeans and brings out three five-dollar notes. He straightens them out before handing them over.
“No tip,” says the young man, “no-one tips me for doing my job.”
The pizza delivery driver stares at the young man, and the young man stares back at him.
The pizza delivery driver takes off his winged helmet and punches the young man in the face. The young man staggers back into the house and lands on the carpet — out cold.
A young woman emerges from the shadows and surveys the scene.
“Are you going to hurt me?” she says dispassionately.
“No. And neither is he, anymore.”
The young woman puts her hand to her face to cover the bruise she believes he is looking at.
“You have a choice. You can stay with this reprehensible person, and continue to be his punching bag, or you can pack a few essentials, get into your car and leave. He hides his money at the back of the bathroom cabinet.”
“How do you know that?” says the young woman.
“Your car is full of petrol, and I know that your sister will be happy to see you. It’s a long drive, so you had best get started. He could wake up soon, and he won’t be happy. Don’t come back, don’t look back. Just go. I’ve done all I can for you, now it’s up to you. Go, stay, it’s your choice.”
The woman notices the wings on the pizza bloke’s jacket as he turns to leave.
“Why are you helping me. I don’t know you at all,” says the woman, who sounds like she might begin to cry.
“It’s my job. It’s what I do. Everyone needs a job.”
The light streaming through the doorway made the feathers on his jacket glow, and the breeze made them flutter.
“If you do decide to go, which I hope you will, go back and finish the science degree you started. You have things to discover that will make a difference. People are depending on you.”
“What people? Who is depending on me? No one is interested in me. It’s too hard. How do you know all this stuff? Who are you? I can’t go back. I want to sleep for a hundred years,” said the young woman clutching at her stained dress.
“You can sleep when you get there. Now go.”
The young man put his shiny helmet on and disappeared through the doorway.
The breakfast break room at a suburban police station. One man is eating a chocolate croissant, the other is working his way through a ham roll.
“This looks promising,” said Sergeant Wilson.
“This report says that a pizza delivery driver in fancy dress beat the shit out of a bloke and stole a wad of cash. The young man who was assaulted is known to us through a series of domestic violence calls and his propensity for ‘borrowing’ other people’s cars. He’s in custody. Should get at least a year. The fourth time he’s been charged. The magistrate should have lost patience with him by now. Girlfriend has gone missing as well.”
“Yep. That’s probably him, but you know that when we get there, he’ll have vanished.”
“Yeah, I know, but we have to check it out.”
“I wonder if this young bloke knows how lucky he is to be alive? Busted nose and time inside still beats being dead.”
“Probably hasn’t got a clue. What do you say to me packing the giant butterfly net in case our suspect tries to fly away?”
The Inspector didn’t answer, but he thought it was a good idea.
This story is designed to stand alone, and there is no necessity to read the first two stories in the sequence of stories, but if you would like to, you can read THE CHRISTENING and FLYING PIZZA, here and here.
“This is a very detailed CV. You do realise that you are applying for the job of a pizza delivery driver?”
“Yes, I do. I just thought that you deserved the ‘full picture’. I thought you might like to know who I am. Obviously, I haven’t put everything in there, it would take years to read everything,” said the tall young man with the chrome helmet under his arm. He hoped that the pizza shop owner would not ask about the nine-month employment time gap.
“Do you have a car?”
“Can you handle multiple deliveries on a pushbike?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Mike, the pizza shop owner, looked at the young man and marvelled at how long a long time seemed to the young.
Mike used to work ‘nine to five’ in an office in the city. Five days a week, home by seven, dinner and a few drinks, fall asleep in front of the telly. Rinse, repeat, with a bit of alcohol oblivion on the weekends. Rinse, repeat.
It didn’t feel like it at the time, but when the racks in the storage room collapsed and crushed Mike, it was the making of him.
Mike’s union (he was the only paid-up member in the office) went to bat for him and got him a huge settlement — including pain and suffering.
Part of the deal was that Mike would not come back to the office, which was okay with Mike.
It was never his dream, but when the local pizza shop went under (the third time a pizza shop had folded at that location), he took out a lease, which included all the fixtures and fitting.
Why Mike thought he could succeed where so many others had failed, was never explained.
Mike decided that the personal touch was required, so he obtained a list of all the property owners in the area — it was a long list. He personally invited each homeowner to sample his wares — handwritten invitations.
Mike remembered names and faces, and so his business grew — quite a bit faster than he initially thought.
Home deliveries were a must for a pizza shop to thrive. Mike’s delivery drivers were loyal and hard workers.
“The job doesn’t pay much, but our customers are generous tippers if you deliver promptly. I’ll give you a week’s trial — okay with you?”
“Yes, sir. Okay with me.”
For some reason (Mike had not been sleeping well lately) Mike didn’t notice the wings stuck to the young man’s leather jacket until he turned to walk away.
Nice gimmick, he thought. The customers will love it.
Christopher Dawson (he liked to be called Raphael) had taken the last nine months off work. His previous job working for Fallen Angel Pizza had ended badly.
He was, in effect, hiding out. Two potent forces were looking for him. One force was the state police, which wasn’t as big a problem as you might think. If needs be, Raphael could deal with that problem.
The other force was the one that worried him.
Like all good, well-structured stories, Raphael’s life had always had a subplot — sometimes more than one.
In reality, the subplots were the central narrative of his life. His role as a pizza delivery driver was a cover, as the spy world would have it.
Raphael wasn’t a James Bond, he was more of a Simon Templar. Damsels in distress were his forte.
In the old days, the name and address of a woman in danger would be delivered to him, and he would do his best to save her.
Free will was his biggest enemy. He could not force anyone to leave a dangerous environment. In fact, he wasn’t allowed to.
Raphael didn’t mind these restrictions — they added an impressive ‘degree of difficulty’ to what could have become a tedious job.
All this changed when a customer of Fallen Angel Pizza was murdered by her live-in lover.
This was one death too many for Raphael. He thought he had more time to convince her to leave. He was wrong.
What Raphael did next meant that he was now on his own — no support, no new names and addresses.
He was a little surprised that they hadn’t come for him. It would have been better if they had. Being cast adrift was infinitely worse.
Raphael had spent the last nine months living in an abandoned cottage by the ocean, waiting for a knock on the door.
When the knock didn’t come, he left his comfortable hideaway and decided to reenter his old life, albeit without his usual supports.
How hard can it be to find a woman who needs help? He thought.
His chrome helmet, with the wings riveted to the side, was gathering dust on a shelf near the front door. It glinted in the light every time he walked it. His bike was in the shed at the side of the house. The old wooden doors were no match for a determined thief, but when he went out to look at his reliable steed, it was just where he’d left it. A tiny spider had built repeated webs on the frame. There were new rust spots and a lot of dust, all of which was quickly repaired.
Raphael wheeled his bike out into the light and got to work.
Raphael’s trial week went by uneventfully. His new boss never officially told him he was employed, but Raphael knew he had a new home.
By week three, he noticed that many of the delivery dockets had his name scribbled on them. He overheard the girl who took the orders, “Raphael is very busy, if you want him to deliver your pizza, it will take a bit longer — okay then as long as you understand.”
By week five, Raphael was beginning to doubt his initial confidence about finding a ‘damsel’.
One delivery address kept popping up, but the door was always answered by a male. He was gruff but always tipped. Not generously, but tipped nonetheless.
These deliveries always left Raphael feeling uneasy.
The man who took delivery always had a beer in his hand, but so what? Lots of people drink beer after work and pizza seems to demand either red wine or beer.
The uncertainty of not knowing where to look was playing on Raphael’s confidence.
On dark days he considered going back to hiding out at the oceanside cottage. It was full of books, and there was enough wood in the shed to last several winters. He never needed to go out. Maybe he could write his memoirs?
The dark days passed, as they always do, and Raphael settled into a routine. He liked his boss and enjoyed his regular customers.
He was becoming quite a celebrity in his community. People would toot their horn when they saw him zooming along on his bike — chrome winged helmet, leather jacket (in all weathers) and pristine white wings fluttering in the breeze.
Raphael’s instinct about the ‘beer in hand’ customer, was spot on.
When a human interest article appeared in the local paper, it got picked up by the national daily.
Page five had an article about a seaside town with an unusual pizza delivery rider. The report had an action shot of Raphael riding his bike — gleaming helmet, wings and all.
“I think our murder suspect has surfaced Inspector,” said Sergeant Wilson holding a copy of the newspaper that someone had left in the lunchroom.
“Get your coat, Sergeant. It gets cold down by the ocean at this time of the year,” said Inspector McBride.
It isn’t necessary for you to read the FIRST STORY in this sequence of stories, but you might like to. Each story is designed to stand alone, but you will see the sequence as you go along. PART ONE was called THE CHRISTENING and you can read it HERE.
A shopping strip like any other. Fallen Angel Pizza does not have a verandah. The shop is sandwiched between a cafe and a shop selling printer ink. This shop has a notice in the window warning that it will be closed until next week — death in the family. Fallen Angel Pizza is just setting up for the evening trade when Inspector McBride and Sergeant Wilson park their car on the opposite side of the street. A young man is sweeping the footpath as the two policemen enter the shop.
“So, why did you call your business Fallen Angel Pizza?” said Sergeant Wilson.
The Inspector gave him a glance. Inspector McBride liked to be crisp and precise when questioning members of the public. He too was intrigued by the name, but knowing the answer was not likely to lead to the killer. It was too late to shut down this line of enquiry, so he let it play out.
“I didn’t. I mean I did, but only because it was less paperwork to leave the name the way I found it when I bought the business. They charge you for everything these days. Besides, the punters love the name. It does attract a few nutters but. Still, nut bags have to eat, I guess. The crazy ones tip better so the drivers like them,” said William Dundee, whose ancestors had emigrated to Australia only moments before they would likely have been transported. William Dundee had never been to Scotland, but he spoke with a strange approximation of what he thought his ancestors sounded like.
“Do you have contact details for all your delivery drivers?” said Inspector McBride.
“All my delivery drivers?”
“Yes. All of your drivers.”
Dundee held in the smile until he could no longer.
“I’m not Pizza Hut, Inspector. I only have two delivery drivers at the moment.”
“Do they both wear wings?” said the Sergeant.
This time Dundee did not bother to contain his smile.
“Only one. Christopher Dawson. But he likes to be known as Raphael. He wasn’t always into angels until he started working here — or so he says. Mad bugger, but a good worker. Customers love him. He makes about three times what I pay him in tips. Rides around on a bicycle with wings on his helmet which would make him look like Mercury if it wasn’t for the wings glued to his leather jacket. I’ve never seen him without that jacket. Blood good job of sticking those wings on. They seem to grow out of his jacket. Must have taken him forever to get them just right.”
Dundee scribbled something on a scrap of paper and handed it to the Inspector.
The Inspector glanced at it before putting it in his side pocket.
“Thank you for your time, Mr Dundee. We may need to speak to you again.”
“It all seems a bit too easy,” said the Sergeant as the two men stepped into the street.
“I’m not sure what this is, but I’ll feel better when we’ve spoken to this Dawson character.”
“Are you hungry Inspector?” said the Sergeant.
“Good thinking,” said the Inspector.
The two men sat in their blue unmarked car and consumed a pizza while they waited for Christopher Dawson to arrive at work.
The sun was going down, and the strip of shops was bathed in a golden glow that made them appear way more interesting than they actually were.
Eating pizza and the glare from the sun made the two men almost miss the arrival of the winged deliverer.
He was quite a sight. Winged chrome helmet, leather jacket despite the warm weather and best of all, two perfectly formed wings sprouting from the back of his jacket. The golden glow bounced off the pristine white feathers giving them a golden pink hue.
“How do you reckon he keeps those feathers so clean?” said the Sergeant.
“Save that question until we find out if he likes killing people, will you, Sergeant.”
The rear of Fallen Angel Pizza. An alleyway with a wire fence on one side bordering the railway line. Two plain-clothed policemen are questioning a pizza delivery driver.
Sergeant Wilson would like to remove his jacket because he is hot from standing in the afternoon sun. The delivery driver does not remove his leather jacket. A train goes by, and the delivery driver turns to watch it. The feathers from the delivery driver’s wings brush the face of Sergeant Wilson. The sensation is a pleasant one.
“Have you ever delivered to the flats on the Hemingway Estate?”
The Inspector knew that he had.
“Yes,” said the winged delivery man.
“Two Fridays ago?”
“I’d have to check the date, but I think so.”
“Did you happen to notice anything unusual?”
Christopher Dawson hesitated before answering.
“The front door to number twelve was open and I had a sinking feeling that I was too late.”
“Too late for what, Mr Dawson?”
“To save her. I knew she was in danger, but I thought I had more time.”
“More time for what, Mr Dawson?”
“To save her.”
Police interrogation room. Inspector McBride and Sergeant Wilson sit across a metal table from Christopher Dawson. Mr Dawson is still wearing his jacket. Mr Dawson has been given an official caution, and the tape machine is recording. Three paper cups containing water sit untouched on the table. No one even considers lighting up a cigarette.
“You said earlier, when we spoke to you at the pizza shop, that you needed more time to save her. Who were you referring to?”
“The woman who was murdered.”
“Did you kill her, Mr Dawson?”
Inspector McBride liked to get the question out of the way early on. Other officer preferred to wait.
“No Inspector. I haven’t killed anyone in a very long time.”
The Inspector wanted to ask what he meant by that statement, but he felt it would push the interrogation off track, so he let it slide.
“But you were there?”
“Yes. I found her and I knew my mission was at an end.”
“You must know that a woman is killed every day of the year by someone she lives with. Three hundred and sixty-five women every year. It was my mission to convince this woman to leave before the inevitable happened.”
“Why was it your mission?”
“She had important things to achieve and being dead would mean that she couldn’t achieve them.”
“You’re a strange one, Mr Dawson. If you don’t mind me saying so?” said the Inspector.
“I don’t mind at all.”
“If you found her like that, why didn’t you call the police?” said the Sergeant.
“She was dead. My involvement was at an end.”
“How did you get out of there without leaving a trace?”
For the first time since they had met, Mr Dawson smiled.
The coffee room at the police station where Inspector McBride and Sergeant Wilson are stationed. The room is large and half empty. The floor hasn’t been swept, and empty coffee cups are spilling out of the garbage can in the corner. Sergeant Wilson would very much like to light a cigarette, but those days are gone.
“The men in white coats went over his flat with a fine-toothed vacuum cleaner and came up with nothing. We could do him for not reporting the crime scene but a good brief would get him off. We have nothing on him. He has to be one of the strangest blokes I’ve come across and I’ve arrested football players so that’s saying something. Still and all, I can’t help liking the bloke. Wouldn’t trust him to have my back, but I like him all the same,” said Sergeant Wilson while chomping on a chocolate croissant.
“There is nothing in her file about living with someone. Someone must have come across her partner. Interview her workmates again. She must have talked about her partner. Women love to brag or complain about their other half.”
The back of the shop — Fallen Angel Pizza. Two plain-clothes police are talking to the pizza shop owner. Several men in white jumpsuits are swarming over the body of a dead young male. Trains periodically travel past, making it difficult to carry on a conversation.