If you read this story first it may enhance your enjoyment of ‘Blue Sky’.
It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it might.
I knew it wasn’t good, and I knew that I was in deep shit, but just at that moment I was enjoying the view.
Beautiful fluffy white clouds set against an azure sky.
The only thing that was spoiling the view was the masked gunman, complete with balaclava and sawn-off rifle.
I’m assuming it was sawn-off; it is hard to tell from my angle because he had it pointed at my head and all I could see was the hole in the barrel.
I was reasonably sure that a bullet was going to emerge from that barrel at any moment.
It seemed disingenuous to point and not shoot.
The gunfire had ceased, but I could hear loud talking — ‘Don’t do it mate’, followed by, ‘No one has died [how the hell did he know that] and all you have to do is walk away, but if you kill a cop they will never stop looking for you.’
I couldn’t see who was doing the talking, but given the circumstances, I thought that he might be mad or very brave.
Either way, he was going to get himself killed; and it would be a shame to get yourself killed on such a beautiful day.
I remember talking about the weather when we started our shift.
‘Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.’
That was my dad’s favourite weather joke, and he wheeled it out whenever it looked like there was someone in the vicinity who had not heard it before.
In our job, the weather can tell you what sort of day you are going to have.
I’d been on ‘days’ for a couple of weeks.
I didn’t dread ‘nights’ like a lot of the blokes.
‘Nights’ had their dangers and their appeal; it’s a whole other world.
A rainy day means we attend more than the occasional road accident. Once, we had to park on a major highway with all our lights flashing to stop anyone running into a young couple who were moving furniture into their house.
The truck wouldn’t fit up the driveway, and they were soaked to the skin and the traffic coming around the bend at 70 kph had little time to see and avoid them.
They weren’t doing anything wrong, just trying to move into a very difficult house.
They lived through it, and so did we.
They gave us a wave when they were finished; that doesn’t happen too often.
Hot weather tends to bring out the drunks and the crazies but a lovely sunny spring day like today forebode well.
It should have been a routine day, and up until lunchtime, it was.
I bought lunch yesterday so today, Michael my partner, decided on ‘fish and chips’, and I didn’t mind.
This little shopping strip was famous for having the best fish and chips in the area.
There was plenty of people about, many also on a break just like us. People heading to the cafe or looking for a spot to sit quietly and eat a sandwich that someone else had lovingly prepared.
I can’t remember if the birds were singing but they should have been.
There was on-street parking, but there was also a medium-sized car park which the council had built a decade or more before by buying and knocking down a couple of shops and the houses behind them.
Some space was reserved for grass and trees and benches and a tiny playground, but mostly it was bitumen and white lines.
We had parked opposite the bank, which amazingly was still there. Suburban Bank branches were rare in those days.
It had a ‘whole in the wall’ teller machine and was built out of those ubiquitous cream bricks that invaded this country in the 1950s.
I was dodging traffic while trying to cross the road when I saw the first masked gunman come out the front door of the bank.
The bank was old, so it had steps at the front and a ‘disabled ramp’ that had been installed some years after the building was completed.
The gunman was scanning the street, but he had to look down to negotiate the steps, and this gave me just enough time to draw my weapon.
I remember thinking that there was an even chance of either being run down by a car or shot by the armed robber in the mask.
He saw me and levelled his ‘sawn-off.’
I saw the flash.
I’m not sure how many rounds I got off, but I know I missed him.
At least one shot hit the cream bricks behind him, and bits of brick and mortar exploded in a cloud of dust.
There wasn’t anywhere for me to hide so I just kept moving in his direction; even after I felt what seemed like a small truck hit me in the chest.
My legs wanted to carry me further, but the rest of me said ‘fall down’, so I did.
I came to rest in an empty car space; I didn’t quite make it to the footpath. I rolled onto my back and stared at the amazing blue sky and the fluffy white clouds.
I didn’t see them, but I heard a couple of other blokes run past in the direction of the council car park.
I remember wondering why they would park in a car park; why not out the front of the bank?
I also remember wondering [or was that much later] why they didn’t have a look-out or a driver, waiting to whisk them away.
Back in the 1980s, this kind of thing happened twice a week, but then the banks got sued for not having enough security, and people started having their paychecks paid directly into their accounts and banks stopped being easy targets.
These blokes were not pros’; and not long after all this it got them killed, but that was to come, and now I’m staring down the barrel, so to speak.
I found out much later that the voice belonged to Nolan James Sieracki.
Nolan was on his lunch break, just like us, and when the shooting started, he ducked for cover.
The amazing thing is, he didn’t stay under cover; he spoke out; he saved my life.
As the gunman walked away, I could see a smile in his eyes.
Nolan came over to me, knelt down, and asked me about my gun, ‘Do I have to cock this thing or do I just point and shoot?’
Holy shit this bloke is going to get us both killed.
He seemed determined; there was no way I could talk him out of it, ‘Point and squeeze’.
I was pretty sure that the safety was off; I heard a single shot.
I half expected him to fall, but he didn’t, he just got up and walked toward the car park.
More shots — and then he was kneeling beside me again.
I heard my partner shouting; I wanted to say ‘He’s with me’, but no words came out, and I became very peaceful and very unconscious.
It was weeks before I woke up again and, even more weeks before anyone in a uniform asked me what happened.
This seemed very strange to me.
I can remember detectives asking questions of people who had minutes to live; nurses and doctors whispering very loudly that we needed to leave, and being ignored.
Eventually, I heard that the gunmen were all dead.
“That was a hell of a shot for a wounded man to make. Lying on your back like that with all that Claret oozing out of you. Lucky shot, or are you that good, constable?”
The words were spilling out of the Chief Commissioner of Police for the State of Victoria.
I’d seen his picture on the wall in the Senior Sergeant’s office, but this was the real bloke; in person.
I couldn’t figure out why he was speaking in that strangely affected tone until I noticed that my small hospital room was full of cameras.
They had woken me up because the Chief Commissioner was late for another appointment and they wanted to ‘get this over with’.
I smiled, I think, and said, “Lucky shot I guess.” At the time, I had no idea what they were talking about.
The room emptied, and I lapsed back into that beautiful Morphine-induced sleep.
I know why people get hooked on this stuff; not only does it take away the pain but it takes away your ability to care about anything; it’s really rather lovely.
They let my wife visit but not my kids.
I’m not sure who they were protecting, them or me.
Janice cried a lot and told me how the kids were going and then cried some more; but she didn’t tell me what was going on and frankly, I didn’t care.
My young mind thought that my career and my life, as I knew it, was over.
It’s strange to remember that bit, especially as I’m writing this from the Chief Commissioner’s office.
Things worked out well for me.
You might be wondering why I’m writing this now, after all, this time?
I just found out that Nolan James Sieracki passed away last night.
His heart gave out, and he was surrounded by his family; his wife his two sons and his five grandchildren.
He lived a quiet life; raised a family; taught his sons what it means to be a man.
I hope they knew what a remarkable man he was.
His life had its ups and downs; I know because I’ve been watching.
He worked in that hardware store for another dozen years; then he went out on his own.
His business sputtered along for a few years but eventually a downturn in the economy finished him off.
I made it known that every officer in my station should consider supporting his little shop, and they knew why.
My story was legendary, and they knew that their commander was one of only a very few serving officers who had been awarded the Medal of Valour.
The men and woman under my command knew that I wasn’t a desk jockey; I’d been out there; been shot; nearly died; Medal of Valour.
After a period where his wife supported them all, and he descended into a deep depression, he received an offer of a job working for the Victoria Police at their maintenance depot in the outer Eastern Suburb of Ferntree Gully.
I’m sure he wondered why they had asked him, but he said yes, and he worked there until he retired.
By all accounts, he was good at his job and was well liked.
His boys were good sportsmen, and one went into the computer business, and the other made amazing pastries.
Nolan’s family need to know how brave their patriarch was.
They need to know that he saved my life and allowed me to have a family and a career.
They need to know that I kept the promise I made to him in that letter. He had his reasons for giving me credit for taking that shot, and I kept my mouth shut; kept my word.
Not because I wanted or needed the glory; I really didn’t care much about anything at the time.
It might have taken me a year to write it, but I meant every word.
If you are reading this now, it means that I too have passed away.
This was a story and a secret that needed time to be told.
Lives were built on this secret, and it was the way that both of us wanted it, but now it is time for our descendants to know the truth.
Whoever reads this is honour-bound to send a copy to Nolan’s descendants.