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.
“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.”
“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.