Neighbourhood Of Widower Dogs: Chapter Two
“Not what I expected,” I said.
“What were you expecting? Table cloths, silver service?” she said.
“A table would have been nice,” I said.
“We only get forty-five minutes for lunch, and it only took us,” she looked at her watch, “ten minutes to walk here.”
During the night and on weekends, Habib’s Kitchen opened on the forecourt of the Shell service station some ten minutes walk from what used to be Coburg Teacher’s College, back in the day. These days, the predictable buildings have been repurposed to become a high school and then the privately owned, Baker Institute. Business is not thriving, hence the eagerness of Victoria Police to rent the inexpensive venue. Who gave a fuck about the comfort of the participants? Not the brass, that’s for sure.
“The chairs are comfy,” said my host, who had ordered our lunchtime feast.
Most customers get back into their cars and drive away, but as a concession to midnight dinners with a ‘skin full,’ the proprietor has provided six white plastic garden chairs — easy to hose down in the morning before going home to bed.
“Have you had a stint in ‘Traffic’?” I asked.
“Of course. Everyone does ‘Traffic’ when they start out.”
“Ever been to the impound yard?”
“Once or twice.”
“Ever get lost in that place?”
“Almost,” she admitted honestly. “Why do you ask?”
“It’s these chairs — triggered a memory.”
I took a bite of my ‘extra sauce’ special while she delicately tried to eat her ‘no chilly’ with poise.
“We have time. Tell me your story.”
I love talking with other cops. The general public gets bored quickly, and I think that what we do freaks them out — they’d rather not know how the sausage is made.
“Ever heard of Backdoor Barry?”
“No, and I don’t like lurid sex stories,” she said.
“Don’t let his name put you off. It’s nothing like you are imagining. One day I’ll tell you how he got his nickname.”
“One day?” she said, with the lift of an eyebrow. “Do you think this relationship has a life beyond lunch?”
I ignored the minefield that had been laid before me.
“Moving right along,” I said. She smiled and took another bite. A small bead of sauce oozed from the corner of her mouth, and her tongue retrieved it. I tried not to think about her tongue — I get distracted easily.
“It’s going back a few years,” I tried not to sound too much older than her, “there was a woman who did a bit of work for the bloke you haven’t heard of — I can’t believe you don’t know Backdoor Barry!”
“Get on with it, we don’t want to be late for HAVING A POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CORONER WHEN WE THINK HE MIGHT BE HIDING VITAL EVIDENCE.”
“Are you sure that’s what the lecture’s called?” I said, and she gave me a look.
“Anyway, there was this woman, we’ll call her Susan.”
“Cause that was her name?”
“Right. So she got car-jacked at the Rising Sun Hotel, which is where Backdoor Barry hangs out. The carjacker takes off in her car and gets totalled by a taxi as he exits the carpark. Mayhem ensues. Some important items are in Susan’s car, but she cannot get close enough to retrieve them.”
“People come from everywhere when there’s a car accident,” said Open Window with a touch of glee. She was starting to get into it.
“Our colleagues arrive along with an ambulance and the Towies. The whole nine yards. Being a resourceful person, Susan hatches a plan. After borrowing a car from Barry, she parks it in front of the local fire station, blocking the doors. She sat across the street at an all-night burger truck. They had white plastic chairs as well.”
“What was she waiting for and why park the car there?”
“All will be revealed. Patience, my girl.” She leaned forward, and for a moment, I thought I was going to get punched.
“So, there she is, eating a burger and waiting for the Fireies to notice her poor choice of a parking spot. A quiet night meant she had to sit on the hard plastic chairs for hours. Eventually, they noticed and called us. We arranged to have the car towed out of the way.”
“To the impound yard?”
“Yep. So Susan gets a taxi to the yard and fronts up to collect her car. I remember the clerk’s exact words — ‘I know your car is red lady, but that don’t excuse you parking in front of a fire station.’ She apologies, pays the fine, collects her car and drives it back to The Rising Sun Hotel where she lets the barman, Boris, out of the boot. While the red car was in impound, Boris had climbed out of the boot, retrieved Susan’s suitcase from the damaged vehicle and climbed back into the boot of the red car along with the suitcase.”
“A tight fit, I would imagine? So how did you find all this out? Did it come out at the trial?”
“Never was a trial. The carjacker died in the crash. After a lot of paperwork — case closed.”
“So how do you know all this?”
“That’s the stuff they don’t teach you in these courses. Getting to know people, dodgy people. Having them owe you. That’s where the information comes from. I got Barry drunk one day, and he told me this story so that he didn’t have to answer my real questions.”
“Did I mention, you interest me Leather Jacket?”
“No, but I guessed, and it’s Catastrophe Jones to you, Ms Carter.”
“I’ll try and remember.”