This story was written to stand alone, but if you are interested in how we got here, you can read, The Christening, then Flying Pizza, then Position Vacant: Pizza Delivery Driver.
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.
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.
“So what did Mr Dawson tell you before he left?”
“He said that there was a body at the back of the shop and that I should ring you blokes because you don’t like it when someone gets murdered and no one says anything.”
“Was that all he said?”
“No. He said that he was sick of not getting there on time, which didn’t make any sense to me because he was always punctual. The customers loved him.”
“Yes. It freaked me out a bit. He stood in front of me and it seemed to me that his wings got bigger, which is nuts.”
“What did he say?”
The pizza shop owner didn’t want his best delivery driver to get into trouble, but he told them anyway.
“He said he hadn’t killed anyone in a long time, and he thought that this time he might be in trouble. I didn’t ask him what he meant and I don’t want to know.”
The pizza shop owner would have to go to the station and make a formal statement, but that could wait until tomorrow. There were pizzas to make.
A search of Dawson’s flat revealed that he had packed up and left, which came as no surprise to Inspector McBride.
“We need to be very careful about the way we write this one up,” said the Inspector and the Sergeant agreed.
Before going home, they bought half a dozen beers and sat in the park near the Fallen Angel Pizza and ate a delicious pizza, with the lot — on the house.
When the beer and pizza had been consumed, the two men travelled home to their loved ones.
They slept soundly and never mentioned a word of the case to the ones closest to them.
The boyfriend was never charged because he was dead and it’s hard to cross-examine a dead bloke.
The file was closed with a brief explanation that said, the main suspect is deceased. No further action required.
The dead boyfriend’s file mentioned the bloke with the helmet and wings as being the likely murderer.
It also said that after an exhaustive search, no trace of Christopher Dawson aka Raphael has been found.
Like all dogs, Zed loves smells. Pizza boxes remind him of long walks punctuated by sitting outside Italian restaurants while we eat pizza. We save a small amount for the dogs and they wait patiently.
So when a pizza box magically appears inside the house and the human drops it near the bin for later removal, who can blame a dog for feeling like he had hunted down a very special prize.
He sat like that for the better part of an hour and I didn’t have the heart to take it away from him even though I have to discourage his possessive behaviour.
It seems to me that the stress of having to guard your prize would outweigh the enjoyment of having it, but then again, I’m not a dog.