This is the 23rd Instalment in the Series surrounding the activities of the Murder Squad Detective Joseph Lind and his two young partners Shelley Shields and Dallas Courtney.
Joseph Lind's mentoring skills and tutoring abilities have ensured that at the close of this Investigation Case, the two junior Murder Squad Detectives will be promoted to Detective Grade 2 rating to become a Murder Squad team in their own right.
Every large City has a shadowy "Underworld" where indistinct figures move about while the rest of the City sleeps.
Ignorant and cocooned from the very existence of these other beings.
Most of these ghostly inhabitants have been rejected, ridiculed, removed and ridden from the love and security of the conservative masses. Their disappearance unreported. Their eventual deaths, often in brutal ways, going completely unnoticed. Hardly causing a ripple on the day to day existence of the "normal" members of society.
They are the expendable minority of society.
If their contribution to the world was of great import, would it make any difference to their acceptance?
Their choice of life-style and being? Their parting?
Three brutal bashing homicides occur in close proximity to one another. On the same night. The Victims, inhabitants of this "other-world".
Are they connected?
Has the crime been committed by those who seek the cleansing of society of these abhorrent "freaks of birth".
Rejects of what the masses consider the accepted norm?
If you dare to be different, be prepared to die!
"It's been a long time since I've been around this part of Town." I mused as we sat at a set of lights. Glancing at the pedestrian traffic that was surprisingly thick and fluid at this time of night.
The motor slowly ticking over.
I'd half forgotten about those that frequented this shadow world. The people, who the majority of the conservative middle class wanted to ignore as living and breathing souls.
"Frequent it sometime in your youth, did you?" Dallas looked nervously about him at the passing parade. A close inspection revealed a wonderful mix of humanity. From straight through the spectrum back to straight again.
If you get my drift.
"It apparently has a sordid past. A 'No-Go place,' one of my Teaching Brothers used to say."
Dallas glanced across at me as I wheeled the Unmarked around the corner of the major intersection into a narrow, ill-lit side street.
"A 'No-Go Zone' for you sensitive Catholic boys. That would just make me want to get up here as fast as I could...those are fighting words, they are! Um...yes, it was always part of the beat, so to speak...before the Aids epidemic, it was the known hang-out for the male prostitutes. Mostly young guys looking for relatively easy money. See that high stone wall there at the back of the park? That was known as the Wailing Wall...or Crying Wall...I wouldn't be surprised I suppose, if it still is. Anal intercourse can be rough at times, so I was once told...I can only imagine...then as the Aids Virus bit, the whole area and the practises fell out of favour except for the hard head types. They didn't last that long... the HIV bug got them in the end, no matter how well they tried to protect themselves...gradually the harder drugs took control and it became a necessity for the guys to ply their trade just so's they could get their nightly fix. You wouldn't dare walk around either section of that Park without shoes. You'd get stabbed for sure by some-one's discarded needle. It went downhill quick during those times. Punters were taking their lives in their hands just looking for a score...a head job or a f**k...now, look at it. Gentrified...during the day at least, but at night...this time of night, the night time guys still are out in force, so it seems...some things never change, eh?"
"Was it a part of your beat? Back then?" Dallas asked, his voice still having a nervous edge.
"In Undercover Narcs, you had no beat as such. You just had to fit in somewhat...anywhere, to make that important connection, mostly drug sellers. Small timers. You were always looking for the taller Poppies, so to speak...unfortunately rarely finding them...the small fish are the expendable ones and they rarely talked out of school. The stories that some of those guys could tell...made you lose faith in human nature."
I fell silent, lost in thoughts of characters that I had known in those days. Fifteen, twenty years ago. Most of them would be dead, I would imagine. Aids. Drug overdoses or suicide.
Not happy thoughts, Joe.
Not happy at all!
"I'd like to know the full history of this place and why it became the haunt of the male prostitute trade. You've got Kings Cross a stone's throw away to the north with its famous strip, then here which was never integrated into the Cross business...well, not in my time at least...and further down Oxford Street, since before I commenced in Narcotics, you had the Trannie Area which went almost to College Street. In the three separate areas, all the proclivities of human desire were catered for...and rarely was there a mixing of the types. Strange, eh? Similar services offered to the particular Punter type so to speak, but a divergence in the Punters' wishes and requirements. All generated by the huge variation in desires of the General Public. Back then, as I said, there was never any merging of the boundaries. Each stayed within the unspoken understanding of their region. Their own area. Not like to-day, where mingling, suffusion and integration is the accepted norm. The lines of their surreal reality are now so interspersed."
"I bet you saw some sights...huh?"
"Hah-ha, yeah...bloody oath, yeah...and some really nice people who chose, were given no option or were forced to tread a different path, that's for sure. Of course, in those days when I was in Undercover, just about every aspect of the different behaviours was considered illegal, debauched and depraved. In my job back then, you tended to turn a blind eye to that fact. How people chose to interact and get their jollies was not my concern. What they sniffed up their noses, plunged into their veins or sucked into their lungs was. Times have changed, eh? Do you reckon the various sexual behaviours have been accepted as reasonable, in this day and age?"
"Of course. Well, most of them. We understand the dispersion more. We are a more tolerant society...more understanding of the human condition...though my parents would kick me to Kingdom Come and back if they ever heard me murmur those words."
"Mmm...I really wonder if we have progressed that far... I have my doubts that the behaviour you may see around here is any more accepted now than it was in my day. Your parents? Very conservative, religious types, huh?"
"Yeah. You could say that! Their wish was for their boy to enter the Seminary. The Cop Force? Way down on their wish-list, let me tell you. When I made the decision, they almost threw me out, actually. Very conservative, devout Catholics. All this talk of Priests buggering young kids? That's going on at the moment? The Royal Commission that is unearthing the real facts of the matter? The work of the Devil and loose tongues trying to destabilise the seat of religion...it's written into the Scriptures as part of the last days. That's their...um...their solace, if I have the right word. They do not believe that those things are actually happening. Even when I give them proof or they sit through a News item on TV about the Royal Commission...they still don't believe...or choose not to as it may mean that they would have to question their whole belief basis for living...for believing. For having faith in their Blessed Priest. He may be one of the good guys, but there are heaps who have chosen the easy way...and any form of sexual behaviour outside the realms of marriage or a clean heterosexual relationship is of The Devil hisself!" he shook his head almost in disbelief. I wonder who deep his upbringing was buried. We very well may find that out shortly.
He wiggled his fingers as though talking of the Devil and His Helpers. I'd seen it all before in the guise of a different religion. A different time. Slightly less but similar accusations against those who represented The Church to us mere phlebs.
"Mmm...there you go, there still is that intolerance...there were a lot of people who wouldn't believe what was happening to 6 million Jews...and the Gypsies, old people, handicap persons, homosexuals, outspoken Catholic Priests and even political enemies...even when they could smell the odour of burning flesh spewing from the chimneys... or see the train loads of cattle carriages filled with people going only one way... and the majority of Nazis were devout Catholics, would you believe! People will only believe what they want to believe...which is hard to fathom when the facts are hitting you square in the face every time that you turn around."
"You're a bloody cynic, Detective Lind. A bloody cynic. Knowledge is power. Truth will set you free."
"Yeah, well... who said that? Wasn't he hanged or something? Jeezus, let a few of those persons come with us for a couple of weeks and then let them tell me whether the truth set them free...it might make a couple lose their minds, become depressed or even slit their necks...most I'd say! The general population live in a cocooned world of their own making. This nether-world is beyond their comprehension, interest or belief."
There was silence...I thought that he may have agreed with me, but with Dallas Courtney, like a closed book, you could never really discern the story of him.
- - - - -
We were on 'Slip Team' Duties again. Me reluctantly, but I could not permit either Dallas or Shelley to become a two-man team during those times. They were too young and inexperienced as yet. They were always looking for Overtime and anything that meant they had a little more in their pay packets each week. I couldn't be too savage on that need, as I too was like that once upon a time. The result? Me doing 'Slip Team' Duties so they could. Thankfully, they could not volunteer for more than two week-ends in a month, and even if rostered on, there was little chance of being called upon. This only occurred if the Night and Dog Shift boys were snowed under with dead bodies.
This week-end, we struck the lottery numbers!
When I say again, it was about every tenth week-end where we were involved.
We tended to trade these week-end Duties as valuable commodities.
Some guys liked that extra bit of cash in the Pay Packet. While on 'Call-out' duties, you were paid a nominal amount for the entire period from Friday night midnight through to Sunday midnight.
Being 'On-Call' more times than not didn't involve an actual 'Call-out'! And if it did, then normal penalty rates were the go.
We were actually very unlucky from my point of view, being called out for the past three times that we were on 'slip-team' duties.
It was especially difficult if the Call-out occurred on a Sunday evening. Twelve midnight was the latest that you could 'officially' work if you intended being in the office before nine on the following Monday morning.
It was a crazy situation!
That arrangement often was dependant on the case involved.
I'd been in the ludicrous situation where I was called out late on the Sunday evening, well before midnight, and finally, getting to bed the following Tuesday morning. Getting up a couple of hours later to appear at work bleary-eyed and exhausted on the Tuesday before noon!
With some Officers, the whole week-end duty clashed with the favourite Football game, a Birthday celebration or some such family thing. It was obvious who was on the 'Take' for these week-end duties, though no-one complained, chastised or criticised anyone who might dominate the duty.
It was for the young ones, usually!
The older you got, the less flexible your body was to the crazy Duty. A good sleepin on the Sunday morning was a critical thing for us older Officers!
I have never understood how the hierarchy could permit this practise to continue.
Blind Freddy could see that the Night Shift was totally under-resourced!
Mumbles of Staff ceilings, Government cut-backs and unsuitable candidates were the normal avenues of excuse. The number of Resignations and requests to be moved from the Murder Squad Night Shift teams was reaching epidemic proportions with the Hierarchy still ignorant of the reason.
Being overworked was the biggest problem. Tacked onto that was the need for these guys to appear in Court quite regularly to give evidence on a particular case. Coronal Enquiries. DPP Conferences. Forensic Meetings...all these in the 9-5 time-frame that meant these guys were hungry to catch up on lost sleep. Always! Maybe a catnap afterwards before commencing at their normal shift time. A physically sapping arrangement which was not appreciated. It was not uncommon to find exhausted bodies bunked down in the small 'Sleeping Living away from Home Quarters' tucked away in the Basement area of the building. All bods were usually Night Shift guys trying to catch up on some sleep.
Going home was not an option as the general humdrum of life did not stop because Detective Two John Smith had worked night duty and two consecutive days of Court Appearances on several different cases that he was in charge of. The Missus still needed to vacuum the house, do the washing and keep their three-month-old Bubs from screaming its lungs out because Daddy was asleep.
It didn't work like that!
Marriages were the first to show signs of cracks!
I would like to know the proportion of broken marriages amongst Night Shift Detectives... against us Day Shift guys... it had to be bloody high, is all I'll say!
Clem 'Lofty' Hills Series:
Murder Squad Series: