This is the eighteenth instalment in the Series involving Murder Squad Detectives Joseph Lind and Marjory Hendricks.
An avid young bush walker and Camper dies from Snake bite.
An attractive young woman goes missing. Her remains discovered three months later in a lonely bush setting. Forensic evidence scarce. The list of Suspects small. With scant evidence and no witnesses to link any of those Suspects to the Crime, the Murder starts to lose impetus.
Another experienced young camper suffers a similar fate from Snake bite at a remote camping site. Her parents adamant that Snake bite was not a plausible cause of death.
Another murder of a young woman is being handled by another two man Murder Squad team.
is there a link to those found in remote bushland?
What could be the alternatives? Something more sinister?
Until that moment of clarity.....that light bulb moment, the case seems to go around in circles losing momentum!
We at one time, would use tents and swags. Going away for an extended week-end at least twice a year on what became known as the 'Boys Time Out'.
A bonding session between father and son.
Now of course, with Billy close to twenty-two years of age, these were just week-ends where we could chill out together. Two adults enjoying each other's company. Ben, Billy's best mate since Kindergarten, would usually go with us. A habit that I guess I had encouraged at one time knowing that 'Dad' could not enthral the young Bill as much as when he was eight or nine years of age.
Ben had never really known his Dad, just a memory of him bashing the tripe out of his mother and often disappearing, returning battered and bruised from some week-end of binge drinking. Or some other alcoholic event, never fully explained.
So I guess that I had become the surrogate father. A role that I rather enjoyed as Ben was a good kid. Basically, it was he more adopting me as his presence was for-ever at my place. There had been rather overt manipulations by both boys at some point to pair Ben's mother Maureen and I off as a couple. Sure, we had enjoyed each other's company on those occasions that we managed to hook up, and sure, there was a bit of a spark, but nothing ever seemed to come of it. To tell the truth, I was never too sure why we hadn't paired up. She was a nice person, a nice woman and quite witty which was a complimentary quality to my superb sense of humour!
So I always told myself.
The two boys now in residence in the main part of my house with their partners.
I forced....no, more happily relegated, to the Granny Flat that was tacked onto the rear of the house with the backyard pool a decent dive through my bedroom picture window. Of course, Tellie, Lestelle Sanchez, a Forensic technician of some note and my live-in partner for some eighteen months now, would chide me when-ever I bought this up, telling me in no uncertain terms to act my age!
She and I have been an item (as it is so simplistically described by the 'younger set') for close on a year I guess, before we began cohabiting in the re-painted, re-furnished, delightful, airy and sunny Grannie Flat. While women seem to remember these dates better than men for some reason, I must admit to being an almost different person since these arrangements have existed. I guess I had known Tellie less than three months when she surprised me with the suggestion of shacking up together! I couldn't have thought of a better arrangement and had worked feverishly at painting out every room while Tellie, Malisa and Ben's 'live-in' Samantha hunted the second-hand market and Furniture Stores for the preferred d?cor items. Lugging them home to fill the available space in my Man's Shed!
I must admit, the results were outstanding though you would only hear me say so during a weak moment!
These living arrangements have been in existence for some time now with Bill's partner, Malisa doing remarkable things with the d?cor and external appearance of the place. A real dynamo of a woman who held a very responsible position with the Australian Federal Police Force. An Overseer Operative of an Electronic Surveillance and Cyber Investigation Team. What that actually meant and entailed we were never to learn as talking of her responsibilities could ensure a time in Prison. But at least that usually entailed a nine to six working day that would only differ if the security of the Western World was being challenged.
Unlike my ridiculous staggered and often ad hoc hours of most weeks.
Bill, on the other hand, often would enthral us with tales of Cases that he was involved in as a Junior Law Clerk with the DPP's Office. This I imagine, would have him front and centre at the Chief Prosecutor's Office if it became common knowledge.
Ben had gained employment with a high-flying Law Enterprise. Again, the need for privacy of individual Cases would more than likely be ignored.
I was waiting for the day that both sat on opposite sides of the Court representing some criminal matter. I promised myself that no matter what, I would ensure that I sat in the Public gallery for that one!
- - - - -
It had been a very hot, long summer with record temperatures extending into mid-Autumn.
We at last, had managed to snare a four-day week-end that suited us all.
We were camped in some distant, secluded camping spot in the Barrington Tops National Park, having arrived there early on the Friday after leaving home around four in the morning. Well before the first fingers of light peeked over the horizon. Me still half asleep lounging in the rear seat of my new 4WD vehicle. The caravan behind, I hoped! Billy driving. Ben in the passenger seat. The music up loud. The thumping of the base reverberating throughout the vehicle...and my body!
This arrangement, the choice of music the Boys idea, not mine. Luckily, I had ear-plugs to lessen the impact!
"Dad?" The two suggested after we had hitched up the caravan and checked that we had everything required for a four day stay in the bush. "Dad? You still look half asleep. I'll drive if you like. You hop in the back seat, if you like...get a bit more shut eye."
Bill was a thoughtful lad, though the music was starting to affect that sentiment, that opinion of him that I had!
With everything now in the caravan, there was very little to do in setting up camp. Maybe level up the van and roll out the awning, gather sufficient wood for the built-in steel BBQ settings provided with their 'swing out' pot and billy holder. These positioned thoughtfully at regular intervals around the camping area. This superb set-up complimented by heavy, hardwood picnic table and bench seat arrangements located in close proximity. A large heap of sawn timber off-cuts at the Camp Ground entrance ensured that we never had to get out the small gas BBQ slide-out on the van.
The smell of burning eucalypt sawn off-cuts while you cooked the meal over the open flames was always pleasurable to me...even when the breeze was blowing in the wrong direction saturating your clothing in that distinctive aroma of stale wood smoke!
We had often suggested that our women accompany us on these sojourns but trying to organise 'long week-ends' for the six of us was all but impossible. The women apologetically adding that the house devoid of male noises and smells was as just as good a break for them as sitting shivering beside a roaring fire out in the bush, being eaten alive by insects and other nasties and accosted by snakes and goannas at every turn.
I picked up that there was some reticence by the three females to accompany us. A decidedly unenthusiastic attitude that my superior detective skills deduced!
We did not even unhitch the van from my new 4WD, leaving it hooked up and levelled for the entire stay. Intending to either bush-walk or ride our mountain bikes along the various Fire Trails further into the bush.
With two eighty litre freshwater tanks, solar panels and a generator for power, we could stay bush indefinitely...or until the beer ran out at least.
An invigorating splash-pool created by a small waterfall nearby was our washing point. Chilly but clean...and if that failed to excite, there was always the external warm shower facilities on the rear of the Caravan.
It had long ago been agreed upon that I would sleep in my comfortable swag under the Van Awning while the two boys slept in comfort on the inner-spring mattresses of the single beds inside the Van. This supposedly because of the fact that Billy did nothing but complain about my snoring on the one night when we had shared the Van together. It never woke me, was my constant remark and the sounds of the two boys snoring sounded like the Production Test Line in a Chainsaw Factory!
But they never woke each other up...go figure!
I've often wondered if I've been conned on that point!
While early morning 'wake-up' calls for the Job are an extremely testing event, when-ever I am asleep in my Swag under the awning of the Caravan, I invariably awake as the sun's early morning light awakens the bush and the lazy ground mist slithers across the nearby grassy surface of the camp ground. I have had a Goanna or two and Roos come up close to sniff my presence and then go back to their early morning regime. As the Goanna would amble away, it would be constantly bombarded by Magpies, Hooded Lapwings or Noisy Minors worried about their nests being invaded for that early egg feast. King Parrots and Eastern Rosellas would strut their stuff chewing on the grass seeds. Wattlebirds would squawk their guttural morning call.
I'd be up, have the fire-pit roaring, the kettle bubbling away and bacon, eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms cooking as the aroma forced the boys from the Van.
Bleary-eyed they would mumble their discontent of the morning.
I'd be as chirpy as a flock of Rosellas.
We'd tidied up, kitted up and locked up the van and truck by the time that the sun peeked through the crowns of the trees.
We'd wheeled our bikes over to the edge of the track ready to ride the fire trail when a dusty Utility went past us at a million miles an hour. A cocky's-comb of dust and stones were kicked up by its passage causing our sudden disappearance into its midst. Coughing and spluttering as we re-emerged.
"Bloody hell!" I exclaimed. "What a bloody idiot!"
If we had started off up the track on our bikes two minutes earlier, God knows what our fate would have been. Bonnet trophies more than likely.
The boys somehow linking our safe passage from the incident to their bleary, belated welcome to the morning.
After a round of stirring banter, we quickly forgot the incident as we mounted our bikes and began what we hoped would be an exhilarating day of bike riding along the Gilfoyle's Gully Track that took us deeper into the hinterland.
Clem 'Lofty' Hills Series:
Murder Squad Series: