This is the 15th book in the Series featuring the Murder Squad Detectives Joseph Lind and Marjory Hendricks.
Their mettle as Murder Detectives is tested severely as they investigate what appears to be an Assisted Suicide of a dying woman by her distraught husband, the murder of a "wife bashing husband" at the hands of the long suffering wife and the discovery of the bodies of two young teenagers found stuffed into suitcases in the middle of the bush. This leads to Surrogacy practices, illegal adoption and the grooming of young children in the murky waters of child pornography.
I was going slowly bonkers due to my enforced lay-off.
Crumbling under the weight of inactivity that I found myself in.
It was only the second week of my 'Stand-down on Full Pay' regime.
God only knew the passage of time involved before it was finally dealt with.
Waiting for the Standards and Ethics Hearing Panel to hand down their Findings on my Appeal that had to be lodged within the thirty-one-day period that commenced from the time that the Panel handed down their Decision on my future. Forcing me to be laid-off on full pay. My ID card, hand-gun and mobile taken from me.
The Complainants Case was held to be sufficient by the five-man Panel to have me stood down. I was itching at the bit for my Appeal to be submitted for the Panels deliberation.
Their Deliberation forecast to possibly take months!
As far as I was concerned, there was nothing to be considered. My Case of Appeal was cut and dry! No further correspondence to be entered into. While everyone considered my cause to have merit, the wheels of Appeal Motions especially in reversing the original decision, was considered a time-consuming analysis.
Buggered if I knew why!
I reckon if they can make a decision in favour of the Complainants within forty-eight hours, then the same time-frame for an overturn of that decision should be plausible!
I was told to be patient in a patronising and scolding manner by Jennifer Stevenson who had represented me admirably at the Hearing. Her time volunteered at nil cost as she nursed her new-born baby. She on maternity leave from the DPP's Office.
Their most valued Prosecutor now a nursing mother.
Who would have believed such a state of affairs?
Not even my former enjoyable bouts of exercise and surfing my 'patch' seemed to have a positive effect on my melancholia. In sheer frustration and in a bolt of anger, I loaded up the 4WD and headed out.
Bill, my long-suffering son and Malisa, his long term, live-in love, shouting their discontent at my disappearing image. They having lost the sole use of my vehicle. Billy had always ridden my 'Duke' to Uni Classes while Mal did own a car of her own, though her preference was obviously my big Toyota!
They seemed to monopolise its use on the week-ends.... whether I required it or not!
Her penchant of late of wanting to re-paint and re-furnish the inside of the house was disconcerting.
Like a Mother Hen scurrying about preparing a nest, things would suddenly appear. Or disappear, depending on the whim of the moment.
The Garage rapidly filled with items trawled from Op Shops and Second-hand Furniture joints. Projects to commence when time permitted. A new life for a discarded and much loved piece of furniture past its use-by date!
All junk to me!
I must admit though, her preliminary attempts at resurrection were both spectacular and clever, even to this shallow person of very little imagination, so she indicated regularly.
She would never hear those positive exaltations from me, though!
The result however, of her industriousness, was a very difficult entrance into my once loved man-shed!
I guess I could have retrieved its usage, stamping my authority on its ownership while I lolled about in a fugue state, being self-absorbed in my worries. Giving it a 'Make-over' which I had promised myself from early times to achieve what all Handymen desired. That perfect 'Man's Shed' of order, not mayhem
Somehow, I lacked the drive. The will. Wanting instead to farewell this situation for a while. Run away from the state of affairs that I found myself in.
As some would whisper!
The conversation always seemed to drift towards my relocating to the spacious Granny Flat, where she and Bill had resided unperturbed and out of my hair for some three years now.
The airy, sun-filled dwelling attached to the rear of the house had been built for my Mother-in-law after my wife was murdered. The old girl had volunteered to look after Bill who had only been ten at the time. I had gladly taken up her kind offer as I was petrified of the thought of bringing up my son on my own. The old girl had donated most of the money towards the extension after the sale of her house. The well-designed and airy Grannie Flat became her home until she died some seven years later.
It in turn became the home for my mother stroke grandmother for a few short years before she too succumbed to old age and a heart attack.
I must admit unequivocally, that both elderly women did a first-rate job with Billy from the tender age of ten up until the age of nineteen. We were completely ignorant of both women's worsening situation. Both remained stoic right until the end.
By then, my son had grown into a very responsible teenager of ample intelligence and a healthy lust to learn.
Malisa and Bill had become an item and it seemed only fitting that they co-habitat in the vacated area.
Now of course, Mal especially was hinting at larger quarters. A direct swap of accommodation seemed like a good idea to her.
Bill and Malisa's invasion into my 'portion' of the house was often and usually unannounced. Especially around meal times it would seem! My famous Spag-bole a favourite, with my Stew coming in a close second when all else failed.
Which was often!
The arrangement for me to swap the living quarters with them I think, was suggested so that Malisa could begin her grand vision of remodelling.
Of my bloody house!
Bill appeared to be completely ignorant of the hints and innuendos that these overt clues engendered. He, I had thought, was an astute and 'with it' person, so it seemed. How wrong I appeared to be!
Don't get me wrong; I had come to love Mal as the daughter-in-law that she truly is.... except for the absence of a Marriage Certificate which didn't faze me at all.... then why should it have been mentioned, if that be the case, I reprimanded myself!
I was becoming an old, stodgy, grumbling, miserable, self-absorbed tramp that everyone was starting to object about! The absence of a regular shower, shave or haircut giving the appearance of a homeless person.
One not too concerned with appearance!
One who didn't give a jot about such things and who remained unconcerned at what others thought.
People were beginning to become concerned with my regression, hinting at depression or other malignant maladies.
I stopped out the front of a Second-hand Caravan Retail Joint just off the highway in an outer Sydney suburb as I headed towards... the setting sun! You had to head in some direction, and as east of Sydney required a boat that I was never likely to own, then heading for the setting sun was the preferred option, to my way of thinking!
As misguided and warped, as some seemed to think at the time!
Only Freud and my subconsciousness would have any inkling as to why I had propped there.
But on a spur of the moment whim, I purchased a compact, second-hand, 'Off-Road' Van with A/C, Solar Panels, Satellite Dish, flat-screen TV and sound system, Back-up generator, slide-out BBQ, roll-out awning, toilet and shower and an additional outside shower. An additional small fridge/Freezer for the beer was a pre-requisite in any bargaining ploy!
Three days and several frantic calls to my Credit Union later, I was the proud Owner of said compact Caravan with two single beds, new linen, two Doonas, a top of the range sleeping bag, melamine crockery and mugs and the essential cookery paraphernalia and utensils one needs when camping out in the bush by one-self.
Loaded to the gills with food and beer, I headed west towards that setting sun.
In my once a week report to Marge Hendricks, my Detective partner of note, I was informed sarcastically that I was not chasing the Dream; instead I was running from it!
I had no comprehension of the meaning of her scolding words.
I followed my nose, closely skirting the course of the River Murray, turning right at the junction with the Darling River to head north, following this mighty river as close as roads of any type permitted. Often dirt tracks and farm ruts.
Ending up some one hundred kilometres out of Broken Hill on an isolated bend, a Billabong of the river, where five years previously I had spent three days wading around in the dried-out sludge, recovering the skeletal remains of a little-known drug mule to the Bow-Legged Hog Riders Bikie Gang. A small calibre slug removed from the skull matching that taken from the skull of my wife. She killed and buried in a shallow grave in the back-blocks of SA. She at the time, working undercover as an AFP Officer.
Her sudden death leaving my ten-year-old son and I shattered. Me terrified of the responsibility of rearing my son alone and absolutely gutted by my loss.
I didn't have any real motive, any idea as to why I was now camped beside this distant cut-off bend in the river or what the psychological mechanisms were in place to make me bivouac at such a lonesome location. But I remained there for five days taking in the surrounding bush, the dust haze and the pockets of sunlit beams that skittered through the River Gum canopy.
The Billabong had once again filled to the brim with river water and now was a languid, dark sheen that reflected sky and cloud, canopy and starlight.
I was usually up just before the darkness skewed into a lighter black. Before the sun decided that it was time. The frost on the ground and a bite in the below zero temperature my wake-up alarm. I would don my LED head torch and run several kilometres back along the track. A bloody rough track I might mentioned where skinned knees and elbows were the bloody effect of this slightly insane morning exercise regime. My torch beam invariably disturbing the early birds of dawn. A mob of Grey Roos with Emus intermingled. A Goanna slowly waddling towards the Billabong. An arthritic gait of sorts, as the sun had yet to heat its body.
And as the fingers of grey slowly gave way to light, a white mass of Corellas broadcasting their stridency at my intrusion; a solitary Crow mournfully issued its lament; a brilliant coloured flock of Plains Rosellas chattered quietly amongst themselves as they took wing in fright; a brown scudding cloud of Finches exuberantly cheeped its salutation at the invading fingers of dawn besting the darkness of night.
It was beautiful.
Clem 'Lofty' Hills Series:
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