This is the 22nd Instalment in the Series surrounding the activities of the Murder Squad Detective Joseph Lind and his two young partners Shelley Shields and Dallas Courtney.
Young Bradley Mc.Cormack-Hughes was not the eldest sibling but the eldest son who, as Heir Apparent, would eventually obtain by birthright, one of the largest Cattle Stations in the land still in private hands.
He was found stabbed to death in the back of his Ute in the Headland Parking Area of a popular Newcastle surfing beach.
Was it sibling rivalry and jealousy that caused his too early demise?
Or was it something that the family were completely ignorant of? A side of his character that was unknown to them?
His constant and faithful dog was never found.
Could the murder of the young lad be related to the pedigree of his dog, stolen to enhance the bloodline of some Breeding Kennel?
The Homicide had become a Cold Case and inherited by Detective Joseph Lind and Dallas Courtney when they were joined by a new partner in the form of Shelley Shields. The Case then four years old and developing cob-webs.
Little trace evidence of consequence was found at the scene.
No plausible reason for the homicide.
Without his faithful dog beside him it was a lonely way to die, thousands of kilometres from family and country..
He had seen it before in pictures, photographs and on the Television.
But none of those glimpses gave it justice.
This was the first time that he had seen the Ocean in person, so to speak.
He was enthralled.
Its groans and moans as it dashed against the rocks of the headland.
Its constant movement.
Its sheer joy as it bubbled and burbled its way up the smoothness of the sand of the beach reminding him of his days in School when all the kids would erupt out onto the Playground at the sound of the Lunchtime break bell. Cheering and jeering. Jumping about screaming. Full of enthusiasm. Of life. Rolling out of the little Classroom like a human wave, exuberant and full of happiness.
Not a care in the World, much the same as every wave that dashed to the shore.
He'd stood and watched it from the Headland Parking area, being passed by other Beach-goers as they walked down the path to the sand. He standing there looking like some alien amongst the normal garbed City-slickers going to the Beach. The girls.... WOW.... the girls in next to nothing. Skimpy bikinis that left little to a verdant imagination as though his young eyes displayed x-ray vision. He was blown away. A towel tossed nonchalantly over a bare shoulder. Guys in baggy Board-shorts hanging down around the crutch level. A surfboard under their arm. A towel over the edge of the board.
He in well-worn but comfortable jeans. A western long sleeve shirt. Buttoned tightly at the wrist. A belt that had a sizable belt buckle. The weight of which seemed to threaten the belt's very purpose. To hold up his jeans. A hat that shaded his face and most of his wide shoulders. Riding Boots that would never know the joy of Boot Polish. A clean-shaven face with boyish good looks. Alert light blue eyes that didn't miss a detail. Full of the wonders of Nature.
His world was the dry, dust bowl of the far interior. Where rain meant a celebration. A dance in the dirt that quickly became mud. The laugh of a boy who was destined to own, to manage, to run a Cattle Station half the size of Belgium out on the north-western plains. Two separate properties divided by the NSW/Queensland border.
He'd been for a swim late on the preceding day. Enthralled with the saltiness. The buoyancy of it. The power to pick up his body and fling it towards the sand. To bowl him over like that first rush of the local river when the rains came!
He was dead that night.
Never to wake again.
To see the beauty of the Ocean on its endless quest to charge the battlements of the coast line. To see the bubbly ripples run up the gradient of the smooth sand. Exuberant. Never losing that energy, that enthusiasm to try and breach the sandy shore.
He was stabbed once in the chest as he lay on his swag in the back of his Ute. The canvas canopy rolled back so that he could see the stars before he fell asleep. The sound of the Ocean nearby, a hypnotic balm.
"No Camping" signs clearly displayed around the large parking area on the headland. The signs always ignored by those looking for a one night prop.
He wasn't camping!
Just propped for the night; or two, before he headed further south to the 'Big Smoke' and his Uncle's place to bunk down for a couple of nights. He then intended heading for home again, via a circuitous tour following the course of the Murray and Darling Rivers. Calling in on this scenic route home to see several mates whom he had befriended while doing his Ag. Degree at the University of New England. To view the Property on the Victorian side of the border called Murray Downs that his father was in the slow process of purchasing. To use as a 'fattening' area for the cattle raised on the semi-arid Minnaburra Station.
His swag, his ever-close mate, his dog 'A.U. ', a dusty coloured Kelpie and a large 12V camping fridge bolted to the tray of his Ute. A change of clothes neatly folded into an overnight bag in the cabin, his only goods.
He always travelled light.
Less goods and chattels to be divvied up, packed away or to decide on what to wear was his dry response when a remark was offered.
"No arguments 'bout who was to get what." He'd explain with a boyish grin and a twinkle in the eye.
Forgetting the Farm that was to eventually be his inheritance.
His siblings had no real desire to live the lonely life of a remote Farmer; so they had said sadly when first questioned after the young lad's body was found. Denying any claim that now, on the death of their sibling, they would be in line to inherit. A sizable Property of some value out west and a Business Empire away from the dusty interior of the Cattle Station that had been judiciously amassed over several generations.
- - - - -
We'd been in Court all day awaiting our turn to be announced. Why the three of us were so summoned and left to warm three uncomfortable chairs, I'll never know. But that was the instruction of the DPP Prosecutor, so we could not refuse.
'The three of you, just in case,' was the Instruction.
It would not be the first time that the three of us had been summoned only to sit on our hands for two days. Eventually being told that our time and evidence would now, not be required.
Since my partner of six years, Marjory Hendricks had left the Force to give birth to triplets, I had been partnering two young Detectives. Marge eventually offered her resignation, as caring for three bouncing triplets she considered more satisfying then sharing Homicide Cases with the best of the best Murder Dee in the Department.
Shelley Anne Shields was by comparison to my other partner Dallas Courtney, a seasoned Police Officer. She had come through Traffic and then Robbery for five years before settling on becoming an astute and capable Murder Dee under my wing. One day she would be that Dee! She had been mentored by one of the original Dee's in the place. Brian 'Woody' Wood who had been a mate of the Boss, DS John Clifford Church aka 'Abbey' since the old Police Academy Days and was, along with the 2IC of the Day Shift Squad, 'Sonny' Liston, the one who had always mentored and tutored any new 'wet behind the ears' Detectives 'In Training.'
Shelley had been with Woody for only four short months before Woody suffered a massive stroke.
He had been kept alive by machines for some weeks before that horrible decision had to be made by his family to have the machines turned off.
Woody took another five days to slowly die.
His wife told the story of him fighting every minute of the day before she eventually whispered lovingly into his ear that she would forever love him and that he was the best husband, father, protector, provider and lover that any woman could ever hope for....and she promised that she would do everything in her power to always keep the family together as he had done....and that if he was getting tired, she gave her permission for him to go.
She kissed him on the lips as he exhaled his last breath.
His entire, enlarged family around him, crowding into the room.
Dallas Courtney, my other younger partner, on the other hand, had come straight from the Academy with glowing Reports and high Pass Marks on every subject tackled. He was 'given' to me because of Marge Hendricks imminent Baby Leave. Some months before Shelley was left on her own in fact. Joining Dallas and me created a three-man team. Something that I knew, would never be permitted for too long! You could see the hierarchy circling, waiting impatiently for Abbey to disband the trio as it was considered a no-no.
I had no idea!
It was hoped that Dallas and I would become a formidable duo. That took some time to come to the fore with me, perhaps, ultra-critical of his future in the Squad.
To me, he seemed to be a square peg in a round hole!
Abbey was most scathing of my assessment of the young lad, blaming me for not being able to mentor with any degree of thoughtfulness and patience. Things changed when Shelley was also placed under my wing as a short-term solution until something of more substance could be found for the situation.
A three-man Murder Squad Team was creating all sorts of precedencies and raised eye-brows from the Hierarchy, though our success rate became second to none in a very short period of time.
Abbey was willing to let the status quo exist though he was taking some flak for that decision. Both inside and out of the Murder Squad ranks.
He had hinted on several occasions that the arrangement would be up for 'Review' in a short period of time. None of the three of us wanted to be split, now more than satisfied with the way that we fed off one another.
I was of the opinion that if the decision was made to split us up, then I fully endorsed the partnership of Shields and Courtney as they had shown me sufficient proof that they would, with experience, make a formidable team. They could operate at this time, as a satisfactory Homicide team.
Where that left me, was a bit of a quandary! Alone again, though ample young, enthusiastic Officers coming straight from the Academy and selecting to be placed into the Murder Squad ranks, would keep me dutifully employed as a mentor for some time.
I had mellowed...become a better person with more patience since my successful teaming with Estelle 'Tellie' Sanchez as my life-partner who was a Team Leader in the Scientific Forensic Trace Branch.
The final decision, so it would seem, would never be up to any of us three!
Clem 'Lofty' Hills Series:
Murder Squad Series: