He had been somewhat reticent at first and it had taken a little bit of coaxing to get Shane to open up to us, but once he had started there was no stopping him and he was soon talking freely and giving us everything we needed.
By the time we were finally done, about an hour and a half later, we knew just about everything that had happened to him since he had first met up with Jarvis, which had been just after he had run away from home, about six months beforehand. We also knew quite a bit about things that had happened to others who had been drawn into Jarvis’ web of deceit and illegal activities and as far as we were now concerned Jarvis’ days were numbered. We now had enough information to haul him in and charge him, but we both knew that everything would have to be absolutely ‘by the book’. There just couldn’t be any fuck-ups on this one!
When we were finally done, with Shane’s statement written into our notepads and duly signed (which I suggested we do simply as precautionary measure until it could be typed up and brought back to him to be signed again) Helen went off in search of Shane’s doctor, while I spoke briefly with the uniformed guard stationed outside Shane’s room, which happened to be a different guy to the one who had been there when we had arrived.
I was a little worried that someone other than the police might try and get into the kid’s room, but thankfully the guard knew who Jarvis and some of his henchmen were, and he knew how to reach both Helen and myself if anything should happen. This wouldn’t of course stop any legitimate police officer from being able to get in there, should that be who had succeeded earlier, but there was really little that we could do about that.
On the way back to the car Helen was a little quiet, as if there was something that was bothering her. I said nothing, thinking that she would let me in on it all in good time, if she wanted to. When we reached the car and had climbed in and shut the doors Helen turned to me and asked, ‘So, what did you make of that then?’
‘About the fact that someone was there and trying to talk to the kid right before we were.’
‘I’m not too sure. Some other cops trying to steal our thunder, maybe?’ I answered.
‘I dunno. Could be, I suppose,’ she replied. ‘It’s either that, or they weren’t cops at all and someone was trying to get at the kid before we could. Either way I’d say it could be trouble, and that really pisses me off!’
‘But if they weren’t cops, then why would they say they were? And why would they question him as if that was what they were?’
‘That, I don’t know. Maybe they were trying to find out how far the kid was willing to go?’
‘So, what do we do now then?’
‘We need to find out who they were for starters,’ she answered with a sigh.
‘How about the security tapes?’ I ventured. ‘I noticed the cameras in the corridors . . . maybe they might have caught something? If we can get a look at them we might at least be able to get an idea as to who it was?’
‘Now you’re thinking.’
‘And I also think that we need to get Shane out of there as quickly as possible, just in case Jarvis or one of his pals does actually try to do some snooping around.’
‘I agree,’ Helen remarked, while she searched through her pockets for her mobile phone. ‘I think I might have a quiet word with the boss and see if I can’t get it fixed so that we get both Shane and Jimmy out of the way for a while. At least until they’re needed in court.’
I watched as she flipped open her mobile phone and dialled the number, then put the phone to her ear. After what seemed an extraordinarily long period of time, during which time Helen was drumming the fingers of her free hand on the car’s steering wheel (which was something that soon started to annoy me), she finally got through to the Inspector.
‘Yes Inspector. We have the boy’s statement,’ she said. ‘I think we ought to try and get both him and Jimmy out of sight for a while.’
There was silence for a while as she listened to what the Inspector was saying. She then proceeded to tell him about the visitors that Shane had had before we had arrived. When she had finished telling him that, it was once more her turn to listen.
‘Yes sir . . . No sir. Not yet . . . Understood sir.’
Helen pressed a button and ended the call, then folded the phone closed and slid it back into the pocket of her jacket.
‘Well?’ I asked.
‘He said he spoke to some of his cronies about the case this morning and he’s going to call in a few favours,’ she answered. ‘He also agrees that we need to get both of the boys hidden away, so he’s going to see what strings he can pull for us.’
‘Not much, except that we had better get ourselves over to the Motor Pool before we get too carried away with anything else. Even though old Donohue put us back for a while this morning the boss wants us to make sure we get over there and see what they’ve got in store for us.’
‘Terrific!’ I answered.
* * * * *
It was nearing lunch time when Helen started her car and pointed it toward Redfern, where the Motor Pool was located. There proved to be quite a bit of traffic on the roads today, but we still had a good run across town and without too many hold ups, so it wasn’t long before we had pulled to a stop.
The Motor Pool was located in what could really only be described as an industrial area. There certainly wasn’t anything pretty to look at, but even knowing that I had expected something a little more up-market than what we had found. The open gateway in a wire mesh fence, which we had parked in front of, led to several rather dilapidated looking sheds with dozens of cars parked haphazardly in crooked rows before them.
‘You don’t have to look so down in the mouth,’ Helen said to me as we got out of the car. ‘It might not look like much, but Donny and his team, they get the job done out here in the boondocks.’
‘I’ll take you word for it,’ I replied.
‘So, I haven’t heard anything about your hot date from last night yet?’ Helen casually remarked as we headed through the open gateway and weaved our way through the rows of parked police vehicles in various stages of disrepair. ‘How did it all go?’
I glanced across at her and noticed that she was studying me.
‘You can tell me to mind my own business if you like,’ she added.
‘Nah, I wouldn’t do that,’ I replied. ‘In fact, it was a pretty damn good night, all things considered.’
‘That’s good then. I hope you didn’t cop any flack over it from the rest of the boys this morning?’
‘Not too much,’ I replied with a wry grin, which didn’t go unnoticed.
‘And what exactly is that supposed to mean then?’ she asked, and so I told her briefly about the run in I had with Joe that morning before she and the Inspector had arrived. She was still laughing about it when we knocked on Donohue’s office door a few minutes later and he greeted us wearing grubby overalls, an unshaven face and an expression that would do any Drill Sergeant proud.
‘And about time too,’ he scolded as he stood in the doorway of his office.
‘Yeah, yeah, whatever you reckon Harry!’ Helen replied. ‘Don’t go being like a bear with a sore head just because we drank you under the table last night! And besides, apart from chasing you all over the bloody city, we do have real police work to do you know.’
‘Hmmmmppppffff,’ he snorted as he pushed between us and headed off in the direction of a distant shed.
Helen looked at me and shrugged and so, figuring out for ourselves that we probably should be following him we set off in the same direction.
‘Is he always like this?’ I whispered as he hurried along the row of parked cars.
‘Not always,’ she replied. ‘Just most of the time.’
‘Oh, that’s just great!’ I replied.
After dodging our way through the rows of parked cars we soon came to the shed that Harry had been leading us to, and into which he quickly disappeared through a small door to one side of the main roller door. Helen followed him through the door and I followed her, with both of us eventually finding ourselves standing in a dark void, silent and without light, and smelling of grease and dirt.
‘Where’d you get to Harry?’ Helen called out.
‘Just keep ya shirt on luv,’ a voice answered from the shadows. We could hear some grumbling coming from the far side of the shed, which was followed by the sound of something being dropped echoing loudly throughout the dark void.
‘Are you all right back there?’ I called out to him, but just as I did so we heard the flick of a switch with the lights suddenly springing to life in an office on the far side of the dimly lit work area we had found ourselves standing in. We could see Harry leaning against a far doorway with his arms folded in front of him, but that was about all, as the rest of the shed was still in darkness.
‘Never better, lad,’ he called back to me, smiling.
‘All right then Harry, what’s with all the secret agent stuff?’ Helen asked as we started toward him. ‘What sort of a wild goose chase is the Inspector sending us on now?’
‘Well, there ain’t exactly any chasing involved, I can guarantee you that, luv!’ Harry remarked.
‘OK then wise ass . . . just what is involved then?’ Helen asked him.
Casually Harry reached in through the doorway he was leaning against and flicked another switch, which quickly lit up the remainder of the building. Helen and I both turned to see what it was that we had been dragged out here for, into the ass end of the city, and I think that we were both equally stunned by what we found ourselves looking at.
‘Well then! What do you think of that beauty?’ Harry chirped, taking great pleasure in our state of shock.
‘Just what the fuck is this?’ I asked, knowing full well what it was we were now facing; a float, of the type that is used in parades, currently covered in fading flowers and peeling paintwork from the last time it had been used.
‘Well, pretty boy, it’s your assignment,’ Donohue replied. ‘As ordered by the Minister himself, or so they tell me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some real work to do today.’
He pushed his way between us and gave a bit of a chuckle, then we watched as he headed back toward the building he had come from.
‘OK then, what’s it for?’ I asked Helen after Donohue had left.
‘What would you reckon it’s for, Rick?’ Helen answered. ‘What’s the next big event on the social calendar for this fair city?’
‘Bullshit!’ I spat. ‘You ain’t gonna get me having anything to do with that’
‘What’s wrong with you? Afraid someone might see you on it and find out your little secret? If you must know, a different branch of the service gets this job every year, or that’s how it has been for the last few years at least.’
‘OK then, but just what the hell are we supposed to be doing with the damn thing?’
‘At a guess, I’d say that it’s time for someone to give it the old once a year makeover,’ Helen replied. ‘You know, splash a bit of paint around, replace the old flowers and streamers and generally give it a bit of a spruce up!’
‘Christ, I didn’t come here to join the circus you know?’
‘Yeah, like you had any choice in the matter. Just wake up to yourself, will you? Haven’t you heard how things work around here? They say! We do! It’s as simple as that.’
I looked at her for a moment, then shifted my stare toward the float and studied it. ‘That doesn’t mean I have to like it, does it?’ I asked.
‘Christ, Rick,’ she chuckled. ‘If you did like it, then I really would be worried.’
‘So, what do we do now?’
‘We get some reinforcements, that’s what we do. We’ve still got some time up our sleeves to get everything ship shape for the big-wigs. I’m sure we’ll manage it.’
I wasn’t sure exactly when the Mardi Gras parade was exactly, apart from having this general idea that it was still a few weeks away, but I did have the feeling that Helen was being slightly optimistic about our chances of having this float ready in time.
I hoped that her reinforcements would prove up to the task.
* * * * *
We stepped back outside into bright sunlight, and while Helen pulled her phone from her pocket I started to browse through the rows of cars that were parked around us, running my hands over vehicles that even my inexperienced eye would call ‘classics’. Helen began to put her plan into place, and within the hour there were people walking through the Motor Pool gates and heading in our direction after spotting the pair of us near the shed that housed our ugly duckling.
I had spent part of that hour wandering amongst the cars that surrounded us, wondering just how they had ended up here. I guessed that the Motor Pool may also be the place where impounded vehicles were taken; but that was only a guess.
As I leant against the door of an old Chevrolet, black with its rear wings painted silver and with its paint work dulled by a layer of dust and grime, it was Adam who I found myself thinking of once more. He was something of an old car buff, which in itself I found rather odd considering that the vehicle he drove himself was so new that the paint was hardly even dry. I just knew that had he been here with me right now he would have been salivating over all these piles of rust, just like a rabid dog.
Looking across at Helen I could see her pacing up and down as she spoke to someone on the phone, so I decided to take the opportunity to give Adam a call. I flipped open my mobile phone and pressed his number then put it to my ear. I heard it ring several times before it was answered by someone with a young female voice, one that I hadn’t heard before.
‘Action Designs. May I help you?’ she said.
‘Hi. Is Adam there please?’ I replied.
‘Yes, he is. May I ask who is calling?’
‘Just tell him that it’s Rick, please,’ I answered.
‘One moment please. I’m putting you through.’
I spent the next minute listening to some inane instrumental version of a pop song that was about twenty years old, then there was a click and I heard Adam say, ‘Hello handsome. How is the day going for my favourite Detective?’
‘Pretty steady, surfer boy. How is yours going?’
‘Up until you called it’s been rather dull actually. Where are you, and what are you doing?’
‘Redfern,’ I answered. ‘At the Motor Pool, and leaning up against something I’m sure that you’d give your right testicle for!’
‘Yeah, what’s that?’
‘A black Chevrolet sedan. About a ’57 model I think. There’s a stack of old motors out here. They must all be impounded or something.’
He let out a long low whistle. I just laughed at him.
‘What’s so funny?’ he asked.
‘Nothing much, mate. Just the thought of you drooling over some of these old wrecks, that’s all.’
‘Let me get you in the back seat of that Chevy and it’ll be more than that old wreck that I’d be drooling over, let me tell you!’ I turned around and took a look in through the rear window at the large and comfortable looking red leather seat.
‘Yeah . . . promises, promises!’ I replied.
‘So, what are you doing tonight then?’ he casually asked.
‘I . . . errrrr . . . haven’t really planned that far ahead yet. I think I really need to head home to my unit and feed the fish and whatever. You won’t mind will you?’
‘No, of course not. I do understand that you still need your own space, but you know that I am going to miss having you wake up beside me in the morning, don’t you.’
For a moment I didn’t answer him, preferring instead to gnaw on my bottom lip while I ran a bunch of confusing thoughts through my head.
‘Stop gnawing on you bottom lip,’ I heard him say, which quickly brought me back to the real world.
‘How the hell could you know I was doing that?’ I asked him.
‘Give me a little credit won’t you. There’s quite a bit that I’ve picked up about you, you know. Or hadn’t you noticed that we’ve been dating for a while now?’
‘Sorry mate, I was just thinking. Plus I’m copping the look from Helen, so I better get going in a sec.’
‘Forget about Helen. What was it you were you thinking about?’
‘Ummm . . . about asking you if you felt like slumming it in the suburbs tonight?’
‘What time do you want me to pick you up?’ he quickly asked.
‘How about six thirty? I should be done by then.’
‘Ok then. It’s a date,’ he chirped.
‘Great. I’ll see you then,’ I replied.
‘You can count on it,’ he answered, then disconnected.
With a new spring in my step I pushed off the Chevy and started back toward Helen, who was standing by the door to the shed with two of her little army of helpers and her arms crossed in front of her, frowning at me.
‘Find anything you like?’ she asked, her voice edged with sarcasm.
‘Yeah, I’ll take the Chevy,’ I answered. ‘Will I get a warranty with that?’
‘Fuckin’ wise ass!’ she replied, before cocking her thumb toward the two strangers and introducing them. One was an Asian guy with the name of Jimmy Tan, while the other was a rather freaky looking girl named Elvira, whose appearance totally matched them name.
I said hello to them, with Jimmy giving me the old up and down inspection, which I tried to ignore. What I couldn’t ignore though was the body hugging t-shirt he wore.
It said; ‘I WANT TO BE BARBIE . . . THE BITCH HAS EVERYTHING!’
‘Oh man, I’ve just got to get me one of those,’ I said to him.
‘Oh, this old thing?’ he gushed in a voice that just yelled gay. ‘It’s a one of a kind I’m afraid. I painted it myself, so I just don’t think there’s any chance of that happening.’
‘That’s too bad,’ I replied. ‘I reckon they’d be great sellers!’
‘Hmmmm . . . you really think so?’ he asked, while pulling the shirt out of his pants and holding the bottom out while he tried to look down and get a better look at it.
‘Hell yeah,’ I answered. ‘Set up a stall on the street come parade time and you’d be rushed off your feet.’
‘All right you pair, that’s enough chit-chat. We’ve got work to do. Besides, I don’t want Jimmy here distracted . . . he’s got to come up with some sort of design for this bloody float.’
‘Well then,’ I replied, ‘we’d best get cracking. But don’t you think it’d be a good idea if we had some lunch first!’
‘There’s a great pub just a couple of blocks away that serves lunch and has a beer garden. We could go there?’ Jimmy suggested.
I looked across at Helen with raised eyebrows.
‘All right. All right. I guess it’s about that time. Lead the way, Jimmy my boy!’
* * * * *
Over lunch, which certainly proved to be an entertaining experience with Jimmy along for the ride, we got a rough idea of what he had in mind for the float. He was a fun guy and I was really quite impressed with his ideas, which sounded great considering that Helen had only rung him on the spur of the moment after we had found out what it was that we were up against.
He soon started talking about the image he had for this project, which sounded so over the top with its flashing blue lights and Police uniforms with sequins and feathers and white leather boots that it just cracked me up. I couldn’t remember when the last time was that I had laughed that hard, but it felt good.
When we returned to the Motor Pool we found Donahue looking in on the float and looking disappointed that nothing had happened yet. After he wandered off, grumbling to himself, we soon got into the spirit of things however and set to work, and when he popped his head back in the door a few hours later we guessed that the nod and grunts that he gave us were a positive sign.
We worked for much of the afternoon, pulling all the old crap from last year off the float and throwing it into a dumpster that stood near the doorway. As the afternoon progressed we were also joined by a few more enthusiastic helping hands, some of who were actually serving officers who had been seconded to the project just as Helen and I had been. Any early impressions that I’d had about being pissed off at having to do something like this were soon forgotten, because to tell you the truth, I was actually enjoying it, and enjoying the company of people who were just like me, in one way or another.
Eventually however, Helen said enough was enough and when we finally pulled up stakes and headed out the gates it was nearing five o’clock.
Jimmy said that he wanted to head back down to the pub where we had had lunch, but Helen and I declined, saying that we needed to get back into the city.
‘All right, we’ll see you tomorrow then?’ he asked.
‘Yeah Jimmy we’ll be back. But if we’re not here when you arrive you just find Donahue and then start without us, all right? We’ve got a couple of cases on our books at the moment and you know more about what you’re planning than we do anyhow.’
‘Okay then. We’ll see you when we see you.’
‘That’s about it,’ Helen replied.
We watched as he and Elvira and a couple of the other newcomers headed off down the street, then we climbed into Helen’s car. She started it up and pointed it back toward the city.
* * * * *
The office was full when we reached it a short time later, with all of the team at their desks. Whatever discussions that had been taking place stopped abruptly as we entered the room and all eyes turned our way.
‘G’day Helen,’ Scott Willis said as he looked up and saw us. ‘How’s your rookie handling things?’
‘He’s getting by,’ she answered, adding; ‘He might make a half decent cop one day,’ and giving me a wink as she did so.
‘So, where have you pair been all afternoon?’ Tom Buckley, Scott’s partner asked.
‘Special assignment,’ Helen replied. ‘The Motor Pool.’
At this Tom’s face broke out into a broad grin as he nodded, as if in full understanding, then I heard some chuckles from a few of the others, who had been listening.
‘Oh yeah, I almost forgot. It’s that time of the year again, isn’t it?’ Joe Benevetti says from the back of the room, to which Helen replies, ‘Well, you can come and help us any time you like Joe-baby.’
‘Nah, I think it’s more up your alley, or Sunshine boys,’ he spat back.
‘Yeah, whatever,’ answered Helen, as she collapsed into her chair, just as the phone rang on her desk. ‘Wheeler here,’ she answered in a tired voice.
Suddenly she sat upright in her chair, her eyes wide open and filled with alarm.
‘You’re fuckin’ kidding me, right?’ she says, as everyone turns to look at her. She had us all waiting for whatever news it is that may be breaking.
Eventually she says, ‘Yeah, we’ll be there in a few minutes. Thanks,’ and put the phone down, before letting out a deep sigh and starting to rub at her temples with the tips of her fingers.
‘What’s up?’ I ask her.
After a few moments she turns and looks at me and says, ‘Alexis, from the café, has turned up.’
‘Is he okay?’ Jim Harris asks, knowing exactly who it is that she is referring to, being one of the café regulars himself.
‘Not entirely,’ Helen replied. ‘They’ve just fished him out of the harbour.’