I was still feeling pissed about the events of the morning. Being accused of murder isn’t exactly the best way to start your day, but aside from dealing with my own issues there was still a lot to do today, which Helen reminded me of as we sped through the suburbs.
Right now we were on our way to pay a visit to young Jimmy, as we needed to check in and see how he was handling his confinement, as well as talk to him about what Shane had told us from his hospital bed. We had high hopes that between the pair of them we would now be able to put Jarvis’ arse exactly where it belonged . . . behind bars! And whichever way we looked at it, things were only going to get busier from here; not to mention considerably more complicated.
‘I truly am sorry about this morning,’ Helen said to me as we headed across town.
At first I didn’t answer, as I mulled things over in my mind for the thousandth time since we had left the station. I looked across at her, only to find her studying me intently.
‘Don’t sweat it,’ I eventually replied. ‘I can see where you were coming from. Now get your eyes back on the road. It’d be nice if we got where we’re going in one piece!’
In return she offered a wry smile then did exactly what I asked.
‘We still have quite a bit to sort through,’ she remarked, while this time leaving her eyes on the road ahead. ‘And I’m not just referring to what’s happening with what happened involving Alexis and you.’
‘Yeah, I know. We still need Jimmy’s statement, then we have to get Shane’s statement typed up and signed . . .’
‘And I want to get both of them moved somewhere safer, before we try to bring Jarvis in.’
‘Yeah. And apart from keeping the Inspector in the loop, I’d rather prefer to keep it from everyone else in our squad room, if we can.’
I looked across at her and noticed that she was now looking my way once more.
‘The fewer people who know, the less chance there is of Jarvis’s network being able to find out what’s going on,’ she calmly said.
‘Do you suspect inside help?’
‘I don’t really know. We’ve been so close, so many times, only to have something happen. I can’t say for sure that there is a leak coming from within, but pricks like him have their tentacles spread far and wide. It stands to reason, given that he’s always been able to stay one jump ahead of us, that he has his hooks into someone on our side. Just who that might be though, I have no idea.’
‘And you trust the Inspector?’
At first she didn’t answer. She just looked at me through expressionless eyes, and that told me more than any spoken words could have ever done.
‘Oh, Jesus,’ was all I could say.
‘It’s not what you’re thinking.’
‘Then what the fuck is it?’ I snapped, all of a sudden wondering just what sort of a shit-fight I’ve found myself dropped into the middle of.
‘I trust the Inspector implicitly . . .’
‘It’s those who are above him that I’m not so sure about,’ Helen quietly replied.
The rest of the journey was spent in silence, as I sank back against the seat and began to digest the information that I had just received. As far as I knew, the Inspector was answerable only to two people, being the Commissioner, who oversaw the running of the New South Wales Police Force, and above him, the Police Minister.
I knew very little about the Police Minister, but the Commissioner, well, this was apparently the same man who had specifically requested my transfer and placement in this command. Was it him who Jarvis had his hooks into? Or the Minister? Or were there others?
What I couldn’t figure out, though, was just how I was supposed to fit into the picture, if at all. I had never met either of those men. I’d never even heard of Jarvis, and up until a couple of days ago, I’d never even heard of the Inspector.
‘I’m confused,’ I said to Helen as we pulled up on the street outside where we had stashed Jimmy.
‘You ain’t the only one, sunshine!’ Helen sighed.
‘I feel like I’ve been dropped into the middle of a shit-bomb that’s about to explode. If you suspect the Commissioner of, at best having loose lips, or at worst being tied up with Jarvis in some way, and it was the Commissioner who ordered my transfer . . .’
‘Then you think that you’re somehow going to be involved, whether you like it or not. And the fact that this could go all the way to the Premier’s office . . .’
‘Yeah,’ I replied dryly. ‘And when the shit hits the fan, as it’s bound to, then who is the scapegoat going to be this time?’
We sat there in silence for a few moments as we both went over things in our mind. It was confusing, but no matter which way I looked at it, I still couldn’t figure out how, or why, I could be involved.
‘There is also another possibility,’ Helen finally offered.
‘Your being here is just a coincidence.’
‘That’s the only thing that makes sense so far. But I don’t think it’s going to be that simple.’
Helen offered a cautious smile. ‘No, I don’t think it will be either.’
* * * * *
As we stepped from the car we found Cathy waiting for us at the front door of the old house, which looked identical to every other on the narrow lane; small, shabby and in dire need of paint and repairs.
‘Well, it’s about time you pair showed up,’ she called to us. She was leaning against the door frame and with her arms folded across her chest.
‘What’s wrong?’ Helen asked urgently. ‘Is Jimmy okay?’
‘Oh, yeah, he’s fine. Just going a little stir crazy, that’s all. Nothing we couldn’t handle.’
‘That’s good to hear,’ Helen replied as we crossed the footpath and headed toward where Cathy was standing, before we were quickly ushered inside and off the street.
The two women embraced briefly, then Cathy also said hello to me, before then turning her attention back to Helen and asking, ‘Are you alright, girlfriend? You’re looking a little frazzled.’
‘Yeah, I’m fine, thanks darl . . . just a lot happening. Hopefully we’ll be able to take Jimmy off your hands in the next day or so and get him tucked away safe until we know we have Jarvis locked up good and proper,’ Helen replied.
‘Well then, let’s just hope the good guys can get a win this time, eh?’ Cathy observed.
‘I’m sure we will,’ Helen replied. ‘Now, where’s our prisoner?’
‘We’ve put him to work, out in the backyard,’ Cathy smirked.
‘This’ll be good,’ replied Helen.
‘Under all that bluster and bravado he’s actually a pretty good kid,’ added Cathy. ‘He’s been helping out around the place. He’s also been telling us just a little about his own life. I can’t help but think how sad it is that parents are so willing to just throw kids like him on the scrapheap, just because they don’t turn out how they had hoped.’
‘Yeah, I know exactly what you mean,’ I said to Cathy, knowing all too well myself just what it was like to be in that situation.
‘You speaking from experience?’ Helen enquired.
‘Maybe,’ I said.
Cathy led us down the hallway and through the small kitchen at the rear of the old house to an almost equally small back yard, where an almost feeble patch of grass seemed to be struggling for survival amongst the clutter. It was here that we found a shirtless Jimmy kneeling down by a raised vegetable garden, pulling out weeds.
The kid had a pale complexion, which matched his bright red hair, and it wasn’t hard to notice the freckles which ran across his shoulders and back. In the warm morning sun he had been sweating slightly and damp hair seemed to be sticking to his skin; across his forehead, under his armpits and even just the hint of a treasure trail disappearing into his jeans. With a washboard stomach and some muscle definition, neither of which had appeared to be evident the last time we had met, thanks to his being fully clothed at the time, the kid was quite a sight.
As we walked down the short path to the bottom of the garden he stood up and smiled at us, dropping the weeds he was holding into the nearby wheel-barrow and brushing the dirt off his hands.
‘Hey,’ he said to us, giving us a nod of the head as he did so.
‘Hey, yourself,’ Helen replied. ‘At least you look like you’ve been making yourself useful.’
‘Yeah, this mob here are real slave drivers,’ he declared, while grinning at Cathy. ‘So, how’s Shane? Is he okay? Is he safe? You’re not gonna let Jarvis get to him are you?’ he asked, now sounding quite anxious.
‘We’ve got him under guard, mate. He’s fine,’ Helen replied.
‘Oh, thank God!’
‘Jimmy, we’ve got his statement,’ I added. ‘But to back that up we need to know what happened though, from your point of view, so we need to get a statement from you as well.’
‘Yeah, Cathy said you would need that, so we’ve already done it.’
‘You have?’ Helen asked, sounding quite surprised.
‘Yeah. Once she got me talking about it, well, it was pretty easy. I talked. She typed. Then I just signed it. That’s how you cops do it, isn’t it?’
‘Close enough, mate. Close enough.
‘Can we see it?’ I asked.
‘Yeah,’ Cathy replied. ‘Come inside and I’ll put the kettle on. And how about you take a shower Jimmy? You stink like a pole-cat.’
Jimmy quickly lifted his arms and took a whiff of his pits. ‘Yeah, I do a bit, eh?’ he said with something of a childish grin.
* * * * *
After Jimmy had headed for the shower, Cathy sat us down in the kitchen while she filled the electric jug and switched it on, then pulled some mugs from a cupboard.
Helen had filled me in earlier about Cathy and her partner, Megan, who worked for some high powered law firm in the city. They shared this little home in a Sydney back street, as it was close to the city and the people they cared most about. The neighbourhood wasn’t the best, but still, they had made it their home, for better or worse.
‘Looks like the kid has had a bit of an attitude adjustment,’ Helen remarked, after Cathy asked how we had our coffee, then spooned in the required goods.
‘He’s a good kid. Just a bit misunderstood, I think. That first night we all simply sat and talked,’ she said, as she sat down with us at the kitchen table. ‘It took a bit of time to get him to open up, but once he did there was no stopping him.’
‘Sounds a bit like what Shane was like when we spoke with him,’ I replied.
Cathy just looked at me with a knowing smile.
‘What? Did I miss something?’
‘They’re boyfriends,’ Cathy said. ‘When Shane was bashed he was trying to be protective of Jimmy by telling him to get out, so that Jarvis wouldn’t get him too. Shane had lost some of the money that he’d gotten from a job . . . so that’s why Jarvis went ballistic and bashed him.’
‘Oh, shit,’ Helen gasped. ‘Shane didn’t tell us that little tidbit.’
‘And there’s more too,’ Cathy stated, as she got to her feet and crossed the floor to a large sideboard and retrieved a buff coloured envelope, before then sitting it on the table in front of Helen. ‘They’ve both seen Jarvis fly off the handle and knock some of his kids senseless on more than just the odd occasion. He’s described what happened to them.’
Helen opened the envelope and pulled several typed sheets of paper from it, then for the next couple of minutes she began reading.
‘He didn’t happen to say anything to you about a kid named Greg Walls, did he?’ she enquired after a few moments, to which Cathy just shook her head.
‘No . . . I didn’t . . . but I will,’ a voice said from behind us. We spun around to find Jimmy standing in the doorway, his hair wringing wet and with a towel wrapped tightly around him.
His face and eyes appeared to be reddened, as if he was about to start to cry.
‘Oh, Jimmy,’ Helen cooed, then stood up and quickly crossed the floor to him, wrapping the boy in her arms. ‘It’s almost over, mate. It’s almost over.’
‘He killed Greg, didn’t he?’ Jimmy asked, the emotion in his voice sounding raw and painful.
‘We think so . . . can you tell us what you saw?
Over the next few minutes he explained what he knew about Greg, who had apparently gone missing the previous year from the place where Jarvis’ boys were all living. Just like with many other kids, he had seen Greg be on the receiving end of a hiding from Jarvis, only to later be carried, unconscious, out to Jarvis’ car, by Jarvis and one of his goons.
The kid’s body had later been found floating in Botany Bay.
‘Please don’t let him kill Shane too . . .’ he sobbed. We could tell that he was trying to be strong, trying to be a man, but it was obvious to all that even at this tender age, he had seen far more than most people would see in a lifetime. He was hurting. And he was scared.
‘We won’t mate. I promise you. And with the help of you and Shane he won’t be hurting anyone else, ever again.’
As Helen tried to comfort and reassure the boy that everything would be okay, I picked up Jimmy’s statement and began to read.
‘My name is James Anthony Taylor, although everyone calls me Jimmy,’ the statement began.
‘I am sixteen years old. Two years ago I was kicked out of my home by my father, after he found out I was gay. For most of the past two years me and some other boys have been living in a place that is owned by Andy Jarvis. He lets us stay there only if we work for him . . .’
As I continued to read through it I found myself rather surprised, not only by the amount of detail that he had supplied, but also by some of the admissions he made. Ordinarily such admissions would quite possibly find him in trouble with the law, however, given the circumstances, and that what he was providing was about to put one of the biggest pimps and thugs known to us out of business, I was sure that any of his own indiscretions were bound to be overlooked.
What I found myself reading was a harrowing description of what life on the streets must be like for a gay teen. The prostitution. The drugs. The crime. The abuse. The constant battle for survival. It was all there, for everyone to see.
When I had finished reading I leant back in the chair and let out a long sigh, before looking across at Helen and Jimmy, who were now both sitting opposite me, studying me.
‘That’s a pretty harrowing tale,’ I said to him. ‘And a pretty damning one, as well.’
‘What? Don’t you believe me, or something?’
‘Oh, I believe you Jimmy. But I also fear for you. Once Jarvis finds out what’s going to happen to him, all hell is likely to break loose.’
‘I ain’t afraid of him . . . not no more,’ he replied. ‘Besides, you guys said that he won’t be able to hurt us any more, once you’ve got him locked up.’
‘And he won’t be able to,’ Helen responded. ‘But Coop is right . . . and even locked up, he can still be dangerous. He knows people, and is bound to have people working for him too, which you must already know.’
‘So . . . what are you saying?’
‘Just that you need to be careful,’ I said. ‘And, just to play it safe it might also be a good idea to get you and Shane out of Sydney for a while, once everything is done and dusted.’
‘Where to? We don’t have any place to go, and we don’t have any money . . .’
‘It’s okay. We’ll work that out later, Jimmy,’ Helen said. ‘You and Shane will both be safe. First thing though, is we’ve got to get Jarvis off the streets and locked away permanently.’
* * * * *
While we were still there with them we had Cathy type up the extra information that Jimmy had supplied about Greg, then had him sign that as well. Next came Shane’s statement, typed up from what I had written in my notepad, so that we could take it with us to the hospital for him to sign.
Just before we left Jimmy asked, somewhat shyly, if we would give something to Shane for him when we went there, before offering me an envelope, with Shane’s name scrawled untidily across the front.
I took it from him and tucked the envelope into my shirt pocket.
‘Thank you,’ he said to me, then, quite surprisingly, he hugged me briefly, before releasing me and stepping back, his face flushed with embarrassment.
‘Any time, kiddo,’ I said to him, while playfully roughing up his bright red hair.
We left Jimmy and Cathy shortly after that, with promises to keep them up to date with our progress, then headed back across town to the hospital to see Shane once more.
‘Seems like you’ve made yourself another new friend,’ Helen said to me as we sat in traffic at a set of lights, not far from St. Vincent’s Hospital.
‘He’s a good kid,’ I replied. ‘And god knows he could do with a few more friends himself about now.’
‘Yeah. I just hope that Shane won’t be kept in for any longer than is needed, then we can whisk them both away until Jarvis goes to trial.’
‘Any ideas where?’
‘There’s this priest I know, Father Dave. He runs a retreat on a farm up the coast. He takes on homeless kids sometimes, when he has the room, so he may be able to help. At least it’ll get the boys out of Sydney for a while, which is the main thing I want to happen, at least to start with.’
‘Does he have much contact with anyone down here . . . like Community Services?’
‘Most likely. Why?’
‘Just wondering if that would actually be the best option . . . given we want the boys to totally disappear for a while? Is it worth the risk?’
She looked across at me and frowned. ‘Yeah, I see your point. Got any better suggestions?’
‘Just let me think about that for a while,’ I said, as the beginnings of an idea started to form in the back of my brain.
Just then we were jolted back to the present by the sounding of a car horn directly behind us. We looked up and could see that the lights had changed to green.
‘Impatient bloody city drivers,’ Helen muttered, as she slammed the gears into first and floored it.
A few minutes later we pulled into a parking space across from the hospital and made our way inside. We rode the elevator in silence up to the floor where Shane’s room was, knowing that we were now so close to achieving something that had eluded Helen and the force for so long. It wasn’t something that needed to be talked about, it was simply something that was there, hanging in the air, waiting to be gathered up, dealt with and finally put to bed.
Now armed with detailed statements from both boys, all that was needed to make everything official was the signature of Shane, which we would have in just a few moments. Once that was secured, both Helen and I could see no reason why, with some back-up from the Inspector, we wouldn’t be able to have Andy Jarvis in custody by nightfall.
When the elevator doors opened we stepped out into the corridor and headed for Shane’s room, travelling along that corridor for a short distance, before then turning down another, where just a few rooms along we expected to see a police officer sitting outside the room in question.
What we found, however, was an empty chair sitting in the dingy corridor.
Instantly Helen stopped, grabbing my arm as she did so.
‘Yeah, I see it,’ I said to her, before breaking away and sprinting the short distance to the door of Shane’s room.
When I got there I found the door wide open and the room containing little more than an unmade bed. My heart sank as I stood there taking it all in. There was no sign of Shane, or the designated police guard.
‘Fuck it! Just where they hell are they?’ was the next thing I heard, coming from an agitated sounding Helen, who was standing at the door.