Fear gripped the both of us as we looked at each other and realised just what it was that may be happening here.
A police guard missing from his post. A potential target missing from his hospital bed. Surely Jarvis couldn’t have already found him? Could he?
Whichever way we looked at it, though, we just knew it couldn’t be good.
‘This simply can’t be happening!’ I heard Helen growl, as I stepped back out into the corridor and looked up and down.
‘Fuck it!’ I said out loud, which only earned a reproachful look from a passing orderly.
Turning back around to face Shane’s room I found Helen standing there in the doorway, looking fit to burst.
‘What now, hot shot?’ she demanded.
‘First off, we check with the nurse’s station . . . maybe it’s not what we’re thinking. Then, if that doesn’t work, we find the security tapes,’ I replied.
‘Either way, we still need to review the tapes from yesterday, to try and find out who our mystery coppers were who spoke with Shane before we did.’
‘Yeah, that’s true.’
Quickly we set off for the nurse’s station, which was located further down the corridor, where the next corridor joined this one. It didn’t come as any great surprise to find it empty of staff, but as I stood there, drumming my fingers on the counter top and wondering what to do next, all my anxiety soon turned to relief when I spotted Shane in a wheelchair, being pushed back down the corridor towards where I was standing. He was smiling and chatting with the female nurse in charge of him, but when he saw me standing there he quickly clammed up, which only earned me a scowl from his attendant.
He didn’t look any worse than he had on our previous visit. There were still cuts and bruises all over him, some of which already seemed to be healing up, but it was the inner damage that concerned me the most. Was he mentally tough enough to be able to bounce back from this?
Thankfully I had something in my pocket that might just help him with that task.
‘Hey, Shane. You had me worried there for a minute, when we couldn’t find you,’ I said to him. ‘Everything okay?’
‘Yeah, sorry. Just been for a scan. Doctor’s orders,’ he said.
‘Nothing wrong, is there?’ I asked, directing my question more toward the nurse than to Shane.
‘He was complaining of chest pains and so his doctor ordered an MRI scan. It showed he has a couple of cracked ribs, which didn’t show up on the original x-rays,’ she replied. ‘He’ll be fine though.’
‘That’s great news,’ I offered. ‘I know there’s someone who has been missing him and wants him back in one piece as soon as possible.’
Shane looked at me sharply, and for a moment I thought I saw a flash of fear cross his face, but it was quickly replaced with another expression, one which told me he was confused, yet still curious about what I had said.
‘Why should I trust you?’ he asked.
‘That’s a very good question,’ I answered, before I then fished the envelope from my pocket and held it out for him, showing his name, which Jimmy had scrawled across the front of it, so that he could easily see it for himself.
At the sight of Jimmy’s hand writing his eyes lit up.
‘Would I have this, or know about you two if I wasn’t in the loop as far as how close you are?’
Tentatively he reached out for the letter and I let him take it.
‘How about I take you back to your room?’ I said to him. ‘I think there’s a few things we need to talk about.’
‘Orright,’ he replied, while continuing to hold the envelope in front of him.
The nurse stepped aside and I assumed the position behind the wheelchair, then began to push him down the corridor, where up ahead I could see Helen waiting, along with the police guard, who had obviously returned from wherever he had been hiding.
‘He’s really worried about you,’ I quietly said to Shane as we trundled along.
‘Is he okay? Is he safe?’ he anxiously asked.
‘Yeah mate, he’s fine. We’ve got him safely tucked away. Some friends of ours are looking after him. We’ll have the two of you back together just as soon as you’ve got the all clear to be released from here. Then after that, we want to get the pair of you away from Sydney for a while . . . at least until after we’ve got Jarvis dealt with.’
‘That bit we’re still working on,’ I answered truthfully, while making a mental note that I still needed to make a couple of phone calls just as soon as we left here.
We reached his room a few minutes later, with Helen and Constable Plod stepping aside to allow me to push him inside. I parked the wheelchair beside his bed, but he made no effort to get out of it. He was still staring at the envelope from Jimmy that he was holding.
‘How about we give you a couple of minutes to have a read of that before we talk?’ I offered, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder as I did so. He looked up at me and tried to smile, but the tears that I could see forming at the corners of his eyes kept holding him back.
‘Thanks,’ he eventually managed to say, before turning his attention back to the letter and quickly ripping the end from the envelope. I stepped away from him and joined Helen outside the doorway, glancing back just once and seeing him wipe his eyes with the back of his hand.
‘Well?’ Helen asked.
‘He was off having a scan. They found a couple of broken ribs which didn’t show up on the original x-rays.’
‘That’s a relief.’
‘You’re not wrong there,’ I replied. Just then I felt my phone in my pocket buzz, indicating I had a call, so I fished it out and checked the number. It was Adam.
I glanced at Helen, who had turned her attention back to the babysitter, so I turned away from them and took the call.
‘Hi,’ I said.
‘What’s going on?’ Adam asked urgently. ‘Are you okay? Why did I have an Inspector knocking on my door wanting to know if we were together the other night?’
‘Sorry,’ was all I could say. ‘Shit is getting crazy around here.’
‘And you seem to right in the middle of it! Please tell me what’s happening.’
‘Look, I will, I promise, but I . . . I can’t . . . at least not right now.’
‘Soon, I promise. I’m sure that everything will be okay.’
‘I’ll call you later, okay! I’ve got to go.’ I disconnected before he had a chance to say anything more, only to find Helen staring at me.
‘Wrong number,’ I said to her, as I slipped my phone back into my pocket.
‘Bull shit!’ she countered.
‘Okay then . . . you’ve got me. It seems Adam just had a visit from the inspector, wanting to know if we were together the other night.’
‘Shit! Well, we knew it would happen.’
‘Yeah, I guess.’
‘What did he tell him?’
‘That much I didn’t find out,’ I replied.
Just then we heard a call from inside Shane’s room. ‘Are you out there, Coop?’
‘What’s this? Already on first name terms?’ Helen smirked.
I simply grinned and said, ‘Yeah Shane, just give me a sec,’ then to Helen I added, ‘Whatever else is going on Hel, these kids have seen enough. We can’t let anything happen to them.’
‘I couldn’t agree more,’ she replied.
Together we walked into Shane’s room, where we found him still sitting in the wheelchair, clutching the letter firmly in his hands. When he looked up at us we could tell he had been crying, which was confirmed when he wiped his face with the sleeve of his hospital gown.
‘Jimmy said to trust no other cops but you two,’ Shane said to us, once he had settled down a bit.
‘Is that so?’ Helen replied
‘Yeah. He must reckon you’re orright or something.’
‘Well, we kind of think he’s orright too,’ Helen remarked. ‘And if what you two have told us so far will help us get Jarvis out of the picture, then we’ll think the pair of you are more than orright. You’ll be bloody legends!’
At this the kid simply smiled at us. He knew that what had happened to him was wrong, and what he was now doing was a good thing. He was not only helping himself and Jimmy, but he was also helping every other kid who had ever crossed paths with Jarvis and every other scumbag just like him. Right now, I just knew that we had to do everything we could to help him and keep him safe.
Then Shane’s expression changed, as he held up his letter from Jimmy.
‘Jimmy said you were asking about Greg,’ he said. ‘And that he told you he saw Greg get hit, and carried out.’
‘Yeah, that’s right. Can you add anything more?’ I asked him.
‘I . . . I wasn’t there that day. I was . . . working,’ he offered. ‘But I heard Jarvis’s stand-over man, a guy called Gus, talkin’ not long after that. He was saying something about dumping someone. Is that what they did? Dump him someplace? We all talked amongst ourselves and kinda figured he must be dead. It scared the crap out of us when Greg disappeared . . . but . . .’ he trailed off.
‘But where else would you go?’ Helen suggested.
‘Yeah . . . something like that,’ Shane answered softly, as he looked up at us. His eyes were still red, and moist. This was dragging up a lot of memories that Shane had probably thought he had been able to put to rest. I reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder.
‘You’re doing good, Shane,’ I said quietly. ‘And, as sad as it is to say it, you were right about Greg.’
Shane glanced my way, then looked out through the window, his vacant stare falling on the brick wall opposite. For a long while he said nothing, and I didn’t want to push him, as he gathered his thoughts and processed that information.
Eventually he looked back at me and asked simply, ‘How?’
‘He was found floating in Botany Bay,’ Helen gently replied. There was no response from Shane, he just continued to stare out the window.
‘Shane, how do we find Gus? Do you know?’ I asked, wanting to change the subject quickly so that he wouldn’t dwell on the loss of his friend any more than need be.
‘That’s easy. He’s always hangin’ around at Jarvis’s place. He likes the boys too . . . you know what I mean? He used to keep bragging about how it was one of the perks of the job.’
‘How about you? Did he like you, or Jimmy?’ Helen asked.
‘What? That greasy lookin’ bastard? No fuckin’ way we’d do anything with him . . . anyhow, we’re not his type . . . too old, ya know?’
‘Which boys were his type, then?’ I urged. ‘Can you give us a name? If one of them will talk to us, that’ll be another scumbag we can get off the streets. And there are lots of other things we need to know as well . . . is it okay if we talk about it now? Are you okay about talking about it and dragging it all up again?’
Shane looked away and thought for a moment. I couldn’t tell what was going through his head, but I would have given a mint to know.
‘Yeah . . . I’ll tell you what I can. There were a couple of kids who Gus liked to keep an eye on,’ he eventually offered. ‘He used to buy ‘em stuff too, you know, so that helped to keep ‘em interested in him, a bit.’
‘And what about Jarvis? Did he ever sample the merchandise?’
‘Nah . . . not that I know of. Pretty sure he’s got a woman someplace . . . he wears this gold ring, so he might even be married. All he was interested in was how much we brought home every night. We got a bed. We got fed. Sometimes we were given stuff . . . even some money sometimes . . . and all we had to do was . . . well . . . you know.’
‘And what about the Johns?’ Helen enquired. ‘Were there many regulars? Did they give you tips or anything? And did you know who any of them were?’
‘We weren’t s’posed to know them . . . but there was a few who we knew about.’
‘There was some we seen on the telly, so that’s how we found out who they were. There was one who played footy, I know that, and he used to bring his mate along too. Another one was like, a TV news reader or sumpin’.’
At this Shane grinned. It looked like he was saving the best for last.
‘Yeah, there was some you will really like,’ he smirked.
‘Why’s that?’ I asked.
‘What?’ Helen exclaimed. ‘How the hell do you know that? Do you know who they are?’
‘Don’t know their names, but I know their faces orright. One of ‘em is even on the telly sometimes too. Like he’s a real big-wig.’
Helen let out a long, low whistle, as she sat herself down on the edge of Shane’s hospital bed.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ I asked Helen. ‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’
‘I’ll tell you about it later,’ she quietly said.
‘What? Did I hit the jackpot or something?’ Shane teased, now looking quite pleased with himself. ‘C’mon, you can tell me!’
‘Maybe later, mate,’ I said.
‘Hey, them two cops that was here yesterday. They come back again too.’
‘They did? When? Do you know who they are?’ Helen asked.
‘Nah. They tried asking questions, like asking who else have I talked with, but that was when the Doc came to see me this morning’, so they just pissed off. They said they might be back later on.’
‘So, what did you tell them?’ I asked.
‘Nothing. I didn’t like the look of ‘em.’
‘So, does that mean you like the look of us then?’ Helen chuckled.
‘Oh, I like the look of him,’ Shane smirked, while jerking his head in my direction. ‘But don’t say nothin’ to Jimmy about that . . . I might get in trouble!’
* * *
We were all laughing when we left him, with the mood definitely lighter than it had been for days, but both Helen and I knew that by the end of the day things could be quite different, especially once we organised for the picking up of Jarvis, which we both wanted to happen before nightfall.
‘We better see if we can check the CCTV, before we go,’ I said to her as we reached the main administration centre, just inside the front doors of the hospital.
‘Yeah, of course,’ Helen replied.
I walked over to the main desk and identified myself, then asked to be pointed toward the security offices.
‘I’ll just call them for you,’ the receptionist said. I waited for a few moments as she rang through, then told whoever was on the other end that there was a police officer here to see them, before eventually disconnecting and saying to me, ‘There’s someone on the way.’
‘Thank you,’ I replied, before joining Helen to wait.
‘Seems you’re making a bit of an impression on the lads,’ Helen mused.
‘Yeah, well, what can I say . . .’
‘I don’t think I need to remind you, but just be careful, that’s all I ask. We both know what these kids have been through, and the last thing they need is more disappointments.’
‘Yeah, I know,’ I replied. ‘I’ve been thinking . . . you know, about where they go from here. Firstly, to get them out of town while the whole affair is sorted . . . then afterwards.’
‘Is that right?’ she enquired, her eyebrows raised in query.
‘I didn’t want to say anything until I checked out if it was going to be okay with them first, but seeing as we’re almost at the point where Jarvis could be picked up today, I figured I’d best set the wheels in motion if it was going to work at all. I don’t think we’ll have much time after Jarvis has been nabbed.’
‘Go on,’ Helen urged.
‘Well, I might have a spot where we can hide the boys for a while. It’s out of town, and if we can keep it from becoming known by everyone else, it’ll be safe.’
‘In Newcastle . . . with Martin’s folks. I could call them and see if they might take the boys in for a little while . . . you know, just until we’ve got things wrapped up.’
‘Seriously?’ she asked.
‘Yeah,’ I replied. ‘After Marty died they took foster kids in from time to time . . . they said the house was too empty without Marty around . . . so, I just thought it might be a good way of keeping the boys safe and getting them out of the city. And if they like it there, it might be a fresh place for them to start over.’
‘And do you think they’ll go for it?’
‘Who? Marty’s folks, or the boys?’
‘Either of them,’ Helen chuckled.
‘Well, there’s only one way to find out,’ I answered.
It was just then that a young man who looked to be no older than me, wearing blue pants and a white shirt with the word SECURITY on both sleeves, came hurrying into the room. I wasn’t quite sure what I expected a security staffer to look like, but still, this wasn’t quite what I expected. He was way more than that. With his tanned complexion and sun bleached hair, the guy was hot.
He looked questioningly toward the receptionist, who nodded in our direction. I stood up and introduced myself and Helen, while flashing our badges at him as we did so.
‘W-w-what can I do for you folks?’ he stammered.
‘Are you aware that we have a victim of crime admitted in here and under police guard?’ Helen asked.
‘Yes, of course. The kid in Ward 30,’ the security man said.
‘We believe that someone has tried to gain access to him without the proper authorisation,’ I added. ‘We were hoping we might be able to check out your security tapes and files for the last couple of days, please.’
He hesitated for a moment and looked me up and down, and while he was doing so I glanced at the name badge on his chest.
‘I’m not sure . . . Damien,’ I said, ‘if you quite realise the situation here. This kid is a key witness in a homicide and he is in real danger. If someone is trying to get at him, then we need to know. And we need to be able to stop them. We could really do with your co-operation.’
Glancing at Helen I could see she had a slightly bemused look on her face. I knew I was laying it on a bit thick, but what I had said wasn’t entirely untrue.
‘Y-yes,’ he said. ‘I understand that. Of course. Come with me and I’ll show you whatever you need.’
‘Thank you so much,’ I said.
We were led down several corridors, each seemingly narrower and darker than the previous one, until eventually we came to a plain looking door adorned with a simple sign which read, Control. Would I be forgiven, I wondered, if I’d asked to see Agent Maxwell Smart?
Young Damien must have read something in my expression, as when he swiped his electronic card through the key lock and opened the door he smiled and said, ‘KAOS is three floors up.’
I simply grinned back at him. I couldn’t help but like the guy.
He showed us inside and took us across to a bank of video monitors which lined one wall. We could see views of many areas of the hospital and grounds which were covered by the CCTV system. On many screens there were staff and patients moving around, while others showed empty corridors or stair wells.
Damien sat down at a desk with a computer, then brought up a menu on the screen directly in front of him.
‘Alrighty then, what’s your pleasure?’ he asked us, and I had the distinct impression he was looking me up and down as he did so.
‘Got any porn?’ I asked, jokingly.
‘Errr . . . not here,’ he said in a quiet voice, obviously trying to make sure that Helen didn’t hear him. I glanced back at her as he said it and noticed her roll her eyes.
‘If you two horn-dogs are quite through flirting with each other, we’ve got work to do!’ she snapped.
I grinned at her, but all Damien could do was blush, then he furiously typed a command into the keyboard, which brought up what looked to be the corridor outside Shane’s room, complete with our resident police guard sitting in a chair outside his room.
‘That’s live,’ Damien said. ‘See the date and time in the lower right corner of the screen?’
‘How far back do you want to go? I can set it to run through at speed from there, and we can stop or slow whenever someone enters or leaves the room if you like. Would he have had many visitors?’
‘Hardly any,’ Helen replied. ‘Apart from the hospital staff there’s only us, and the other cops he told us had been by. Their last visit was this morning some time . . . so if we can start with today, hopefully that will give us what we need, without having to troll back through another days worth of tape.’
‘No tape . . . it’s all digital and computer driven these days, so it’s no problem to go back as far as we need.’
‘Let’s just start with today,’ I suggested. ‘Then if you have time later you might be able to check out if anyone else has paid our young friend a visit since he was admitted.’
‘That’s hardly a challenge,’ Damien replied. Before he had even finished speaking he was typing into the keyboard, and within seconds the monitor was showing us vision from that very morning, at just after nine a.m.
The corridor was empty, but as Damien starting scrolling through the vision at speed we were soon seeing people coming and going. Most of them appeared to be staff, or a few visitors for some rooms, but no one appeared to have entered Shane’s room.
At nine-thirty three we noticed a doctor and a nurse walk down the corridor, directly past the camera. They stopped at Shane’s room and spoke to the police guard for a moment, before going inside.
‘Okay. That’s Doc Marshall,’ Damien said.
Letting the vision play at normal speed we watched for a few minutes more, then two men came into view from the far end. Both were wearing light coloured shirts and dark ties, and had a familiar air of authority about them, although they were still too far away to be able to identify them.
Helen and I glanced at each other. Her forehead was etched with deep furrows.
As they came closer to Shane’s room it was still impossible to make out any features, even when they stopped and talked to the guard. A moment later they went into the room.
‘Okay. Can you give me a hard copy of them going into the room?’ Helen enquired.
‘Of course. You said they were cops though, didn’t you?’
‘You ever heard of Good Cop, Bad Cop?’ Helen asked. ‘We’re the Good Cops . . . those two we’re not so sure about.’
‘Oh,’ was all Damien could say.
‘But won’t we also need a close up to see who they are?’ I asked.
‘I can give you a hard copy of them while at the other end of the corridor,’ Damien offered. ‘They would have walked right past at least three cameras to get to that point, so I can actually track them from the front door of the hospital if you want.’
‘Excellent,’ Helen purred.
‘Do you recognize them, even from that distance?’ I asked.
‘I’ve got a pretty fair idea I’ve seen them around,’ she confided.
With a few key strokes Damien soon had a printer in the room warming up, with a couple of copies of the screen shots being spat out. He then fiddled some more and had soon changed the camera view, which was now showing us another, much busier corridor. The time stamp was about two minutes before that from the first camera, and right on time our two visitors were shown walking directly toward the lens, as clear as day.
‘Print that for me,’ Helen commanded, and once more the printer across the room came to life and two copies came out.
‘You look well pleased with yourself,’ I said to her.
‘Not sure if that’s quite the right word, but this does kind of piece a few things together,’ she replied. ‘Thanks very much Damien. We really appreciate this.’
‘No problems,’ our friendly helper replied.
‘So, Damien,’ I said. ‘How many security staff does the hospital actually employ?’
‘Not a lot, but there are always a few on duty and doing the rounds . . . you know, just in case.’
‘How about this afternoon? Any change that young Shane’s room can be added to the rounds . . . especially if those two show up again?’
‘Not sure we’d be able to do a lot, but I can definitely get them to keep an eye out. Have you got a number we can get you on if needed?’
Helen quickly pulled a card from a pocket and handed it to him, then I gave him my phone number also, which he wrote on the back of Helen’s card.
‘Thanks,’ I said to him. ‘We appreciate this.’
The smile he gave us said it all.
Shortly afterwards, and armed with our prized images, we said our goodbyes and headed for the front doors.
‘For a minute or two I was beginning to wonder just how far you were prepared to go in there, champ,’ Helen remarked as we headed down the first corridor.
‘You’re not the only one,’ I chuckled. ‘Sometimes I even scare myself.’
‘Poor Adam, I wonder if he knows what he’s letting himself in for?’
Oh, fuck. My day wasn’t over yet, was it?