‘Holy shit! That was close,’ Shane said, as he sat up and looked back through the rear window at the receding view of the hospital and the two slightly bewildered looking cops on the front steps. The three of us had dived into the back seat of the taxi, with Shane sitting between Helen and me, and I had pushed his head forward and down, while trying to keep him out of sight, despite his initial protests.
‘A bit too close, I reckon,’ Helen added.
‘Those assholes mean business, then? They’d really do something to me and Jimmy if they could get their hands on us?’
‘There’s a good chance of that, mate,’ I replied, while Helen dialed Cathy’s number to let her know we weren’t far away. ‘Apart from our friend Mr Jarvis, there are also other people out there who stand to lose quite a lot if word gets out about what they’re up to . . . so really, any of the boys could become targets. That’s why we have to get all of you out of there and into some place safe, which is what our boss is working on now. He already has DoCS standing by to step in and help.’
Shane sat in silence after that, as he seemed to digest this information. While he was in hospital and under guard he had been safe, but I think now he had finally realised just how vulnerable they all were, and what the end game quite possibly could be for any of the boys not lucky enough to be found by the Department of Community Services, or get away all together; a pine box and an unmarked grave.
Life on the streets wasn’t a game, and if Shane hadn’t known it before today, he certainly knew it now. It really could be a matter of life and death, but for many of the lost kids out there they don’t get to realise that until it’s too late; until that latest trick has taken things too far, or that pill or needle that was supposed to make them feel happy and take away all their worries had something else in it instead and then they find themselves drowning in their own vomit or convulsing until their frail bodies have nothing left to give.
It happens all too often, but sadly, you hardly ever hear just how often.
By the time we turned down the narrow, run-down street where Cathy lived a short while later, Shane seemed to have perked up again, in anticipation of seeing Jimmy, no doubt. He was looking around at everything, as if he was trying to figure out where his boyfriend might be hiding but when we pulled to a stop outside the small, run-down looking house I sensed that he seemed to be disappointed.
‘This is your safe-house?’ he chided.
‘At least safe enough for your puny arse!’ I said to him. Then leaning in closer so that Helen might not hear as she climbed out of the car, I whispered, ‘Well, until Jimmy gets hold of it, that is.’
Shane looked at me sideways for a moment, looking a little uncertain, before then breaking out into a grin.
‘So, what are you? A top or a bottom?’ he quietly teased. ‘Or do you only like to watch? That’ll cost you an extra fifty!’
‘Or earn you a night in the watch-house!’ I countered.
‘Does that mean there’ll be, like, others watching too?’
‘Kid, you’re an absolute shocker! Do you know that?’
‘Yeah, but I’m a loveable shocker, ain’t I?’
‘I guess that depends on who you’re asking,’ I teased, as I opened the car door and stepped out.
As Helen paid the cab fare Shane followed me out of the car and stood beside me, nervously looking around him, before eventually settling his gaze on the front door of the house.
‘Are you sure this is the right place?’ he asked.
Just then the front door opened to reveal Cathy and Jimmy standing there. Jimmy made a move as if to come out to meet Shane, but Cathy placed a hand on one shoulder to hold him in place. Even if I’d have wanted to there was no way I would have been able to restrain Shane, as the moment he spotted Jimmy he started towards him, tentatively at first, then running up the few rickety steps at the front of the house and through the door, into his boyfriend’s arms.
They hugged and kissed and hugged some more. I could see Shane’s body heaving with great sobs as they held on to each other, while Jimmy’s face was buried in at the base of Shane’s neck and his arms were wrapped tightly around his boy.
Cathy looked on for a moment, her expression like that of a proud and loving mother, before stepping out onto the top step and pulling the door closed to give the two boys a little privacy. She then turned to face us, smiling.
‘Thank God you pair showed up,’ she said to us as we walked up the path. ‘That boy has been pacing up and down like a caged lion ever since he found out about Shane coming.’
‘The other one hasn’t been much better,’ Helen replied. ‘But at least this is one story that looks like having a happy ending.’
‘No thanks to you two,’ Cathy added. ‘After some of the things that Jimmy has told me I’m surprised he’s not dead already. But now it looks like they’ll both have a fresh start. Now, how about I put the kettle on for a cuppa while those two get reacquainted?’
‘Thanks darl, that sounds like a plan. We’ve still got some time before we need to be in court to face up to Jarvis,’ Helen
* * *
When the boys emerged a short time later from the room that Jimmy had been using while staying with Cathy and her partner, both of them were looking rather sheepish and more than a little embarrassed.
Jimmy was wearing only a pair of jeans, just as he had been when we arrived, while Shane still had on his own jeans, with his t-shirt now being slung over his shoulder. Looking at them like this they were like chalk and cheese; one red-headed and fair skinned, with a young body that was verging on muscular, while the other was darker and more lithe, with looks that could only be described as more classical, compared to Jimmy’s slightly more rugged facade.
But when we looked down at their entwined hands, then up at their faces, taking in the enraptured gazes they were giving each other, we knew that they were far from chalk and cheese; they were one, and it would take more than someone like Andy Jarvis to keep them apart.
‘Feeling better now, are we lads?’ I asked when I noticed them standing at the doorway.
‘What would you reckon?’ Jimmy replied with a smirk.
‘Oh, I’m not sure. You both still look a little drained to me.’
Despite his earlier tom-foolery with me Shane actually looked shocked for a moment, while Jimmy and Helen both roared with laughter. Cathy was somewhat more reserved in her amusement, but still chuckled nonetheless.
‘Now, can you guys sit tight here for a while and behave yourselves until we come back to collect you in a couple of hours?’ Helen asked them. ‘We have to go to court, then once that’s out of the way we’ll be on our way.’
‘Where you taking us?’ Jimmy asked.
‘We’ll let you know as soon as we’re on the road, okay?’ I answered. ‘I hope you can understand that it’s for your own safety. The only people who will know will be Helen and me . . . we’re not even telling our Inspector. But it’s a nice place, north of here, and there’s a beach close by.’
‘Sounds cool,’ Jimmy observed.
‘I want you to both understand something, though,’ Helen stressed. ‘Your old lives are over now. If you let us take you and place you like this, like . . .’
‘Like it’s Witness Protection?’ Shane effused.
‘Yeah, like Witness Protection,’ Helen continued. ‘There’s no turning back. You’re leaving everyone and everything behind. You can’t have any contact with anyone from here. It’s a clean break . . . well, at least until after his trial. Do you understand that?’
‘What about money and clothes and stuff?’ Jimmy enquired.
‘We’ll get that taken care of,’ I promised.
‘And if we say no, and that we want to stay here?’ he then asked, which I have to admit was a question I sure as hell didn’t see coming, and judging by the look on Shane’s face he hadn’t given it any thought either.
‘How long do you think you’d last?’ Helen answered.
‘Oh, about five minutes . . . if we’re lucky,’ he grinned. I think we all heard the deep breath that Shane exhaled when he said that.
‘So I take it you’ll be coming with us then?’ asked Helen.
‘What? And knock back a holiday near the beach? Of course we’re bloody-well coming! Besides, we need to make sure that you guys put Jarvis totally out of business, don’t we?’ he said, while hugging Shane close to him and kissing the side of his head.
* * *
From Cathy’s place it was a relatively short walk of a little over three blocks to a nearby BP petrol station, from where Cathy told us we would be able to call a taxi. We didn’t want to run the risk of having anyone being able to trace us back to her house through any cab company, so we figured that was our safest option.
After placing the call we found a seat near the customer parking area and waited.
‘What did you see when you noticed the two of them standing in the doorway this morning?’ Helen asked me as we began our wait.
‘Jimmy and Shane? Two teenagers who are about as in love with each other now as they will ever be. Jimmy’s obviously the boss in their relationship. And Shane would do absolutely anything for him.’
‘So, you picked up on that too, huh?’
‘Yeah. He’s totally besotted with Jimmy, but while some people might just look on it as puppy-love, or something like that, from what I’ve seen of them together I actually think it’s more than that. Anyhow, I think that they’re good for each other.’
‘Well, the other one is all that each of them has, so if they want a future together after this it’s going to be up to them.’
‘With a little help to push them in the right direction . . .’ I added.
‘Yeah, just a little bit,’ Helen chuckled.
Just then we heard Helen’s phone start to ring. I noticed her glance at the caller ID on the screen and then roll her eyes, before she answered it, saying, ‘Hello, sir.’
As she listened to what he was saying she looked my way. ‘Yes, sir, we’re on our way there now . . . Yes, the boys are both safe, although we were lucky to clear the hospital without Ryan and Azzopardi spotting us . . . Are you sure that’s a good idea, sir? . . . That’s very good news, sir . . . Okay then, we’ll call back there after we’ve finished at the Downing Centre.’
After she disconnected she sat for a moment, as if she was just thinking.
‘Well?’ I prompted, which earned me a curious stare.
‘He said he’s bringing in Jim Harris and Tom Buckley to help,’ she replied. ‘He’s sent them out to try and pick up Gus Arbecca, the right-hand man.’
‘And you don’t like that idea?’
‘That was my first reaction. But Jim is a good man, and for that matter so is Buckley. I’d rather it be them than some of the other hot-heads in our squad room.’
I nodded in agreement. Even though I’d only been involved with this group for less than a week, I think I had already worked out which of them were the solid, cool-headed cops and which were those whose who would be likely to fire up at the drop of a hat.
‘What else did he say?’ I urged.
‘DoCS have been into the house where all the boys lived. There were a few kids there, mostly the younger ones, and all scared and wondering what was happening, but that was it. The older ones looked like they may be hiding out . . . perhaps tipped off by Gus, we’re not sure. The ones who were rounded up have also been taken into protective custody and are now helping out with enquiries, and being counselled by DoCS staff, so it all looks promising. We’ll keep an eye on the place and see if any of the others return.’
‘So the noose is tightening?’
‘Yeah, I guess it is,’ she chuckled.
‘Do you think we should we show Jimmy and Shane some photos of the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioners, to see if they can identify the ‘big wig’ they talked about? Unless we get any better leads, we’re going to have to do it sooner or later, aren’t we?’
‘Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.’
It was just then that a gaudy orange-coloured taxi cab pulled into the petrol station and parked just near us. The driver began looking around, as if trying to spot his passengers, so I got up and went across to his window.
‘You want cab?’ he asked, his thick Middle-eastern accent quite obvious.
‘Yes, that’d be us,’ I replied, then waved for Helen to come over.
‘Where you want to go?’ he asked.
‘Take us to Downing Centre, in the city please,’ Helen said, which was the central court house for the city.
‘Sure thingy,’ the cabbie replied, before resetting his meter. Helen and I gave each other a wry smile, while I quietly hoped that his driving would prove better than his grasp of the finer points of the English language.
Helen and I climbed into the back seat and no sooner than we were set the taxi pulled around in a circle and shot back out onto the main drag and at a pace that seemed barely legal, set off for the jungle of skyscrapers we could see up ahead of us. At least so far this guy seemed to know where he was going, which was more than can be said for half of the taxi drivers in this city.
When we drew closer to the inner-city our pace seemed to slow and with barely any hesitation our driver expertly negotiated the heavy traffic. Before we knew it we were coming to a stop almost right outside our destination, being set down amidst a footpath crowded with legal types in thousand dollar suits, rubbing shoulders with the very salt of the earth types they would most probably be defending; or prosecuting, as the case may be.
As Helen paid our fare I looked amongst the crowd to see if I could spot anyone I knew. For the briefest of moments I thought I spotted Warwick Cooke scurrying across the footpath and up the steps, but almost instantly he seemed to be swallowed by the crowd.
‘Looks like it’s going to be a busy day,’ Helen remarked. ‘Lucky we made it on time.’
Glancing at my watch I noticed it quarter to eleven, giving us fifteen minutes to spare.
‘C’mon, let’s go find Warwick,’ Helen said.
‘I think I spotted him heading in a few moments ago,’ I offered.
‘Great. Let’s get going then.’
We set off toward the main entrance to the court house and soon found ourselves climbing the few short steps at the front and passing through the sliding glass doors at the entrance.
We walked inside, crossing the ornate tiled mosaic in the floor, which was predominately blue and gold, finding ourselves inside an already crowded grand entrance. From my time in the academy, where studies of the legal system were mandatory, I recalled that the building was originally built around one hundred years ago. It was constructed of white brick with yellow brick trim. Originally it was designed as retail space, before eventually being taken over for use by the courts in the mid nineteen-eighties, after the original owners ceased trading. In its own way the building was quite unique and, from the outside at least, wasn’t exactly typical of what you would think a court house would look like. Why some of this trivial information seemed to always stay stuck inside my head I never could quite understand.
I spotted Warwick talking to a couple of other men on the far side of the foyer and pointed him out to Helen, and so we headed off in his direction, passing a group of well-dressed suits as we did so. Glancing at them as we passed I noticed that one of them was none other than the esteemed Roderick Carlton; Jarvis’ QC.
He gave me a nod and a self-righteous grin, and I simply couldn’t wait to have that smug expression wiped from his face once the bail hearing commenced.
When we reached Warwick he greeted us warmly and introduced us to his assistants, who would also be helping with the case.
‘Have you spoken with Inspector Richardson this morning?’ he asked.
‘Yes. He told us we had the all clear for Shane to be released into our custody, and we’ve already moved him from the hospital. Lucky we did too, as a couple of rogue cops came calling for him just as we left there,’ Helen answered.
‘Azzopardi and Ryan? Your Inspector filled me in.’
‘Yeah. We managed to get him out without being seen though.’
‘Excellent. Now, this morning, we’re first up,’ he said to us. ‘They’ll start by calling for any items for mention before the court, at which time I will present the matter to the judge and Jarvis will be brought out from the holding cells. Once the judge has a read of the charge sheet she will almost certainly give Carlton the chance to move a motion for Jarvis to be released on bail, which, unless he comes up with a super-convincing argument, I’m certain will be denied. It shouldn’t take long at all, just a formality really . . . but then again, you can never really tell just what might happen sometimes.’
* * *
‘All rise,’ the court officer commanded. ‘This court is now in session, the Honorable Judge Price presiding.’
We had found seats just behind where Warwick and his associates sat at the bar table, in what was a surprisingly plain and simple court room. There was no fancy timber paneling or décor, it was just a plain white room with dark furniture, a raised section at the front where the judge would sit, and a coat of arms and two flags positioned on the wall behind her seat. Glancing around the room I noticed Roderick Carlton sitting at the next table over from where Warwick sat, while directly behind him sat Christina Jarvis, and in the row behind that sat his mother.
Just like everyone else in the room we had risen to our feet when ordered, at which time the judge entered via a side door, wearing black robes and the traditional wig, then proceeded to the front of the room and took her usual place. I noticed that all of the legal representatives bowed to her as she assumed her seat, which, from my academy studies I recalled was a traditional formality, although it wasn’t actually compulsory.
The judge was a woman who appeared to be in her fifties, not overly tall, but carried herself in a very business-like manner. As she sat she pulled some glasses from beneath her robes and placed them on the end of her nose, before peering out over the top of them at us all.
‘Be seated,’ the court officer stated. We sat.
‘Good morning everyone. Now, what matters do we have for mention today?’
At this time Warwick stood up, picking up a piece of paper from the table in front of him and glancing at it, before clearing his throat.
‘Your Honour,’ he began. ‘In the matter of the Crown versus Andrew Stephen Jarvis, Warwick Cooke acting for the prosectution.’
‘And Roderick Carlton for the defendant, Your Honour,’ Carlton added, while also getting to his feet.
The court officer shuffled through some papers and passed a page to the judge, who began to scan its contents.
‘Yes, yes, go on Mr Cooke.’
‘Your Honour, the Crown wishes to formally request that bail be denied for the defendant, based on the grounds that due to the seriousness of the charges against him he is not only a risk to the community, but also a flight risk.’
‘Is that so, Mr Cooke? And is the defendant with us today?’
‘Yes, Your Honour. He is currently detained in the Court’s holding cells,’ Carlton replied.
‘Bailiff, please bring the defendant into the court room,’ the judge ordered. ‘He may as well hear what we are all going to say about him.’
Without saying a word, the bailiff, who had been standing by a door on the opposite side to that which the judge had entered, quickly slipped through the door and disappeared. While the rest of us waited the judge took the opportunity to continue reading through the paperwork she had been handed, before looking up over her glasses in the direction of Roderick Carlton and frowning slightly.
I had the feeling she was about to say something, but before she’d had the chance to open her mouth the side door opened and we all turned to see Jarvis being led through the door by the bailiff. He was dressed in a blue suit, with a striped tie and his hair neatly done, but had his hands cuffed.
The bailiff directed him to a chair to the side, which was located behind a low partition, and he sat down.
‘You may carry on, Mr Cooke,’ the judge suggested.
‘Thank you, Your Honour. As you can see from the charge sheet before you, the alleged offences are extremely serious, Your Honour, and as such the Crown believes that should the defendant be granted bail, not only would the community be at risk, in particular a number of vulnerable young people who have been involved with his various . . . errr . . . enterprises, but also, given the gravity of these charges, we believe he would also pose a serious flight risk.’
I noticed that Warwick was being careful not to actually state what the charges were, and wondered if that was deliberate.
‘And what do you have to support your charges of child prostitution, grievous bodily harm and murder against the defendant, Mr Cooke?’
There were several noticeable gasps from the gathered crowd.
That was interesting, I thought. She had certainly laid it all out there for everyone to hear. There was nowhere for Jarvis to hide now.
‘We have eyewitness accounts to the alleged bashing of two of Mr Jarvis’ . . . errr . . . employees, one of whom was later found dead, floating in Botany Bay, Your Honour. Further to this we have more than a dozen sworn statements from Mr Jarvis’ employees relating to the charges of prostitution, and as the investigation into this case continues, Your Honour, we fully expect that additional charges will be laid, not only against the defendant, but also against a number of his associates and clients.’
By the sound of things DoCS had already been busy rounding up the remaining kids.
‘And what of these witnesses, Mr Cooke? If they are young and vulnerable, as you put it, I take it they are predominantly Mr Jarvis’ employees? Where are these witnesses now?’
‘That would be correct, Your Honour. They are either in protective custody with the New South Wales Police, or with the Department of Community Services.’
‘I see,’ Judge Price replied, before turning her gaze toward Jarvis, who appeared to now be slumped in his chair, his head down, already defeated. Slowly she shook her head, before turning her attention back to Roderick Carlton. ‘Mr Carlton, what do you have to say on this matter?’
‘Your Honour, my client strongly denies all charges against him. This is little more than a witch hunt, based on the lies of disgruntled former associates,’ he said, giving theatrical hand gestures as he did so.
‘Come now, Mr Carlton. Is that the best that you can do? Does this look like a client who is strongly denying all charges?’ she offered, while nodding in the direction of the rather despondent looking Jarvis.
‘Your Honour, we request that the Crown’s motion to deny bail be dismissed and that my client be released immediately,’ Carlton added.
‘That’s not going to happen, Mr Carlton, and I’m sure you already knew that. Bail is hereby denied,’ Judge Price stated. ‘I order the defendant to be held in custody, pending the outcome of the Crown’s ongoing investigations, at which time an evidentiary hearing will take place and a trial date set. Bailiff, you may return the defendant to the cells. I’m going to take a short recess now, before we move on. Mr Cooke, I’ll see you in my chambers, if you will.’
‘All rise,’ the court attendant said, and so we all stood as the judge left the court room.
As Jarvis was helped to his feet by the bailiff we heard several gasps and sobs coming from where his wife and mother were sitting. I didn’t look that way, however, I was watching Jarvis instead. As he stood up he looked toward them, with a look of what I could only describe as contempt appearing on his face. But then his eyes shifted toward the back of the room, as if he had spotted someone, and his expression suddenly seemed to change from contempt to fear. I quickly looked in that direction and when I noticed the group of people he appeared to be staring at a knot suddenly formed in my stomach.
There, standing in the back row of seats was Assistant Commissioner Barrett, flanked by detectives Azzopardi and Ryan. From beside me I heard Helen let out a soft whistle.
‘I guess we now know who the leader of the pack is, eh?’ she quietly offered. ‘You ready to play hard-ball, kid? I think the stakes just got raised.’
‘Do I have a choice?’
‘Nope. None at all,’ Helen chuckled.
Glancing around the room I quickly took in some of the other spectators. My eyes settled on a blonde-haired boy who was standing in the open doorway. He appeared to be of about the same age as Shane and Jimmy, and was dressed in jeans and a plain blue button-down shirt. At first he seemed to be staring at Jarvis as he was being led away, and the look of satisfaction on his face told me all I needed to know, but then I noticed him look around the room, before his eyes eventually settled on the Three Amigo’s and widen in fear. That was when he took a quick step backwards, so that he was partially hidden by the doorway.
It was obvious that he knew who they were, but what I wanted to know was just how he knew them. I had my suspicions, of course, but I would need to talk to him, and preferably without the others noticing.
‘I’ll meet you outside shortly,’ I said to Helen, then quickly started down the centre aisle without giving her any further explanation. Walking straight past Barrett and company, not even glancing their way, I headed for the door, never for a moment taking my eyes off the kid. I figured that as far as the three police officers were concerned, I’d never officially met any of them, so I could easily feign ignorance if called to account, but right now there was someone else I needed to talk to.
As quickly as I could, yet still trying not to attract any undue attention, I headed for the door, which already had people filing out of it, causing me to lose sight of the boy. By the time I reached it and made my way back out into the crowded foyer he was gone
Frantically I looked around, while at the same time making my way toward the front doors, then, just as I was about to go through them I saw a flash of blue entering the toilets at the far end of the foyer. I couldn’t be totally sure it was him, but I was reasonably confident, so I headed in that direction.
I found him standing at the urinals, having a piss, and so I sidled up beside him, but not too close, just in case he spooked.
‘Hey,’ I said to him. ‘How’s it going?’
‘Okay, I guess. And it’ll cost you fifty bucks.’
‘Whatever you want . . . it’s fifty bucks.’
‘Even just to talk?’
‘You kinky or something?’
‘Nah,’ I replied, then pulled back my jacket to show him my badge, which was hanging from my belt.
‘Fuck it!’ he said, while nervously glancing at the exit. I could see his mind ticking over, as if he was trying to figure out if he could get past me or not.
‘Listen kid, I’m not going to bust you. I just need to talk to you, that’s all.’
‘What about?’ he demanded, while at the same time sounding surprised.
‘I saw you in the court room. Were you there to make sure Jarvis didn’t get off or something? I saw the way you looked at him when they took him away. You looked like you were pleased.’
‘What if I was?’
‘You one of his boys? Like Jimmy and Shane?’
At the mention of their names his eyes widened. I had his full attention now.
‘Do you know ‘em?’
‘Yeah, mate. I know them.’
‘Where are they? Are they okay? They just disappeared. Everyone has been worried Jarvis did to them what he did to that other kid.’
‘They’re both fine now. Jarvis put Shane in hospital for a bit, but he’s okay. And Jimmy’s been hiding out.’
‘It was them what squealed, wasn’t it? I’m glad they did. Someone had to?’
‘So you are one of Jarvis’ boys then?’
‘Well . . . not any more, it looks like,’ he grinned.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Casey,’ he replied. ‘What’s yours?’
‘I’m Detective Rick Cooper,’ I answered. ‘And what about the other three guys you saw in there?’
‘The cops? They’re nothing but bastards.’
‘Yeah, the cops. And why do you say they’re bastards?’
‘The two younger ones, the ones that look like gorillas, they used to clean up Jarvis’ messes whenever he got in the shit . . . or even looked like getting’ in the shit.’
‘And the older one? Have you seen him too?’
‘Yeah. He’s the one who likes it real kinky. We’d have to dress up in school uniforms for him and call him Headmaster, and if he didn’t like what he got from us we’d get the cane, or sometimes a belt with studs in it, and right across the arse too.’
‘Fuckin’ hell,’ I replied.
‘I’ve still got the scars too. You wanna see ‘em?’
‘We’re probably going to need to kiddo, but not right now, eh. Somehow we’ve got to figure out how to get you out of here without being seen.’
‘Oh, that’s easy,’ he said, as he headed for a door that had a sign saying Cleaner on it. He tried the handle and it appeared to be locked, but after giving it a jiggle and tapping the bottom the door with his foot, the door opened inwards.
‘You ain’t afraid of the dark, are you? Follow me.’
As I followed him and stepped into the void I heard the outer door to the toilets open, so I hurriedly pulled the door shut behind me, clicking the lock into place just as the inner door was opened and I heard someone enter. As I stayed where I was I heard them curse, before banging open all of the cubicle doors and then curse some more.
Whomever it was then tried the handle on the door I was now cowering behind, but after it didn’t budge they simply grunted and left the room.
Breathing a sigh of relief I turned my attention back toward my young companion.
‘C’mon, this way,’ he urged.