‘You’re awful quiet,’ Helen said to me as we made our way across town. ‘What’s up?’
‘What? Oh, nothing much really. I was just going over a few things in my head.’
‘Adam said yesterday that it has sure been one hell of a week. He definitely got that right!’
‘Yeah, it really has only been a week since you came on the scene, hasn’t it? It just seems like forever.’
‘That’s very funny. You should have your own stand-up act . . . they still have Comedy Night at Caesars, don’t they?’
‘What, and get rotten tomatoes, or worse, thrown at me? No thanks; dodging bullets is much safer!’
‘You wimp!’ I teased.
As we drove on a little further a question formed in my mind.
‘So, what’s worse than having rotten tomatoes thrown at you?’
‘How about a double ended dildo?’ she smirked.
‘A what? You can’t be serious?’
‘I’m dead serious, mate. I saw it with my own eyes. Hit the comedian right on the bloody head . . . almost knocked her out!’
‘Ha! I bet the crowed loved it?’
‘Well, it was a damn sight funnier than the lines she was trying to deliver,’ she laughed.
Despite the light hearted moment, however, it wasn’t long before I was thinking about more serious matters once more, soon asking her, ‘So, do you think Casey will be able to tell us much more about Corcoran?’
‘I really don’t know,’ she answered. ‘When I spoke to him yesterday I only got the basics from him . . . just enough to give us what we needed, but I told him I’d be back to see him with you just as soon as I could. He seemed to perk up at that news. I don’t know what it is about you, Rick, but these kids sure seem to like you . . .’
‘Yeah, whatever,’ I said, trying to fob her off. ‘Anyway, how has he been handling his being cooped up with Cathy and Megan?’
‘Oh, he’s fine, but I did get the impression he would like to have some company other than women. He kept asking about Jimmy and Shane . . . and you, of course.’
‘Well, when this is all over they’ll be able to get together again. Maybe we’ll be able to introduce him to some other kids his age?’
‘Like who? Nick?’ she laughed. ‘I’m not so sure how keen Casey would be on that idea. I get the impression he likes them older, which is hardly surprising really, given that’s all he really knows.’
‘I hadn’t really thought of it like that,’ I mused. ‘I guess it makes sense though.’
‘I’m not saying for sure that’s what will happen with him, but I’ve seen it often enough in similar cases . . . some young victims can find it hard to intimately relate to people their own age, yet with someone older, if that’s all they’ve known, it’s somehow easier for them.’
For what seemed like a long time she studied me, giving me the impression she was trying to make up her mind about saying something else.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
‘It’s probably nothing . . . but with kids being kids, you can never quite tell what they’re thinking . . .’ she ventured.
‘If I can offer you a word of advice, just be careful with Casey, okay?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘He likes you . . . in fact you’re all he talks about, apparently. I know you’re smart enough to do the right thing and not put yourself in a dangerous position with him, but all the same, you just need to be aware that even despite his recent past, he’s still an impressionable kid. Do you follow me?’
‘Loud and clear,’ I replied, while thinking that was just what I didn’t need: an infatuated teenager with daddy issues. ‘I’ll try and talk to him about it,’ I promised. ‘I still think he needs someone his own age . . . maybe I should actually introduce him to Nick?’ I pondered aloud.
‘What? Is Nick gay too? I was only joking when I mentioned him earlier.’
I smiled at her. ‘Yeah, he’s gay. He came over to see me and Adam this morning and came out to us. I think he just needed someone to talk to. He was worried about what his mum might think, so I promised him I would have a quiet yarn with her.’
‘And did you?’
‘Turns out she already knows, but just hasn’t said anything to him yet.’
‘Fuck, I’m glad I’m not a teenager any more . . .’ she sighed.
‘Yeah, me too,’ I replied. ‘But what about kids? You ever wanted them?’
She looked across at me and for just a moment I thought I could see some pain etched into her expression, yet she said nothing. I had this feeling that I had touched a nerve, so I quickly looked away, hoping that she wouldn’t realise that I may have sensed something painful there.
It was her business, into which I suddenly felt as if I had intruded. If she ever wanted to tell me about whatever it was, then I would be only too happy to listen, but if she wanted to keep it to herself, then that was fine by me.
Quickly I decided to try and change the subject.
‘Have you had any luck tracking down his uncle?’ I asked her, remembering Casey having said that there was a gay uncle somewhere up country.
‘We’ve been working on that,’ Helen replied.
‘But?’ I asked, sensing her slight hesitation.
‘DoCS seem reluctant to release an at-risk kid into the care of someone who is known to be . . . errr . . . homosexual,’ she said.
‘You’re fucking kidding me, right?’ I spat. ‘The guy’s the only family Casey has . . . that’s got to be better than having him go to some stranger.’
‘I agree, but this is a government department we’re talking about here . . . and we all know how they operate.’
‘So, what do we do? They haven’t got their hands on him yet, have they? Do they even know where he is?’
‘No. The boss has made it clear to them that it’s hands off, at least until things have settled down with regards to this case against Jarvis, and now, I assume, the one against Corcoran as well. So far, thankfully, the magistrate has agreed with him.’
‘That won’t stop them though, will it?’
‘Possibly not,’ Helen grimly replied.
For the rest of the journey we drove in silence, with each of us no doubt mulling over all the possible angles. I wasn’t sure what Helen might have come up with, but I for one wasn’t going to just sit back and do nothing. I had some ideas, but as for how far I would be prepared to go, well, I suppose that would depend on just how far I was pushed.
It was only a short while later that we arrived at Cathy and Megan’s little home, pulling up outside the faded weatherboard back street cottage. Nothing seemed to have changed in the week since I had first come here.
We made it all the way to the front door before it was yanked open and Casey came out onto the steps to greet us, grinning from ear to ear. He was wearing some old clothes – faded jeans and a t-shirt – which looked like they had seen better days and were most likely from a local op shop, not that there was anything wrong with that, of course, and judging by the dirt he was also wearing it appeared that the girls had been putting him to good use in the garden.
‘Hey, kid!’ I said to him. ‘So, it looks like they haven’t yet kicked you out then, eh?’
‘Not a chance of that,’ he replied, as he briefly hugged me, before blushing and quickly stepping aside and hugging Helen also.
Just then Megan arrived at the doorway and ushered us all inside, before closing the door after us and pointing us in the direction of the kitchen. The air was filled with the tantalizing aroma of a cake or something similar cooking, and so we followed our noses, to where we found a very busy Cathy cleaning up after what appeared to have been a very productive morning.
Cathy greeted us warmly, giving Helen a hug and a kiss on the cheek, before then motioning for us to sit, which we did.
‘If you want some of this cake, Casey-boy, you better go wash up first,’ she decreed, as she filled the electric jug and switched it on.
‘Yessum,’ he cheekily replied, before leaving us, and flashing a big smile at us all as he did so.
‘That’s quite a character,’ Cathy said to us once he was out of earshot.
‘So it seems,’ Helen replied. ‘What has he been up to? Behaving himself, I hope?’
‘Oh yes, he’s a great kid. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,’ she answered, but I got the distinct impression that there was something she was leaving out.
‘But?’ I asked her.
‘Oh, it’s nothing serious . . .’ she sighed. ‘I guess it’s just that these kids have seen so much, and had so much done to them . . . it’s hard for us to know just what we can do to help them sometimes.’
‘But you are helping . . . even just by having them here and giving them some place safe to stay,’ I countered.
‘That may be so,’ Megan offered. ‘But when you hear a kid like Casey wake up in the middle of the night yelling, ‘No, please don’t,’ it just makes you realise how little we know about what they’ve gone through, and how much more work there is that needs doing for them.’
‘Yeah, I think I know what you mean,’ I replied. ‘And there are many more kids out there, just like Casey, who aren’t getting any assistance at all. I just hope that we can find some of the other kids who had been involved with Jarvis’ operation so that they can get out of the trap they were in as well.’
‘Yes, I’m sure there are quite a few who would be needing some help,’ Megan replied. ‘I’ve actually been talking to some of the people I work with. There are a number of support groups and foundations out there who deal with homeless and abused youth. They might be able to lend a hand.’
‘If we can find any of these other kids, that might just be worth looking into.’
‘And what about Casey?’ Cathy asked as she got up to make some coffee for us all.
‘Well, has he said anything more about what he wants to do when the dust settles? He was talking about wanting to go and stay with an uncle in the country, who we’ve been trying to track down for him,’ I answered.
‘He did say something about that,’ Cathy replied. ‘But he keeps talking about you, so I’m not sure exactly where his head is at, at the moment.’
I quickly glanced at Helen, who nodded slightly.
‘You seem to have made quite an impression on him,’ Megan remarked.
‘Yes, so I hear.’
‘I think the two of you need to have a bit of a chat,’ Cathy suggested. ‘Like I said, I’m not too sure what’s going on in his head right now, but you need to find out. And if it’s anything more than his simply being grateful for helping him out of the situation he was in, then please, for both your sakes, I hope that you let him down easy.’
‘I will,’ I promised.
Just then we heard the sound of a door closing, followed by that of footsteps in the hallway. Moments later Casey reappeared, looking decidedly cleaner than he had been earlier, with the dirt all washed away and the addition of some clean clothes.
‘Well, that’s an improvement,’ Megan said to him. ‘What’s the occasion? You got a date or something?’
‘Noooo,’ he softly replied, as he began shifting about on his feet, while his flushed cheeks didn’t go unnoticed either.
‘Don’t listen to them, Casey,’ I said to him, while getting to my feet. ‘C’mon, how about you and me go out into the back yard and spend a bit of man-time together? You can tell me all about these slave drivers we left you with.’
He looked up at me and smiled.
‘Can we?’ he asked. ‘I mean, is it okay for us to do that?’
‘Of course . . . provided you don’t try to take advantage of me, or anything like that.’
The smile was quickly replaced by a frown.
‘C’mon, mate. Let’s head outside,’ I said, as I put an arm around his shoulders and pointed him toward the back door.
‘We’ll bring you something out there,’ Cathy called out as we left the kitchen.
‘That’d be great, thanks,’ I called back.
When we reached the back yard I noticed a bench by the wall of the garden shed, bathed in morning sunlight. It looked the perfect spot for a heart to heart, so I made a bee line straight for it, my arm still wrapped around Casey’s shoulders. Patting the spot beside me I indicated for Casey to join me. Judging by the look on his face he knew that this was going to be more than just a friendly chat.
For a few moments we just sat there, both of us squinting slightly in the sunlight, as I waited for him to make the first move. I figured that his feelings would be churning up inside him about now and that sooner or later he would eventually say something, which he finally did.
‘They’ve said something to you about me, haven’t they?’ he finally asked.
‘About what exactly?’ I enquired.
‘Ummm . . . I dunno . . . about me having nightmares, or saying stuff about you.’
‘Casey, we all care about you, and we’re all worried about you, you know that don’t you?’ I said to him.
‘Yeah, I guess.’
‘I know what it’s like having nightmares, I have them often enough myself,’ I confided.
‘You do? What about?’ he asked.
For just a moment I wondered just how much I should tell him, but in the end I decided that if I was going to build any sort of a trusting relationship with him, I would need to level with him, just as I had with Jimmy and Shane.
‘In different ways, we’ve both been touched by the same person,’ I said to him, while fishing my phone from my pocket, then looking for and finding the photo of Corcoran.
‘What do you mean?’ he asked, but when I turned the phone around and showed him the photo I could see the recognition dawn in his face.
‘This guy is the cause of my nightmares,’ I said to him.
‘And some of mine too,’ he replied. ‘How do you know him?’
‘It’s a long story, but basically the crux of the matter is that he was a teacher at my old high school and . . .’
‘He murdered my boyfriend.’
‘Holy fuck!’ he exclaimed.
‘Jimmy and Shane recognised him and also said that you knew him. That’s why I sent the photo to Helen yesterday and asked her to show it to you and try to get some details.’
‘He likes to tie people up,’ Casey said quietly. ‘That’s what one of the nightmares I have all the time is about.’
That I could certainly understand, along with the terror that he would have felt.
‘Yeah, I’ve heard he likes that. Did he hurt you in any way?’
‘No,’ he replied. ‘But it was pretty scary all the same.’
‘Yeah, I guess it would have been.’
I didn’t want to go into the full details of what Corcoran had done, as I didn’t want him to have to face anything more in his dreams than he already was, so I gave him a very brief run down on what had been happening over the past few days. I explained why we had taken the two boys to Newcastle, which he was already aware of, as well as my friend, Adam, coming up there as well. I told him the basics of what happened with Robbie and Cory, then about my coming home with Adam yesterday, Nick’s spying on Corcoran, and even my pulling a gun on Corcoran last night.
When I was finished we both sat there in silence for quite some time as I allowed him time to digest everything.
‘Fuck,’ he eventually said. ‘I had no idea about any of that other stuff he might have done.’
‘The guy is sick, there’s no doubt about that,’ I said. ‘We just need to make sure we catch him before he can do any more damage. So, is there anything else you can tell me about him that we might not already know? Like how many times you saw him. Does he know any of your other clients – especially the Headmaster – or even where he took you, or where he might live?’
‘Geez, you don’t half want much,’ Casey said. He had tried his best to give it something of a humorous touch, but instead it sounded more despondent than anything else.
‘I know mate. We know that we’re clutching at straws here, but any little piece of information we can get might just be what we need to be able to find him.’
For a few moments he studied me, as I could see him trying to gather his thoughts.
‘It was always some place different,’ he said. ‘Sometimes it was a motel, but always a different one. Sometimes we would go to apartments in the city. One time it was even on a sail boat in the harbour.’
‘How often would you see him?’
‘That was the strange thing,’ he said. ‘Sometimes it would be months and months before I would see him, and then it would be like four or five times in a couple of weeks. Then after that he’d be gone again.’
‘So, it’s like he might not even be living in Sydney . . . he could just be visiting?’ I said, although it was said more to myself than to Casey.
‘I . . . I wouldn’t know about that,’ he answered.
‘How about him and Barrett? Do they know each other, do you think?’ I asked.
At this he really did smile.
‘Yeah, I’m sure they do. They would sometimes ask me if I’d seen the other one recently, and they would both get pissed if I said yes. In the end I always used to say I hadn’t, because it was like . . .’
‘Easier?’ I prompted. ‘Like, if you said yes they would take it out on you, or punish you?’
‘Yeah, something like that,’ he spat. ‘One time he complained to me about going with Barrett . . . something about them both wanting me at the same time . . .’
‘Have you ever seen them together? How did you meet them both?’
For the next few minutes he patiently answered my questions as I probed him about both Barrett and Corcoran, and while he couldn’t really give me any answers to some specific questions, what he did give me was food for thought.
It was my turn now to go silent, as I started to turn over in my own mind all of the things he had said.
‘So, you’ve got a boyfriend then?’ he eventually asked me, snapping me back to the present.
‘Errr . . . yeah, mate. I do,’ I replied.
‘Is it serious?’
‘Yeah. In fact, I’m just about to move in with him.’
‘Oh . . .’ he replied, his disappointment obvious.
He looked away from me, staying silent, before eventually asking, ‘Is he the guy you were talking to on the phone the other day? When we were on the train coming here?’
‘Yeah. That’s him. His name is Adam. It was him who I went with to Newcastle over the weekend.’
Once more he simply said, ‘Oh . . .’ before again falling silent.
‘Are you disappointed?’ I prompted.
He looked up at me and tried to smile, but I could see that he was really struggling, so I put an arm around him once more and pulled him close to me.
‘Casey, I want you to know that you are a beautiful and brave and amazing young man, and even if you’re disappointed now, I’m sure that when the time is right you’ll find someone who is just as amazing as you are.’
‘I thought I already had,’ he whispered.
‘I can’t be what you want me to be,’ I whispered back to him. ‘And I think you already know that.’
‘I . . . I guess so.’
‘Casey, even though we’ve only known you for a few days I want you to know that we’re all so bloody proud of you. What you are doing by helping us here means a lot to us all . . . not to mention all those who no longer have to put up with Jarvis and his clients. I can’t give you what you want, but I want you to know that I’ll do everything I can to help you to be safe and happy.’
I was tempted to say something about Nick, but thought better of it. I would save that for later, I thought, and try to arrange for them to meet later, just to test the waters.
‘Thank you,’ he said to me. ‘It feels so amazing to be . . . what’s the word . . . free, I guess, and I owe all that to you. I really hope that when this is all over you won’t . . . errr . . .’
‘I won’t what?’ I urged.
‘Forget me?’ he pleaded.
‘Not a chance of that, kid,’ I said to him, as I leaned across and pulled him to me at the same time, then briefly kissed the side of his head. ‘You better get used to the fact that from here on in I’m going to be keeping a pretty close eye on you.’
* * *
When we finally left the house Helen told me there was another pit stop we needed to make. When I pressed her for details, however, she was reluctant to elaborate on it, so despite my annoyance there was little I could do but sit back and see where we were going.
We were heading south, along the M1, but we soon veered off the motorway and began making our way through territory that was unfamiliar to me. Much to my surprise it wasn’t long before we ended up crossing back over the M1 and driving through an elaborate set of gates which led us to the open expanses of the Australian Golf Club. Not having been here before I marveled at the lush greens and fairways as we drove up the driveway, amazed that an oasis such as this could exist within suburbia, before we then pulled up at the almost futuristic looking clubhouse.
‘This is a bit posh for the likes of us, isn’t it?’ I asked Helen as we pulled up quite close to the building.
‘We won’t be here long,’ she promised, as she pulled her phone from her pocket and dialed a number. Whomever she had called must have picked up and she said, ‘We’re out the front,’ before disconnecting.
When I noticed the front doors of the club house slide open a few minutes later and the Inspector walked out into the morning sunshine I have to admit that I was quite surprised. I looked across at Helen and found her staring at me.
‘I told him about last night,’ she said. ‘He wanted to be kept informed of everything that has happened this week, and when I told him about your run-in with Corcoran he wanted to hear the details first-hand, along with anything else we might have managed to find out today.’
‘There must be things going on that we don’t know about, and I think shit is about to get real,’ she said, as we watched the Inspector walking toward us, wearing a casual, yet smart golfing outfit. He was carrying gloves in one hand, but as he came closer he stuffed these into his hip pocket. The whole scene was about as cliché as you could get, and as I sat there watching him approach I couldn’t help but wonder just what this world was that I now found myself a part of.
Inspector Richardson opened the rear door and slid in behind Helen, then across into the middle of the seat. Both of us turned in our seats to be able to study him.
‘Good morning Detectives,’ he remarked, which was accompanied by a wry grin. ‘So, they tell me you’ve been pulling your gun on kids at a skate park, Cooper?’
‘It wasn’t exactly like that, sir,’ I protested.
‘It’s all right, Cooper. I do have some understanding of what happened, but perhaps you can tell me in your own words. As I’m sure you can appreciate, questions may be asked . . . especially by the Maroubra command, should they happen to get wind of this, so I would like to have the facts and be able to smooth things over with them before anything gets blown out of proportion,’ he proposed.
‘Yes, sir,’ I replied, all the while thinking that this whole scenario was becoming more and more surreal with each passing minute.
‘So . . . why don’t you tell me what happened,’ he urged.
Over the next few minutes I told him exactly what had occurred, from the time Adam and I had arrived back in Sydney until the time Helen had left us. When I had finished he sat back in the seat, then turned his head to stare out the window for a few moments, but said nothing.
‘He didn’t have a choice, sir,’ Helen offered. ‘With no back-up he needed to make some sort of move on Corcoran while he had the chance.’
‘What?’ the Inspector replied, as he turned back to face us. ‘Yes, of course. You did the right thing Cooper. You didn’t have a choice.’
‘No sir, I don’t believe I did.’
For a few moments he studied me, giving the impression as he did so that there was something else he wanted to say. When I glanced at Helen it looked like she had picked up on that as well, judging by her expression.
Eventually the Inspector decided to put us out of our misery and tell us what was on his mind.
‘I guess you’ve been wondering just what the hell has been going on this week, eh Cooper?’
‘The thought had crossed my mind, sir.’
‘Well, to be honest, I’ve been asking myself the same thing, but I think things are finally coming to light now.’
‘I told you on your first day that you had been thrust upon me, Cooper, and that I didn’t particularly like it.’
‘Well, from what I’ve been able to ferret out this week it seems that there is something of a conspiracy at work here . . . with you and I being the bunnies caught in the middle.’
‘I don’t quite understand, sir?’
‘Your appointment to my command was at the direction of the Minister for Police,’ he said. ‘And if my informants are correct, that came not long after a lengthy, behind closed doors meeting between Assistant Commissioner Barrett and the Minister for Police himself.’
‘So he was a plant!’ Helen announced.
‘Quite possibly,’ the Inspector replied. ‘It’s just unfortunate that nobody bothered to tell Cooper.’
‘But why?’ I complained.
‘It’s like we talked about,’ Helen answered. ‘Barrett wanted someone inside our command, but to get you there he actually had to go above the Commissioner to get what he wanted . . . to the Minister himself, no less.’
‘Which suggests to me, if Barrett is on those type of terms with the Minister, they know each other through more than just the police force,’ the Inspector added.
‘Holy shit!’ I exclaimed.
‘Do you think that the Minister is aware of Barrett’s . . . errr . . . proclivities?’ Helen enquired.
‘That remains to be seen,’ the Inspector mused. ‘But it is a question that definitely needs answering.’
‘So, where do we go from here?’ asked Helen.
‘For you and Cooper, it’s situation normal,’ the Inspector replied. ‘I want you to carry on with your investigations into the Jarvis and Corcoran matters . . . there is still a lot of work to be done.’
‘Yes sir,’ Helen responded.
With that the Inspector left us, returning to the club house and his golf game, while we remained sitting in the car, contemplating just what had happened.
‘Come on,’ Helen eventually said. ‘I’ll drop you home.’
* * *
When Monday morning came around I found myself once again standing on the outside, looking up at the plain grey walls of the fortress which was Darlinghurst Police Station.
A week ago my mind had been filled with insecurities. A week ago I had been unsure of myself, not knowing if I would be able to cut it, not knowing if I would be accepted. But that was no longer the case. I now knew that I was well on the way to making my mark. I had what it takes to make a difference, and I was damned sure that I was going to do my best to be the cop that my loved ones would be proud of.
Smiling to myself I entered the building and took the lift up to the floor on which our squad room was located, before walking through the squad room door, entering this time not as a total stranger, but as an equal.
A great deal had happened in the week since I had arrived at this command, and I had no doubt that there would be a great deal more to come.
Looking around the room I soon noticed that everyone was present, apart from the Inspector, who no doubt would be holed up in his office, I figured.
Tom Buckley and Scott Willis both came over and said good morning, both shaking my hand.
‘So, you’ve decided to front up for another week of fun, eh?’ Scott said to me, grinning from ear to ear.
‘Yeah, I thought I might as well,’ I replied.
‘You planning on shooting anyone today?’ Tom added.
‘We heard about your little escapade the other night,’ said Scott.
‘Don’t listen to ‘em,’ Helen said to me, as she came over to join us. ‘They’re just jealous they can only fire blanks these days.’
‘What the fuck!’ replied Tom, but it was said with a laugh, so I knew that it was meant to be little more than friendly banter.
From the other side of the room I could hear some chatter and snickering going on and when I looked across I could see Joe Benevetti looking my way, with a scowl etched across his face, while his partner, Jim Harris stood there looking at him and shaking his head. They were something of an odd couple, at least to my eyes, but I figured that if their personas carried over into the interview room they would be a classic good cop/bad cop pairing.
I also remembered Joe’s jibes which had been directed at me when we visited the pub early in the previous week, so I figured I still needed to be careful with him. He gave me the distinct impression he disliked me, although whether that was because I was the new kid on the block and seemed to be getting a free run at climbing the ladder, or whether I was gay, I couldn’t be sure.
Before I had a chance to think any more about it, however, the Inspector came hurrying into the room.
‘Oh, good, you’re all here,’ he said to us, before quickly getting down to business. ‘Now, I know you all have active case loads at the moment but unless it’s life threatening, I need you to put things aside for a short while.’
This immediately seemed to get everyone’s attention, none more so than Helen and me. Glancing at Helen I could see her frowning slightly, then she looked my way and gave a double-pump of her eyebrows, which almost made me laugh.
‘As you would all by now be aware, a number of arrests were made in the past week relating to the child prostitution case which Wheeler and Cooper were investigating,’ the Inspector announced.
There were murmurs within the room and as I glanced around I noticed almost everyone looking my way. Most noticeable was the glare coming from Joe, which was making me nervous.
‘What does that have to do with us, Sir?’ he asked.
‘What it has to do with you, Detective Benevetti, is that because some aspects of the investigation are ongoing, and there is at least one serious offender still at large, who we also believe to be a person of interest in at least three murders, I’m throwing all our resources toward his capture.
‘I also know that some of you would know quite well the two Vice Squad officers included amongst those arrested last week,’ he added, while staring directly at Joe. ‘But it is important that you put any personal feelings regarding those men aside. They have been arrested for a reason, and there is nothing anyone of you can say to me that will make me change my mind regarding their guilt or innocence. I expect everyone’s full co-operation in the ongoing investigations.’
When he said this, I noticed that Joe seemed to shift uncomfortably on his feet. Was there something else I didn’t know, I wondered?
‘What murders are we talking about, Sir?’ asked Garry Kwan.
‘The first occurred five years ago in Newcastle, and the other two occurred last week, right here in Sydney. I believe some of you may have even known the victims.’
Several heads nodded as they realised just who it was that he was referring to.
‘So, what is the connection between the three murders, Sir?’ asked Craig Andarakis.
The Inspector looked at me and gave a very slight nod.
‘It’s me,’ I announced, which immediately had all heads spinning my way once more. ‘The first victim, five years ago, was my boyfriend in high school,’ I said.
There were a couple of nods amongst the gathered crowd, as if I had just confirmed their suspicions. I didn’t like the look of the sneer I received from Benevetti, however.
‘What about the other two?’ Jim Harris asked.
‘They were people I had only met briefly last week,’ I answered. ‘Prior to that I had never heard of them or met either of them.’
‘So why them? Why were they targeted?’ he asked.
‘The person of interest in all three cases is a guy named Danny Corcoran, a former teacher at Rick’s old high school,’ said Helen. ‘We think that Corcoran was the jealous type, and just like Assistant Commissioner Barrett, he likes pretty young blonde things and isn’t bashful about making advances toward them. What he can’t handle, however, is being rejected by them.’
‘So, he hit on you?’ Joe asked me, without even trying to hide the mocking tone in his voice.
‘Yeah,’ I replied. ‘And when I didn’t go along with what he wanted, my boyfriend became the next target . . . working on the principle, we think, that if he couldn’t have me, then no one else could either.’
‘In a crazy mixed up way, that kind of makes sense,’ Craig said, although not seemingly directed at anyone. ‘But it still doesn’t really explain the two murders this past week.’
‘We think that Cooper and his new boyfriend were being stalked by the subject,’ Helen offered. ‘Just how the subject tracked Cooper down we have no idea . . . possibly by something as simple as a chance sighting, perhaps. We’re about to go back through some CCTV footage from the railway stations where Cooper believed he saw Corcoran, as well as from the Opera House from when we pulled young Alexis from the water . . . although Cooper didn’t realise it actually was Corcoran at the time due to his having changed his appearance considerably since he had last seen the man. We believe we will find him in the footage at both locations.’
‘Both Alexis and Jimmy Tan were guys I had only just met, yet the next day they were both dead,’ I said. ‘If Corcoran was stalking me he may have just snapped when he saw me talking to them, possibly thinking I might have been seeing them or something, and that would be enough reason for them to be taken out of the picture.’
‘But how can you even be certain it was him?’ asked Tom. ‘It’s all a bit circumstantial so far.’
‘True, but there’s more to Corcoran’s story and what he has been up to,’ Helen told them, while picking up some sheets of paper from her desk, which I soon found were copies of Nick’s photo of Corcoran from Saturday morning. ‘The year after Martin Oliver, that was Rick’s first boyfriend, was killed he tried the same thing on with two other boys at the same school . . . one a blonde, surfer type, who rejected his advances. The other one was darker in complexion and he became the one to suffer Corcoran’s wrath. Thankfully, however, this time Corcoran was interrupted before he could finish what it was he had set out to do, which was to kill the boy and remove what we think he perceived to be the one thing standing in his way . . .’ she said, as she passed copies of the photo around.
‘On that occasion, however, while the victim wasn’t killed, he was severely traumatised. Corcoran managed to get away and hasn’t been seen since . . . until this week that is. Subsequently the school paid off the last victim, wanting to keep everything hush-hush. No report was ever filed with the local police, so nobody ever went looking for Corcoran.’
‘And you know all this, how?’ Garry asked, sounding clearly sceptical.
‘I sent Cooper back to Newcastle on Friday to go back over things, talk to the school and anyone else he thought could be of assistance, and see what else he could find,’ the Inspector informed everyone, which was of great relief to me, as it gave me a legitimate cover for taking Jimmy and Shane north, without actually bringing them into it. ‘He found out about the second assault by chance and was able to interview the two boys involved, who both still live in the area. We also should have all the police records pertaining to Martin’s murder arriving today so that we can also go back over everything ourselves.’
‘And we know it was Corcoran who is stalking Rick now, as the photo you have in your hands was taken on Saturday morning, outside Rick’s apartment and by his young neighbor,’ Helen advised. ‘Corcoran approached the boy, specifically asking about Rick. Rick’s current boyfriend also confirmed that he had seen the man at his own apartment building in Bondi, where Rick has spent some time, so you do the math, folks!
‘The boy who took the photo then followed Corcoran for most of the day, simply because he thought it odd that this guy was asking about Rick,’ Helen continued. ‘Then on Saturday night, after Rick returned from Newcastle, he found the boy at the Maroubra beach, still watching Corcoran, who was himself watching a young blonde haired boy at the skate park. Can anyone see a pattern emerging here?’
Murmurs of understanding seemed to travel around the room.
‘So, what actually happened?’ Jim urged.
‘Corcoran tried following the kid,’ I said to them. ‘I pulled my gun on him and ordered him to freeze, but that just spooked the kid. He ran, and in that moment of confusion, Corcoran got away as well.’
‘Ever heard of back-up?’ sneered Benevetti.
‘He did call for some back-up, asshole, but Corcoran certainly wasn’t hanging around waiting for it to arrive before he made his move, so Rick made a decision to move in on his own,’ spat Helen, who was clearly becoming exasperated by Benevetti’s belligerent attitude. ‘And lucky he did, otherwise there might be another kid out there today who was the victim of a serious sexual assault . . . or worse.’
That seemed to silence Benevetti, at least for now, and I couldn’t help but notice the faintest of smiles on the Inspector’s face.
‘Alright you lot. I’m sure you can all understand the importance of finding this character, so I want everyone on board,’ the Inspector ordered. ‘Wheeler and Cooper can take point on this, so I want you to give them your full support. It goes without saying that we need to find Corcoran as quickly as we can, especially with Mardi Gras this coming weekend, so get out on the streets, shake up your contacts and see what falls out.’
There were a few grumbles as the Inspector made to leave the room, but when he turned back to face us all these were swiftly silenced.
‘Wheeler. Cooper. My office please,’ he said, before then disappearing, with the two of us scrambling to catch up.
When we reached his office the door was still open, so Helen knocked and we entered. The Inspector looked up from his chair and smiled at us.
‘Close the door, will you Cooper.’
‘So, that seemed to go well, don’t you think?’ he asked.
Helen and I could only look at each other and wonder what his game was.
‘Cooper, it seems I’m throwing you in the deep end here,’ he said to me. ‘I sure hope you can swim?’
‘Well enough, Sir,’ I replied.
‘Well, we’ll soon find out, won’t we?’ he chuckled. ‘Now, about Mardi Gras . . .’
‘Sir, do you really think . . .’ Helen began to protest, only to have the Inspector raise a hand to silence her.
‘If you had let me finish, Helen, I was about to tell you that we’ve made some other arrangements to finish the float and staff it for the parade.’
‘Yes, sir. That’s a relief, sir.’
‘I’ve called in a few favours from other divisions, so now the two of you can just concentrate on these cases.’
‘Thank you, sir,’ we both said.
‘Now, in a moment I’m heading out to see the Police Commissioner regarding Barrett. I’m not sure what kind of a reception I’m going to get, but what I have to say to him needs to be said . . . and if he won’t listen, then I’ll just have to find someone who will.’
Helen and I looked at each other. I think we were both a little confused.
‘Sir?’ Helen ventured.
‘What I’m about to tell you is not to leave this room. Is that understood?’
‘Of course, sir,’ Helen replied.
‘Good. It seems to me that Assistant Commissioner Barrett is something of a protected species in this force. He’s had more than one lucky escape, with each time there being someone around to bail him out. I suspect that we all know just who it is from higher up the food chain who is looking after him, but we need to know for sure.’
‘So, what can you do about it?’ Helen asked.
‘Well, I asked you and your colleagues to shake up your contacts and see what falls out. Perhaps it might be time that I did the same,’ he chuckled.
To be continued . . .