After leaving the Inspector’s office we found ourselves being greeted by a room full of expectant faces when we returned to the squad room. Actually, it would be more accurate to say it was an almost full room of expectant faces plus one face which now seemed to have a scowl permanently etched upon it.
‘So, what’s the plan?’ Craig Andarakis asked us, almost as soon as we walked through the door. ‘Do you have any leads on this Corcoran guy?’
‘Very few,’ Helen replied. ‘So it’s going to take a lot of legwork and a fair bit of luck in order to find him.’
‘Fucking brilliant,’ Benevetti muttered. ‘So now we have to drop everything so we can chase a ghost. If you ask me I think the Inspector is losing the plot.’
‘Well, nobody asked you,’ Garry Kwan said, echoing I’m sure just what most of us were all thinking.
‘Alright then smart arse, what do you propose?’
‘Right. The lot of you. Knock it off!’ Helen snapped. ‘Now how about you all sit your collective arses down and we’ll fill you in on everything we know, starting with the first murder and going right up to Corcoran’s brief period in custody, and then the events of Saturday night. Maybe when you’re up to speed you might actually be of some use to us.’
Somewhat reluctantly everyone seemed to find a spot, after which Helen took point. I was grateful for that, because no matter how many times I spoke about Martin I couldn’t help but begin to get emotional, and the last thing I needed right now was to stand in front of this team of police officers as a quivering, blubbering mess.
‘Okay then,’ Helen continued, once we had some semblance of order in the room. ‘Now, first things first. As the Inspector said a few minutes ago, you would all most likely be aware of what has been going on with Assistant Commissioner Barrett and his alleged involvement with the Jarvis case. Well, we believe he has links to our other perp, Corcoran, as well. We’re fairly certain they know each other, although just how we’re not exactly sure as yet, but one thing we do know that they have in common is the boy from Jarvis’ stable, Casey, so that’s our starting point.’
‘Says who?’ challenged Benevetti.
‘Well, I might be going out on a limb here, but at a guess I’d say it’s the kid,’ Craig chuckled.
‘Well done, Craig!’ laughed Helen, which was echoed by most of the others as well. ‘For the moment I don’t want us to worry too much about Barrett, however. We need to concentrate on trying to find Corcoran, so for starters we’ll fill you in on all we know about him so far.’
Over the next half an hour Helen did an amazing job of going back over each of the murder cases, beginning with Martin’s and finishing with Jimmy Tan. I filled in a few of the gaps where needed, managing to hold it together as best I could when talking about Martin, so that by the time we had finished the whole room had basically been told everything that we knew. How much of it had sunk in I couldn’t be sure, but at least they couldn’t say that we were holding anything back.
Even Benevetti seemed to have been silenced once we linked Barrett to the other two offenders, as he, like the rest of them, finally realised that what we were dealing with here was far more than just the three murders. The cases against Jarvis and Corcoran, while separate, were in a way still linked, and apart from trying to massage the egos of each of those in this room and give them each a shot at coming up with a successful arrest, there were a whole lot of other things needing to be considered here as well; like police corruption, political power plays, and the many other forgotten victims of this whole sorry mess, most of whom seemed to have vanished into the madding crowd – or at least those that were still alive.
What we were careful to leave out of our briefing was anything relating to why I was now a part of this team, even though the evidence relating to that matter seemed to be pointed toward some form of abuse of power on Barrett’s part. That would all form part of any case established against the Assistant Commissioner, but for both Helen and me it went without saying that taking down Barrett, once everything was in place, would be the job of the Inspector and Internal Affairs . . . and that would be sooner, rather than later, we hoped, provided the Inspector’s plans all fell into place after his upcoming visit to the office of the Police Commissioner.
‘So, what are our main priorities?’ Jim Harris asked. ‘Is it arresting the Assistant Commissioner? Chasing Corcoran? Or finding the missing kids?’
‘I don’t think we need to worry about Barrett, at least for the time being,’ Helen replied. ‘That’s all in the hands of Internal Affairs, so he’ll get what’s coming to him once they get moving on it . . .’
‘You hope!’ offered Garry Kwan.
‘Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that . . . I’m sure they’ll end up having enough on Barrett to be able to get their man,’ Helen responded with some confidence.
‘So that leaves Corcoran and the kids from Jarvis’ house,’ Scott Willis said. ‘And they could all be anywhere by now.’
‘That’s exactly right, Scott,’ Helen replied. ‘Which brings us to the need for all of us to get in touch with our contacts out there. We all have our own networks of informants and those that have their finger on the pulse of what is happening in their areas, so our first order of business is to get the word out that we’re hunting a killer; after that, we need to find some of those other kids and get them someplace safe.’
‘So, this other kid Richardson mentioned, Casey, has he given you any clues as to how Corcoran operates, like where he stays, or the places he visits?’ Tom asked us.
‘Not a lot, in that respect,’ I replied. ‘He has said that every time he met with Corcoran it was at someplace different.’
‘But the visits weren’t regular, didn’t you say? There were sometimes months between them?’ Scott asked.
‘Yes. Which we think might indicate that he could possibly be living out of Sydney and just be coming into the city from time to time,’ Helen advised.
‘So if he’s from out of town, where does he stay when he’s in town? Where was he picked up from when he was questioned the other night?’
‘It was a house in Redfern, belonging to a relative, as I understand it,’ Helen replied. It was only when she mentioned that that I made the connection between Corcoran, me and Jimmy Tan. Did he see us there in Redfern at the pub, or at the police depot, I wondered?
‘We’ve had officers stationed at the house since and there has been no sign of him so far,’ I added.
‘But he must have other contacts, maybe some friends or something? It seems obvious he doesn’t have a place of his own here, so what else does he do now that we’ve got his hideaway staked out? It’d be unlikely he would stay in a motel, so how about a hostel, or a backpacker’s hotel . . . or maybe one of those cheap dives at Kings Cross even?’ Scott added.
‘Anything could be possible,’ answered Helen. ‘That’s if he hasn’t left the city altogether. That’s why we need to explore all possibilities.’
‘Have you thought of talking to Jarvis again?’ asked Jim. ‘Maybe he might know some more and be able to shed some light on his movements?’
‘I somehow doubt he’ll be forthcoming, even if he does know anything, but it’s worth a shot,’ said Helen. ‘Do you and Joe want to have a crack at him?’
‘I’d love to,’ Jim replied with a smile, although it didn’t seem to do anything to change the scowl on his partner’s face.
‘Okay then,’ Helen said. ‘That’s a start. Now, as for Jarvis’ kids, we already have a few of them tucked away safe and sound, and it’s a couple of these who have given us many of the leads we’ve gotten so far, but I think it’s the other kids who we’ve picked up since that need to be spoken with first . . . provided we can get around DoCS.’
I noticed Tom Buckley and Scott Willis look at each other, with Scott saying something quietly to his partner.
‘We’ll contact DoCS if you like,’ Tom said. ‘We’ll see if we can talk to some of those kids. They might have an idea or two about where their buddies might go to.’
‘That’d be great, thanks Tom,’ said Helen.
‘What about those first kids you mentioned?’ asked Craig.
‘We already have their statements, and they are quite safe where they are,’ I responded.
‘Which is where, exactly?’ asked Benevetti.
‘Some place where they can’t be got at,’ answered Helen curtly. ‘For now the Inspector wants only Cooper and me to know their whereabouts, and I tend to agree . . . not that that is a reflection on anyone in this room, it’s simply a precaution. We’ll give you all copies of their statements, plus details of some of the individual offenders who have been named as being on Jarvis’ client list, but what we really need is some corroborative evidence from the other kids . . . or additional evidence that can help build the case against some of those others that have been named.’
‘Have many of those suspects been pulled in for questioning?’ Garry Kwan enquired.
‘A few, but the list is a fairly long one,’ Helen sighed.
‘Okay, Garry and I will start on those if you like . . . the kids and the offenders,’ offered Craig.
‘Thanks guys. Rick and I will start by getting you all copies of the statements we have, then we’ll hit the streets and start talking to my contacts out there. The sooner we can spread the word about who we’re looking for, the sooner we’re likely to get some kind of response.’
‘Let’s hope that we do,’ said Tom.
* * *
It was almost lunch time when Helen and I finally did manage to hit the streets, retracing our steps of the previous Monday, through the inner city, and eventually having a late lunch at Darling Harbour, just as we had done on that first day.
We had been greeted by many of the same faces as last week, with Helen taking the time to chat to almost all of them, while being sure to show them the photo of Corcoran that we carried with us. We were also careful to make sure we mentioned to them we were trying to find some of the kids from Jarvis’ house. In most cases the response when asked if they had seen Corcoran was negative, but there were a few whose wide-eyed response was a tell-tale sign, even if it had been accompanied at the time by a shake of the head.
‘We’ll talk to all those folks again later,’ Helen said to me as we walked away from the latest guy to do that. ‘Sooner or later they’ll tell us what we need to know. The price just has to be right.’
‘I’m not sure I really want to know what that will be,’ I responded.
‘You might be surprised,’ she added with a grin, as we started back up the hill toward the station.
The weather was still warm, even if summer was starting to draw to a close, and it was a pleasant experience being out in the sun, with the bustling crowds and the activity of the city all around us. With the Mardi Gras fast approaching and visitors to the city starting to roll in, for just a few moments we were able to let our minds push the current dramas into the background and think about other things as we dawdled along Castlereagh Street, even if we both knew that the whole shooting match was all still there, waiting in the background for us, ready to be dragged back to the surface again at the first hint of any problem.
At least on the bright side, today proved to be trouble free, with there being no need for me to apprehend any shoplifters or bag snatching kids this time around. It gave us the opportunity to talk to everyone we met and get our message across without any other distractions, while also concentrating on being able to read the body language of our contacts, which itself was an interesting experience.
By the time we returned to the station it was early afternoon, and we found it empty. Hopefully the others would all be out on the job, doing what had been promised, which left us with not a lot to do just at the moment. In the end we decided to give Helen’s friend, Elvira, a call to see how things were progressing with the float for Mardi Gras, which shortly afterward found us making a trip out to Redfern, even though we knew we didn’t need to, as we knew that project had been passed onto others.
‘You mentioned earlier that Corcoran was picked up in Redfern,’ I said to Helen as we drove across town.
‘Yeah, I did. Why? What are you thinking?’
‘Do you know the address? I was just wondering if anyone had searched through the place? Maybe he left something behind that might be helpful?’ I replied.
‘I’m sure that the uniformed boys would have given the place the once over,’ she thoughtfully replied.
‘Errrrr . . . how about I call them?’
‘That might be a plan. And what do you think about the idea of us being able to get inside and take a look see for ourselves?’
‘Yeah. That could be a good idea, I reckon,’ she replied.
It was only a few minutes later when we pulled up outside the Motor Pool in Redfern, but even before we made any move to get out of the car Helen pulled out her phone and pressed the buttons to make a call. I listened as she asked some questions and then made arrangements to visit the house, which as far I knew was still under surveillance, before then disconnecting.
‘It’s all good,’ she said. ‘They still have a couple of guys watching the place and no one has been in or out since Saturday . . . or at least not since we found out who it was we were dealing with and had placed the joint placed under surveillance. Their main position is at the front of the house, while there is also a laneway at the back of the house where they’ve set up remote cameras, which feed into their position.’
‘Alright then. It sounds like they have it covered. Let’s go and see Elvira, then check out that house,’ I replied, as I opened the car door.
We made our way directly to the workshop where the Mardi Gras float had been stored when last we had visited, where we found a crew of about six bodies busily working away. Some of them were painting a ten-foot high stiletto with gold paint, which was sitting in the centre of the float, while others were busy draping monstrous taffeta ribbons and bows, in two shades of blue, along the smooth, brilliant white sides.
When she noticed us coming through the door Elvira came directly over to us, hugging us both, before asking if there was any more news on what had happened to Jimmy Tan.
She looked even more pale than she had the other day, if that was even possible, and I could tell that she was struggling with what had happened.
‘Not a lot, doll,’ Helen replied. ‘But we’re pretty sure we know who killed Jimmy, and it’s only a matter of time before we get him.’
‘Is that what they teach you to say in policeman’s school?’ Elvira responded. ‘It’s all anyone seems to say these days.’
‘In this case it is true,’ I said to her. ‘The guy that killed Jimmy also killed two other people . . . one of whom I loved dearly . . . so no matter what it takes, Elvira, we’re going to get the bastard.’
It probably came out sounding a little tougher than I had intended, and for a few moments she just looked at me through those big, sad eyes of hers, but eventually she managed a nod.
‘I . . . I hope so. I’m sorry if I sounded . . . what’s the word . . . cynical . . . I guess I just can’t believe it has happened. Especially to poor Jimmy.’
‘We know, love,’ Helen said quietly. ‘But Cooper is right . . . we really are getting close to this guy, and I promise you that Jimmy’s death won’t go unpunished, one way or another.’
‘I hope you’re right, Helby.’
‘Now, what are you doing to this pile of rubbish?’ Helen asked, while pointing at the float.
‘It was all Jimmy’s idea, so we’re just trying to finish it off as best we can. Jimmy wanted to be dressed as a drag queen cop, perched high upon his golden throne, all the while surrounded by dancers in uniform, both on the stage and on the street as well,’ she chuckled.
‘Christ . . . sometimes it’s simply best not to even ask,’ Helen cackled.
‘Oh wait, but it gets even better,’ Elvira promised, her face and eyes lighting up at the thought of what had apparently been planned. ‘Jimmy wanted some of his dancing “officers” to jump off the float and arrest people from the crowd, giving them a police cap and draping them with blue boas the same colour as the uniforms, then bringing them back and making them dance along with the police dancers beside the float.’
‘And there I was telling Cooper just the other day that this wouldn’t turn into a three-ring circus,’ Helen laughed. ‘I think I’ll have to come along just for a look-see now . . .’
‘Yeah, right . . . as if you were ever going to miss it,’ I gently teased her. ‘So, who gets to be the drag-queen cop now?’ I asked.
‘That would be Tristan,’ Elvira answered, while motioning toward a couple of guys who were slapping paint onto the side of the giant stiletto sitting atop the float. I had noticed them as soon as we had entered the shed, but had tried not to be too obvious about it. ‘He’s the older one of the two.’
Looking at them again now I could see that one guy was quite young, barely eighteen, I figured. He was wearing denim shorts with frayed hems, exposing long, lithe legs that were nicely tanned, and also shaven if I wasn’t mistaken. His paint splattered t-shirt hung loosely on his thin frame, while the handsome, patrician face, grinning at us from beneath a neatly trimmed crop of black hair, told me that not only did he know that he was hot, he could also see the effect that he had on others. Some people might look at him and see nothing but arrogance, but I saw him differently. I saw him as a self-assured young man, comfortable with the sexuality which oozed from every pore of his skin, and happiest when he could see what sort of a reaction he could generate from others when they met him.
His companion was older, perhaps about the same age I was, being mid-twenties. He had the build of a working man, solid, yet not fat, and his blonde features looked somewhat familiar, even if I couldn’t quite place where I might have seen him, or if I even had ever seen him before.
They were both good looking guys and I couldn’t help but look them up and down as they jumped down off the float and started coming toward us. This earned me a couple of giggles from them, and an elbow in the ribs from Helen.
‘Hi, I’m Tristan,’ the older boy said, while stretching out his hand toward me.
‘And I’m Ben,’ the younger guy added, while also offering his hand.
I shook the hands of both; one firm and solid, the other soft and almost feminine. As clichéd as it might sound, it wouldn’t take Einstein to work out who played what role in this partnership.
‘Guys, this is Detective Rick Cooper,’ Helen said.
‘Ahhh . . . so you’re the new kid on the block!’ Tristan replied. ‘We’ve been wondering when we would get to meet the new hotshot cop.’
‘So, you know them?’ I asked Helen.
‘Oh, yes. Tristan has been hanging out with some friends of mine for a while now, though young Ben is fairly new to the scene,’ she responded.
‘I haven’t long moved here from the country,’ Ben replied in a sweet sounding voice. ‘Once I had finished school at the end of last year I just had to get out of the place.’
‘So, what are you doing now? Studying, or working, or nothing?’
‘I’ve enrolled in a hair dressing course . . . so if you’re ever in need of a trim . . .’ he offered, while making a scissor action with his fingers.
‘Thanks. I’ll have to remember that,’ I chuckled.
‘Anytime, sweet man,’ Ben flirtatiously replied, to which we could all only shake our heads, although judging by the look on Tristan’s face I don’t think the remark sat too well with him.
‘God, you fags are impossible,’ Helen chortled.
‘What?’ Ben pleaded.
‘Babe, she’s just telling you to put your dick back in your pants,’ Tristan chided.
‘You don’t have to worry, honey. It’s just a little flirting. You know you’re the only guy for me . . . don’t you?’ Ben responded, while clutching hold of Tristan’s arm and rubbing his hand up and down his boyfriend’s impressive biceps.
‘Oh, thank Christ for that,’ I remarked. ‘For a minute there I thought I was going to have someone else after my blood.’
‘Someone else?’ Ben said, immediately grasping the meaning of what I had said.
Glancing quickly at Helen I noticed the very slight shake of her head.
‘Yeah . . . errr . . . you know, the jilted and jealous lovers I’ve left behind are really starting to mount,’ I managed to respond.
‘Oh yeah, I can definitely believe that,’ Tristan cheekily replied. ‘You look like a real love ‘em and leave ‘em type.’
‘Thanks very much!’ I shot back.
‘Well, Coop, you did leave yourself wide open for that one,’ Helen observed.
‘Yeah, I guess I did at that,’ I chuckled.
Thankfully Donohue, the head mechanic in charge of the Motor Pool, wasn’t anywhere to be found today, which meant we were able to get around and talk to the guys and girls who were working on the float without his wisecracks or distractions. Helen and I spoke to the others who were there in addition to Elvira, Tristan and Ben, and even pitched in and helped them for a while, but eventually we knew that we had to get going and so we said our farewells and left them to it, with promises of returning when we were able.
Before long we were back in Helen’s car and pulling out onto the main road that ran along the front of the Motor Pool. After a few turns we soon found ourselves in Chalmers Street, which at first glance was lined with terrace houses on either side, but I soon learned that even amongst these homes there was a thriving business community with a variety of traders interspersed amongst the homes. When we reached the Woolpack Hotel I quickly recognised it as being the pub where we had enjoyed a drink and a meal with Jimmy Tan and Elvira just a few days ago.
‘Remember that place?’ Helen asked as we passed it.
‘Yeah, I sure do.’
‘Well, the place where Corcoran was picked up from is just a bit further down this road.’
‘So, his seeing us with Jimmy was probably more by accident than design?’ I suggested.
‘Yeah, I’m thinking that way,’ Helen replied.
As we continued to make our way down the leafy, tree-lined street I noticed that the number of shops we passed soon dwindled away, with only terrace homes remaining.
A couple of blocks further along Helen asked me, ‘See that white van up ahead?’
‘That’s our surveillance boys.’
‘Couldn’t they come up with anything better than Pete’s Electrical?’ I asked as we cruised past the van and I read the cheap looking sign on its side, before we pulled into the curb a few parking spaces further down the road.
‘You should know enough about the force by now . . . no imagination and a cheap arse expense account,’ she replied, before taking a good look around us at the buildings on either side of the road.
‘What are you looking for?’ I asked.
‘That place right there,’ she stated, while pointing at a terrace house just a little ahead of where we were parked. ‘Just let me call the lads in the van to let them know we’re going in to take a look.’
While she dialed a number on her phone I took the opportunity to look around us, noticing the neat and apparently recently renovated appearance of some of the terrace houses, while others looked like they hadn’t been touched in years. The house in question, while presentable enough, fell into the latter category.
The street itself was a one way street, so along the side of the street on which we were parked there was parking available, intermittently shaded by a row of leafy trees, while the opposite side of the street had a clearway, with no parking at all. Overall I thought the street had an old style charm about it that I quite liked, although, being so far from the beach it wasn’t exactly a place where I could see myself living.
‘All right then, we’ll let you know if we find anything interesting inside,’ I heard Helen say, before she disconnected.
‘Are we good to go?’ I asked.
‘Yeah. They say there hasn’t been anyone in or out since Saturday. They’ve been monitoring the front from the van, while they also have a camera located in the laneway behind the house, where there is a garage entrance. So far it’s been all clear, with neither Corcoran nor his landlord having ventured anywhere close to the place.’
‘So, what are we waiting for?’ I asked, as I opened the car door and climbed out into the footpath, where I was joined by Helen just a few moments later.
‘And have you thought about just how we are going to gain entry to these premises?’ she asked.
‘Don’t you have a key?’ I replied, offering a wink as I did so. I knew I might be pushing the envelope here, but given what was at stake that was one line that I had no qualms about crossing.
Helen looked at me sideways for a moment as we stepped up onto the narrow covered landing and stopped at the green door. As I studied her expression it seemed as if she was trying to make up her mind about something, but whatever question it was that she had been asking herself seemed to be quickly resolved when she jumped back and reached inside her jacket, pulling out her pistol.
Instinctively I did the same, although not quite sure just yet as to why.
‘Did you see that curtain move?’ she whispered. ‘Get the door! Now!’
After taking a step back I kicked out as hard as I could, shattering the rotting timber around the lock and sending the door swinging on its hinges back against the wall with some force.
Without waiting, and while showing no fear, Helen dived through the doorway, her pistol held in front of her and with me following. Swinging my arms and my pistol from left to right I scanned the dark room, but there was no one in sight. When I turned back to face Helen she was standing with her arms by her side, with her pistol still in her hand.
‘I was sure that I saw that curtain move,’ she said to me, while pointing to the window beside the doorway, and just as the sound of running feet could be heard outside.
Moments later two men came running through the door, their own guns drawn, obviously being the two officers from the surveillance van.
‘What the fuck happened?’ one of them asked.
‘They call it probable cause,’ Helen curtly replied. ‘I saw the curtain move . . . I’m sure of it.’
‘Well, we had best search the place then,’ the first officer said, while offering a knowing grin.
That wouldn’t be difficult, I thought, given that the whole house wouldn’t have been any more than fifteen or twenty feet wide.
‘Anyhow, I’m Dan Scippionie,’ the older of the two cops said to me, while extending his hand, which I duly shook. It seemed like I had shaken the hands of half of Sydney’s population in the past week.
‘And I’m Jack Purtin,’ his companion added.
‘Rick Cooper,’ I said to them. ‘I’m the new kid on the block.’
‘Well, you sure as hell got the kid bit right,’ Dan laughed, as he looked me up and down. ‘Have you even started shaving yet?’
‘Don’t worry about him, Rick,’ Jack responded
Dan looked to be in his forties, while his offsider was younger. They were a couple of tough nuts, I reckoned, both old enough to know the ropes, but not so old that they’ve become jaded and cynical of the system, which is the impression I had of some of my other colleagues.
‘All right you lot, enough of the pleasantries,’ Helen barked. ‘Dan, you come with me. Jack, you and Rick search upstairs will you please?’
At least she didn’t call me Golden Boy, or The Kid, I thought.
Once we separated, we soon found that on the ground floor there was a living room, along with a kitchen and bathroom and a couple of smaller rooms. Helen and Dan began searching through these rooms, while Jack and I moved toward the staircase which led upstairs. Cautiously I began to climb the stairs, with my companion at my back, and when we reached the top we found a small landing, with open doorways on either side of it. The two rooms there proved to be an office which faced out onto the street, plus a bedroom which looked out over the laneway behind the house, both of which were neatly furnished and tidy, while also giving the impression that they hadn’t been used in some time. This was soon confirmed when I ran a hand over a dresser, leaving distinctive finger marks in the fine layer of dust that had accumulated there.
It was as we left the bedroom we heard Helen call out from downstairs, yelling, ‘Holy fuck! You better get down here Coop!’
Bounding down the steps, taking them two at a time, I entered the kitchen. Helen and her companion were nowhere to be seen, however a doorway stood open and I could hear their muted voices.
‘We’re down here,’ Helen called, and moving to the doorway we found another set of stairs, this time leading down into what appeared to be a dimly lit basement.
‘What have you got?’ I called as we descended into the gloomy stairway, only to be taken aback once we joined them and were able to cast a glance around the room.
‘Jesus Christ!’ Jack said as we looked around us. ‘Who is this guy? And why the fuck does he have pictures of you and all these other people plastered all over the wall?’ he exclaimed, as he and Dan looked my way.
For the moment I ignored them, as I simply looked around the room and took it all in.
The first thing that struck me about the room was the smell. It was a smell that took me back to my teenage years . . . not unlike the smell that always seemed to linger in the room of any teenage boy, but this was something more than that . . . it was as if we had walked into the den some wild animal.
In one corner of the room there was a mattress, on which a dirty pillow and a few blankets sat. A few clothes hung over the edge of a wicker basket or hung on nails bashed into the wall, while in another corner there was a small desk, on which sat a computer and printer.
What really stood out, however, was that each of the walls had dozens of photos stuck to them. Some were of me, alone, as I went about my daily business. Some of them showed me with various other people, like Helen and Adam. There were other photos of Brad and Nick, both on their own and with me . . . photos of my apartment building . . . photos of Adam’s apartment . . . photos of my workplace . . . photos of the school were Nick and Brad went . . . it just went on and on.
The real killer, however, were the photos of me with Alexis and Jimmy Tan, which occupied what was an almost vacant wall.
It was these photos that had a huge red X scrawled across them using a thick marker pen, while directly below them were photos of Adam and Nick and Brad.
It was this group of photos, and the message they revealed, which now sent a shiver down my spine.
* * *
It was now Thursday, just two days out from Mardi Gras, and in the days that had followed since that Monday morning meeting I had been filled with conflicting emotions, as I tried making sense of everything that had recently been happening.
On a personal level, I could see that my world was changing rapidly. My life with Adam was gradually appearing to be taking shape, as I spent more and more time with him in his apartment and also began the painstaking process of moving my own belongings.
I had committed to a relationship I didn’t ever think I would have . . . I had been reunited with family who I never thought I would see again . . . and unofficially I had become the guardian, mentor, friend, big brother or whatever else you might want to call it, to a rag-tag bunch of teenage boys, the future of whom was utmost in my mind.
Professionally I felt that, despite what was going on with the current cases I was involved with, I was making headway in my chosen career, even if at times it seemed that I was doing an impersonation of the proverbial duck on a pond, with everything appearing calm on the surface, while I was paddling away like crazy below.
Yet despite all that, I felt like I had finally made peace with the past, and a new future was beckoning – provided, of course, I could just make it through this next week.
The search for Corcoran and the examination of the evidence gathered so far continued to take up much of our time, as we trudged the streets of Sydney talking to anyone and everyone whom we thought might be able to give us some lead or clue.
At times the search proved to be a most frustrating exercise. No one had apparently seen him, yet there were also no other clues as to where the man may have gone – despite our best efforts at trying to dig these up.
If there was one piece of information we did manage to find out, however, it was that the owner of the house in which he had been holed up, a woman who proved to be a cousin of Corcoran’s, hadn’t been seen in quite some time either. This piece of news immediately had us concerned about her welfare.
The neighbours had told us that they had seen Corcoran coming and going at various times, and that he was known to them as the woman’s relative. As for the woman herself, she was apparently pleasant enough and kept largely to herself, although she would sometimes chat with them as they were all coming or going. All the same they wouldn’t really expect to be told if she was going away for any period.
The last time anyone had seen her had been several weeks ago and while the explanation for her absence may yet prove to be as simple as her having gone away for a short break while her cousin was house-sitting, as her car was also missing from the garage, my gut feeling was that Corcoran was somehow involved.
God I hoped I was wrong.
A painstaking search through the basement, beginning on the Tuesday morning after we had discovered it on the Monday, had proven to be most enlightening, with many pieces of useful information coming to light, which only helped us in continuing to build a profile of the guy. Included amongst these were some personal details which allowed us to fill in some gaps and give us some insight into just where he had been since going to ground four years ago. It was also during this search by the forensics team that we had really hit paydirt, finding Corcoran’s stash of mementos; things he had taken from his victims, which proved far greater in number than we ever could have envisaged and would, as far as we could tell, re-open numerous unsolved cases in some surprising parts of the country.
As we had sat in the kitchen the leader of the forensics team had emerged from the depths of the basement and handed Helen a small wooden box, which we soon found contained more than a dozen buff coloured envelopes. At first we weren’t sure what they might be, but when Helen started looking through them, using the tip of a pen to flick from one to the next, so as not to actually touch them, I noticed her stop and look up at me.
‘What is it?’ I had asked.
In reply she read out Martin’s name, along with the date on which he had been killed, plus the location.
‘It’s like his diary of death,’ Helen added. ‘Each envelope has the details of a victim . . . and judging by the odd shapes they all appear to have something inside them.’
‘Does Martin’s?’ I asked.
‘Doc . . . can you give me some gloves, please,’ Helen asked.
‘Was Martin the first?’ I added as she pulled on the rubber gloves. She was shaking her head in response as she did so.
‘If the envelopes are all in chronological order, and it appears that they are, there were two others before him,’ Helen said, while pulling Martin’s envelope from the box.
We soon found that the envelope hadn’t been sealed and so carefully Helen opened the flap and peered inside, before holding the envelope toward me so that I too could see the contents.
Upon seeing the lock of dark hair that the envelope contained, it felt just like I had been punched in the stomach, and with enough force to send me reeling and collapsing into the nearest chair. Apart from the memories that his loved ones tightly held onto, this was all that was left of Martin, all that was left of the boy I had once held, and would always love.
I had already known of course what would have been in there, as the reports from the time of Martin’s death had all mentioned the lock of hair that had apparently been taken. Many of the other envelopes would no doubt contain the same thing, although judging by Helen’s comment about some envelopes being oddly shaped I doubted that they all contained a lock of hair. As I had struggled with my own grief, I found myself becoming morbidly fascinated by what the other envelopes may contain.
That would have to wait though, as the doctor in charge once again took possession of the box and its contents.
‘We’ll itemise and photograph everything,’ he said to Helen, then after briefly looking down at me he asked, ‘Does that envelope have some meaning for Detective Cooper?’
‘Yes,’ Helen replied. ‘And it would be good if we can get this wrapped up as quickly as possible so as to give some of these families some closure. I assume they will be able to get these items back once it’s over?’
‘In due course,’ the doctor had replied.
Following on from that discovery, attention then turned to Corcoran’s computer, with a forensic examination also yielding many more secrets, including a collection of pornography of the variety that itself could put a person away for many years. There were also a number of folders filled with photographs of his victims, and personal records that supported other files and documentation which explained much about where he had been and what he had been doing.
As we had started sorting through this treasure trove of indecency I was struck by the question of why, following his arrest on Friday and subsequent release on Saturday, he hadn’t thought to come back here and dispose of it all . . . or at least hide it away someplace? Was he so arrogant as to think that he could get away with it forever? Or was there some other reason? Perhaps he did try to come back to do just that, but found the place under surveillance? Or perhaps he had reason to get to Maroubra as early as possible and was banking on the police not doing their job properly?
The things that men do in the face of threats or danger will be something that will confuse the rest of us forever. I know that Corcoran had certainly given me a lot to think about in this past week.
On the plus side our colleagues did, however, make some progress with the tasks we had set them, with Tom Buckley and Scott Willis managing to track down some of the other kids who had been under the spell of Andy Jarvis. Gradually we were bringing his little harem back together, but this time it was for reasons that were far more worthy. With the assistance of the Department of Community Services all but a few of the boys whom we knew about were now in care, with some having already been reunited with their frantic families, who in many cases hadn’t seen or heard from their sons and brothers for a couple of years.
As for the long list of suspects who had been clients of Jarvis, Craig Andarakis and Garry Kwan had been working steadily through these, interviewing more than a dozen men so far. The case had continued to attract media attention, both on the television and in the newspapers, which certainly reached fever pitch following the bashing of one suspect and the suicide of another.
Few people seemed to have sympathy for any of the suspects, including the two who became victims themselves, but all the same it still saddened me to think of what the loved ones of these suspects would now be going through. Yet more lives being touched with heartache or ruined altogether, while Jarvis himself sat in remand, protected from the general prison population; for his own safety, of course.
Jim Harris and Joe Benevetti had paid Jarvis several visits in Long Bay gaol, hoping to extract from him whatever else he may have known about Corcoran, but so far they had come up empty handed. Jarvis either wasn’t talking, or he simply didn’t know any more. I suspected it was the latter.
That only left the assignment which Inspector Richardson had taken upon himself, that being his visit to the office of the Police Commissioner.
On the Wednesday morning, shortly after I had arrived at work, the Inspector had come out into the squad room and called me into his office. This certainly got the attention of the others in the room, especially Helen, who looked at me with some concern.
‘It’s all right, Wheeler,’ the Inspector said, after he too had noticed Helen’s expression. ‘I’ll have him back to you shortly.’
‘Of course, sir,’ she replied.
Following the Inspector down the hall we walked into his office, where we found two men sitting in the chairs in front of the Inspector’s desk. Glancing at the Inspector, and feeling somewhat concerned about what this might be all about, I was about to say something when the Inspector placed a hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Don’t look so worried, son. You have nothing to be concerned about.’
As he closed the door the two men stood up and faced us.
‘Detective Cooper, I’m Detective Eric Darby from Internal Affairs,’ one man said, while extending his hand, which I cautiously shook.
‘Detective Mark Reynolds,’ the second man said, as he also offered his hand. ‘We would like to have a chat to you about Assistant Commissioner Barrett, if we may.’
I suddenly felt the blood drain from my face.
‘You don’t have to worry, you’re not the one in trouble here,’ Darby said. ‘We’re just trying to get the full picture as to how he may have come to ask for you to be placed in this command. You were aware that your appointment was at his instigation, were you not?’
‘I’m sorry, but I’ve never actually met the man,’ I replied. ‘And yes, I had been made aware that he may have had some involvement with my appointment, but no one has ever confirmed that . . . at least not until now.’
‘So you’ve never been in the same room as him?’ Detective Reynolds asked.
‘No . . . oh, wait . . . yes, I have been in the same room as him . . . he was in the Downing Centre court last week when Jarvis appeared . . . but that was the first time I had ever seen him in person, so to speak.’
‘And you’ve never spoken with him personally?’ Darby enquired.
‘No, not that I’m aware of.’
‘So, why do you think he may have specifically asked for you to be placed in Inspector Richardson’s command? Had you ever met Inspector Richardson before last week?’
Glancing at the Inspector I noticed him give me a nod, then say, ‘Cooper, tell them exactly what your impressions might be, or whatever theories you and Detective Wheeler might have. Any idea or viewpoint, no matter how odd it may seem, could be valuable to them.’
‘Yes, sir,’ I shakily replied, before turning back toward Darby and Reynolds. ‘No, I had never met Inspector Richardson before last week either, or at least not as far as I’m aware. And as for whatever theories Detective Wheeler and I might have, well, we do have one, but neither of us are sure how realistic it might be.’
‘Try us,’ Reynolds said.
‘Well, we know that Assistant Commissioner Barrett has certain . . . errr . . . preferences,’ I ventured. I was starting to feel a little more confident, and as I spoke I could feel that confidence start to grow. ‘He likes them young and blonde, and if I were a few years younger I suspect that I might have even been of interest to him myself. Helen and I are of the belief that he has somehow found out about my own personal history, which I am sure that you gentlemen are also aware of, and because of that, combined with the fact that I fit the “profile” he seems to like, that’s why he has taken an interest in me.’
‘Go on,’ Darby urged.
‘Detective Wheeler and I have been led to believe that there is some past history between Inspector Richardson and Assistant Commissioner Barrett,’ I offered, while chancing a sideways glance at the Inspector. The wry smile on his face told me that it was okay to continue. ‘We also believe that, because of that past history, Assistant Commissioner Barrett would quite possibly find it advantageous to have someone inside Inspector Richardson’s command . . . someone who could be groomed, or bribed, or threatened into doing his bidding.’
‘And?’ Detective Darby urged.
‘So, he finds a pretty boy cop who happens to be gay . . . one who he likes the look of, and who he thinks might be cajoled into being his eyes and ears to spy on Inspector Richardson . . .’
‘And why would the pretty boy cop do this?’ asked Detective Reynolds.
‘Simply out of his fear of being “outed” to his colleagues and have his promising career ruined . . . or something like that,’ I replied, as the two men exchanged looks.
‘It looks as if you were right, Inspector,’ Reynolds said with a grin. ‘This one could be worth keeping after all.’
‘Oh yes. I think that he and Wheeler are going to make quite the team,’ the Inspector offered, which only served to leave me somewhat embarrassed.
‘Well then. It seems that we’ve all come to the same conclusion,’ Reynolds said. ‘We really just needed for Cooper to confirm what we had already suspected.’
‘And what of the relationship between Barrett and the Minister?’ the Inspector enquired. ‘Have you come up with anything concrete on that front as yet?’
The two detectives exchanged looks, which even to my relatively inexperienced eyes were an obvious give-away that there was something they intended to keep from us.
Eventually it was Reynolds who said, ‘Let’s just say that at the moment that is still being investigated.’
‘That’s fair enough,’ the Inspector replied.
‘We’ll keep you in the loop as we move forward on this,’ Reynolds added.
‘And we thank you both for your time and your contribution to our investigations,’ offered his partner, before they both shook hands with us once more, then left the office, leaving the two of us staring at an open doorway where, moments later, Helen appeared.
‘Everything okay?’ she asked.
‘Oh, yes, Wheeler. Everything is fine,’ the Inspector replied, while motioning for her to come into the room, which she did so, before then shutting the door behind her.
‘I guess you’re both probably wondering how I went with the Commissioner on Monday,’ he said to us as he assumed his usual position behind his massive desk.
‘The thought had crossed our minds, sir,’ responded Helen.
‘Yes . . . well, it seems we may have been pretty close to the mark with our assumptions about Assistant Commissioner Barrett and the Police Minister,’ the Inspector replied. ‘Internal Affairs haven’t said as much, but I can tell you that the Commissioner has apparently been receiving directives from the Minister, amongst which was the appointment of Cooper, as has just been confirmed by IA. The strange thing is, at least from the Commissioner’s point of view, is that Barrett seemed to know the intimate details of each directive, even before the Commissioner had spoken with him about them.’
‘So, we have a classic case of the tail wagging the dog, sir,’ Helen observed.
‘Yes, it certainly seems that way, Helen.’
‘But we still don’t know why, Sir?’ I remarked.
‘No, that is correct, Cooper. But as you just heard, Internal Affairs are still working on that,’ he said, which seemed to be followed by a long pause, before speaking again. ‘I had my suspicions and I have confronted the Commissioner with them. What are your thoughts?’
Helen and I looked at each other for a few moments, with neither of us really wanting to voice out loud what I knew we were both thinking.
‘Well?’ the Inspector urged. ‘What do you think, Cooper. And don’t give me any crap about not really having an opinion.’
‘Well sir, there obviously has to be a link between them. How do they know each other? Does one or the other have some kind of hold over the other one because of something they’ve done, or seen done, or been guilty of doing?’
‘Can you be more specific?’
‘Yes, well, you seem to be on the right track at least. You know, of course, about the hushed up visit of Assistant Commissioner Barrett to the sex club?’ he asked.
‘And you probably also know that politics is a dirty game, and no one ever seems to rise to the top without there being some kind of favour being done somewhere along the way . . .’
‘Well, the Commissioner has told me, in strictest confidence of course, of a report which apparently exists and in which the Police Minister’s name had been mentioned with possible involvement with some form of corruption relating to bribes being accepted, along with unlawful contributions to his re-election campaign funds. The only trouble is . . . that report cannot currently be found.’
‘So . . .’ Helen interjected, ‘Barrett receives protection from the Minister, while the Minister has the report into his own dealings conveniently go missing?’
‘That seems to be the case,’ the Inspector confirmed.
‘And how much of this is the Commissioner aware of?’ asked Helen.
‘All of it,’ the Inspector replied. ‘And he has known for some time and not acted on it, which is the most damning thing of all. He has been caught in the middle and hasn’t been sure of what to do, given that any cover-up will almost certainly implicate him as well. But now with this whole Jarvis issue making the front pages it seems inevitable that the whole house of cards is about to come down around their ears.’
‘And there is little doubt that Internal Affairs are aware of this, sir?’ I stated.
‘That is correct. I’m sure that they are fully up to speed by now. It was at their suggestion that I arranged to meet with the Commissioner, and at their suggestion that I was also wired for sound . . . so they know everything that we know, and then some,’ the Inspector replied.
‘So what happens now?’ asked Helen.
‘Well, what happens with the Commissioner is yet to be determined. The arrest of Assistant Commissioner Barrett, however, is imminent. News of the pending arrest and details of the rumoured activities of the Police Minister have also been passed on to members of the opposition in state parliament. Once they receive news that Barrett has been detained they will be asking the Police Minister some very serious questions in parliament, under parliamentary privilege. By the end of today everyone in this state will be asking questions of those involved. There will not be a place in the country where any of them will be able to hide.’
To be continued . . .