‘What’s wrong?’ Adam asked, sounding quite concerned.
‘Didn’t you see him?’ I answered.
‘Corcoran! That’s who sent me the drink!’
In a flash Adam was on his feet and looking toward the bar area, then looking around the room. I stood and joined him moments later.
‘Is there something wrong?’ asked Adam’s boss, Nathan.
‘I’m not quite sure,’ Adam replied. ‘We’ll be back in a minute.’
Together we headed for the bar, dodging our way through the crowd, while keeping an eye out for Corcoran.
‘Are you sure it was him?’ Adam asked. ‘He wouldn’t be that stupid, would he?’
‘Stupid? Or just brazen?’ I replied.
When we reached the bar there was no sign of Corcoran, so I caught the attention of the waiter who had delivered the drink.
‘What can I get you?’ he asked.
‘That guy who sent the drink to our table . . . did you see which way he went?’ I asked.
‘Can’t help you there, mate,’ he replied.
‘How about exits?’ urged Adam. ‘Where’s the closest way out from here?’
‘Either the main door, which you would have come through on your way in, or there’s an emergency exit right along the back there, next to the toilets,’ he answered, while pointing past the end of the bar.
‘And where does it go?’ I asked.
‘Straight out into the lane way at the back of the pub. But it’s an alarmed fire exit, so if anyone had gone out through there we’d know about it.’
‘Thanks,’ I replied, before quickly setting off in that direction, intent on checking it out for ourselves. We found the toilets without any problem, then the fire exit, which was just past them. The door was slightly ajar, with just a sliver of light from outside showing.
‘Well, someone has certainly been through here,’ Adam remarked, as he pushed on the door and stepped outside, with me following.
At least the barman was right. It did open straight out onto the street, which was essentially dark, apart from the rather feeble light offered by a street lamp at either end. There was no sign of Corcoran, but then again, judging by the dumpsters and all the other crap in the laneway, I reckon he could have easily found himself a hiding place and we could have searched all night, or even walked right past him without even knowing he was there.
As if he were reading my mind Adam asked, ‘Do you want to try and look for him?’
‘No. He could be anywhere . . . and I don’t fancy groping my way along the street in the darkness waiting for him to jump out and stab me . . . or you,’ I replied, as a cold shiver went down my spine.
‘Well, it’s his weapon of choice . . .’ I replied. And if the truth must be told, I thought, I was terrified of the idea of being stabbed and left to die. A bullet . . . now that is something different . . . that would be quick and clean. Bang, and it’s over . . . usually. But it doesn’t happen that way when you’re stabbed . . . that would be another world of pain all together, and a pain that I hoped I would never have to endure.
‘Come on, let’s get back inside,’ Adam urged, ‘or we’ll miss the rest of the show.’
‘To be honest . . . would you mind if we went home early?’ I asked, suddenly losing any desire I’d earlier had to be sociable. ‘It’s just . . .’
‘Sshhh . . . you don’t have to say anything,’ he replied, while standing in front of me and gently rubbing his hands up and down my arms. ‘Of course I won’t mind. Nathan will probably want to know what happened. I’ll just text him and tell him I’ll explain it to him in the morning.’
‘Thank you,’ I whispered, while leaning I and giving him a quick kiss. I felt bad that I was ruining the evening he had planned for us. I had been excited about the prospect of a night on the town and had so far truly been enjoying it, but no one could have foreseen what had happened tonight and the dampener it had put on the evening.
We stopped in the light of the doorway just as we heard the thumping sound of music starting once more. Adam pulled out his phone, then quickly sent a message to his boss, before we went back inside and headed directly for the door that we had earlier entered the function room through when we had arrived. I barely paid any attention to the crowd in the other sections of the hotel once we left the function room, apart from trying to dodge them as we ran the gauntlet in our search for the main exit. It was only once we were finally back outside in the steamy Sydney night, assaulted once more by the partying crowd that was still spilling out onto the sidewalk, that I seemed to finally be able to breathe again.
Adam hailed a passing cab and we were soon on our way back to his place.
‘It’s almost like he’s taunting you now!’ Adam said to me after we had settled in and our Pakistani driver had started our journey through the suburbs. ‘Like he’s watching your every move, and just when you least expect to see him, there he is, ready to remind you that he is still around.’
‘I know. And it’s really getting creepy,’ I replied, as I glanced up into the driver’s rear-vision mirror and noticed the driver studying us.
‘I take it that nobody has had any luck in locating where he’s hiding out?’
‘No. But after talking to Sid Partridge this afternoon I’m hopeful that something will turn up. The underbelly might usually stick to themselves, but even they have some morals, and if a child molesting psychopath is trying to hide out amongst them, then someone is likely to take a dim view of his presence eventually . . . especially if it cramps their style.’
‘So, this Partridge guy is a crook?’
‘I honestly have no idea . . . I think his is more of a hard luck story than a criminal one, but either way, he’s still a product of the streets . . . and we’re hoping that might be just enough to give us some kind of a lead.’
‘What about Helen? Are you going to tell her about tonight?’
‘Yeah . . . but I think it can wait until morning.’
* * *
I wish I could say that it was business as usual the following morning, but with the events of the night before continuing to play on my mind until well into the early hours, I tossed and turned for what seemed like half the night. Eventually I dragged myself from Adam’s bed and left him to sleep, while I went outside onto the balcony and lay near-naked in the mild night on a sun bed, until the skies started to bleed colour once more and the sun eventually began to inch its way skywards. It was around this time I heard the sound of the glass door behind me slide open.
‘Couldn’t sleep?’ Adam asked as he sat down on the edge of the sun bed and gently ran a hand along my thigh.
‘No. Last night was a bit of a write off, wasn’t it?’
‘Why do you say that? We still managed to have some fun . . . or at least you seemed to have been having some when that drag queen sat on your lap . . .’
‘I’m not talking about that,’ I grumbled.
‘I know what you’re talking about . . . and it doesn’t matter one way or the other. You couldn’t help it that asshole showed up. It was just bad luck, that’s all, and besides, there’ll be plenty more shows for us to go to.’
‘And what will your boss say? I hope he doesn’t think I ditched because of him?’
‘He’s cool about it. I got a message from him as they were leaving. I’ll talk to him today anyhow and explain things, just to make sure.’
‘Thanks,’ I murmured.
‘Now, how about we have a shower and get ready for today? What happened yesterday is exactly that, yesterday’s news, so I suppose we’d better go and see what sort of trouble this day is going to bring us.’
‘I’m sure you’ll be fine. As for me though . . .’
‘You’ll be fine too. I’m sure of it,’ he reassured me.
After we had finished showering, getting ready for the day ahead and then scoffing down some toast and coffee, we headed out the door and down to Adam’s car. I was grateful that his parking space was in a secured place, beneath the building, and so I figured it would be safe from being tampered with or anything happening to it, but even so we both still gave it and the garage the once over before climbing into the vehicle, just in case the building security wasn’t as secure as it was supposed to be.
Thoughts of Corcoran popping up out of nowhere and confronting us seemed to be on both our minds, and so after satisfying ourselves that all was in order, we climbed into the car and Adam started it up. We maneuvered out of his parking spot and headed up the ramp which led to the street, coming to a stop briefly as the large metal framed mesh gate swung back to allow us a path out, before then easing out into the morning traffic.
Adam switched on the radio, catching a few minutes one of the many early morning talkback shows, but it wasn’t long before this was replaced by the hourly news bulletin and our first piece of excitement for the morning.
‘Good Morning, I’m Sarah Styles,’ the announcer cheerfully began. ‘The New South State Government is in crisis this morning, following the overnight resignation of the Minister for Police, Dale Cummings, following allegations of impropriety being made in state parliament yesterday by the leader of the opposition, against both the Police Minister and Assistant Commissioner . . .’
Adam and I looked at each other in surprise, before he reached for the radio and turned up the volume a little.
‘The opposition has promised to get to the bottom of rumours that the Police Minister was involved in a cover-up of the activities of Assistant Police Commissioner Colin Barrett, who was yesterday arrested on charges relating to a child prostitution ring recently uncovered in the city. This cover-up is reported to be a favour in return for the misplacing of a report into alleged irregularities in the Police Minister’s election fund, which is a clear breach of electoral regulations. Questions have also been asked of the premier and police commissioner on these matters, with the opposition vowing to uncover the truth as to just who in the government was aware of these wrong-doings.’
‘Holy shit . . . so it’s all out there now . . .’ Adam remarked.
‘Yeah, and by the sounds of it, it’s only going to be a matter of time before the pressure will really be applied to the Premier.’
‘And in other news,’ the news reader continued, ‘police have this morning been called to the Imperial Hotel in Newtown following the discovery of a man’s body. No further details are known at this stage, but with the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras set to take place tomorrow, organisers are playing down concerns about reports of the gay and lesbian community being targeted by anti-gay protestors.’
‘Great!’ Adam spat. ‘Now it sounds like the nutters are coming to the party as well! That’s all we need.’
No sooner than when he had finished speaking my phone rang and once I had fished it out of my pocket I saw that it was Helen.
‘Where are you?’ she asked.
‘We’re on our way into the city,’ I answered. ‘I should be there in about twenty minutes.’
‘Okay. It looks like we’re heading out to Newtown this morning. Did you hear about the guy they found at the Imperial?’
‘Yeah, I did. You got any details?’
‘Not a lot, but I do know he was stabbed,’ she replied.
‘Corcoran was there. That’s where Adam and I went last night,’ I replied. ‘The cunt even bought me a drink.’
‘Yeah, he sent a drink over to our table from the bar. We saw him standing at the bar, but then the crowd closed in, and by the time we got up and made it to the bar he was gone,’ I answered. I also told her about the open emergency exit that was supposed to have been alarmed, and our heading out into the laneway to try and see if Corcoran left that way.
‘They would have to have security cameras,’ she mused. ‘Maybe we can find some footage.’
‘I hope so.’
Adam dropped me outside the station about fifteen minutes later, after we’d had an almost clear run into the city. After risking a quick kiss goodbye we agreed to meet again that afternoon when he would pick me up, then I climbed out of the car and headed for the front doors, only to be stopped in my tracks moments later by the sound of a car horn coming from directly behind me.
Turning around, half expecting to see Adam’s car still there, I was surprised to see it was Helen’s car.
‘Come on Cooper. We haven’t got all day,’ she called to me through the open passenger side window, so I retraced my steps and climbed into her car, just in time for her to zip out into the traffic before an oncoming bus.
‘Jesus,’ I said. ‘What’s the hurry?’
‘I have a feeling that this is going to be one hell of a day,’ she flatly replied.
* * *
Thanks to the morning traffic the trip out to Newtown took longer than it had the previous night, even allowing for Helen’s erratic driving, and when we finally pulled into the laneway behind the hotel we noticed the coroner’s van was just about to pull out.
On the way out here we had discussed the events of the previous evening and I repeated what I had said to her earlier about Corcoran being there. We both feared that this latest stabbing might be yet another case of Corcoran’s dirty work and as soon as we had turned into the lane a shiver seemed to run down my spine, no doubt because this was exactly where Adam and I had been less than twelve hours ago.
Once the coroner’s van had departed, that left two uniformed officers in attendance, one of whom was Jack, whom I had met the day Alexis had been pulled from the harbor. They seemed to be packing up and wrapping up their investigations of the scene as we came to a stop.
‘Hey guys,’ Helen greeted them. ‘Anything interesting here for us?’
‘Good morning, Helen. No, nothing out of the ordinary it looks like . . . we’re just wrapping things up. Apparently two young guys got into a fight and one pulled a knife,’ Jack replied.
‘Where was he stabbed?’ I asked.
‘In the chest. Just the once. Looked like the killer might have hit the victim’s aorta, but the medical examiner can’t be sure until an autopsy is performed.’
At that news I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. It was already sounding quite different to what had happened with Corcoran’s other victims, and if they already knew it had been two young guys who were involved in some altercation, then that took Corcoran out of the picture, even if we all knew that he had still been on the scene.
‘So, no similarities with last week’s episode . . . the guy you pulled from the harbor?’ asked Helen.
‘No, none that I’ve noticed. Why, were you expecting there to be?’
‘Not really. Just wanted to make sure,’ Helen replied. ‘Was there anything sexual about this one? And how about witnesses or descriptions?’
‘The victim was fully clothed, so it doesn’t look as if there was any hanky-panky going on. Apart from that, there’s not much else to go on I’m afraid, although the hotel tells us they have security cameras everywhere, so we’re hoping to find at least something on the tapes,’ he replied.
‘So, how did you know there was a fight?’ I asked.
‘Their security staff said there had been an altercation reported. When we arrived here this morning they gave us a print out from the vision, which showed the two of them leaving the hotel. One of the guys in the print out matched the victim. Security didn’t have vision of the fight itself, as the two of them had made their way down here, which, as you can see, is well away from the cameras at the back door of the hotel,’ he said, while pointing along the laneway to a sign that said Imperial Hotel.
‘And his friend?’ Helen enquired.
‘No idea who he is, or where he went, at least until we get a look at the tapes.’
‘Okay then, how about we give you lot a hand and go and check them out? We have another perp that we have in our sights, and who was also seen here last night, so we wanted to take a look at the tapes anyhow.’
‘Ahhh . . . so that’s why you’re here,’ Jack laughed. ‘All right. That sounds good to me. It’s not often we manage to score one from your mob.’
‘Well, just don’t go expecting it too often,’ Helen chuckled as she set off for the nearby doorway, with me in tow.
The door proved to be open, propped in that position with the help of a metal garbage can, and so we let ourselves in.
‘Hello,’ Helen called out. ‘Anyone home?’
‘Sorry, but we’re not open just now,’ a voice replied, coming from the shadows somewhere near the bar.
When we made it to the bar we found an older looking guy, well into his fifties I would have thought, with greying hair and a goatee, wearing a black t-shirt, and busily packing a refrigerator with bottled drinks.
‘Actually, we’re with the police,’ Helen said, as she showed him her badge. ‘Detectives Wheeler and Cooper,’ she said to him.
‘I take it this is about what happened last night,’ he asked, as he stopped what he was doing and turned to face us.
‘Yes, and no,’ Helen replied. ‘And who might you be?’
‘Mark Jenkins . . . I run the place,’ the man replied. ‘We’ve got the security vision already copied for you guys. Those officers who were here earlier were asking about it, and as it’s all digital these days, it was easy to run off a copy.’
‘We appreciate that. Thank you,’ Helen replied. ‘We also understand that a person of interest in another case we are looking into was here last night, so we’re hoping we might be able to see what he was up to as well.’
‘That could have been anyone . . .’ he shrugged, ‘There were a thousand people hanging around here last night, either for the show that was on, or to get themselves smashed.’
‘Yeah, I know. I was one of them,’ I said. ‘The guy we’re after, his name is named Danny Corcoran,’ I added, while passing him the photo from my pocket.
Taking the photo from me he studied it carefully for a few moments, before handing it back to me.
‘Might have seen him. I don’t know. What’s he done?’
‘He’s killed three people so far . . . that we know of,’ Helen replied.
‘Shit! Was that guy last night one of them?’
‘We don’t know,’ I answered.
‘Tell me, your emergency exit over there,’ Helen asked, while pointing to the door we entered through. ‘Your barman said they were alarmed . . . so are the alarms working?’
‘I . . . I guess so,’ he answered. ‘Why?’
‘Because we think that the guy we’re after left through that door over there . . . and last night when my man here tried following him he found that it was open. There didn’t appear to be any alarms going off, so that makes me think it wasn’t active . . . which is bound to be a violation of some code or other, wouldn’t it?’
‘So, what are you saying?’
‘Look, I like this place. I’ve been here more than just a few times, so I don’t want to see you guys get in trouble with the building inspectors,’ Helen said. ‘Hopefully we’ll be able to find our man on the security footage, so we’ll be able to see what he was up to, and who, if anyone, he might have been with. All we ask is that you make sure that you have everything ship shape, because we’d hate to see you busted for something as simple as a busted door alarm.’
‘Is that some kind of threat?’
‘Fuck no. I’m just giving you a heads up, that’s all,’ Helen grinned. ‘With the clientele we both know you get here, and the type of things that we both know goes on in dark corners of places like this, we both also know that you don’t want to go attracting any unwarranted attention, do you?’
For a moment he eyed the two of us warily.
‘I . . . I’ll go and get you the security footage . . .’ he eventually responded, before hurrying off through a nearby door, which was marked ‘Private’.
After he had left I looked across at Helen with my eyebrows raised.
‘What?’ she pleaded. ‘He just needed a little nudge, that’s all.’
‘Oh, that was subtle,’ I chuckled.
‘You will find, once you’ve been in this job for a while young fella, that there’s a real art to getting what you want,’ she deadpanned.
‘So it seems,’ I replied, just as our bar manager came back through the door and headed our way, carrying what looked to be a couple of CD cases.
‘Here you go,’ he said, as he passed the discs over to Helen. ‘There’s one from the front end cameras, and another for those covering the back areas of the pub.’
‘We really do appreciate this,’ said Helen. ‘Thank you.’
‘Just doing my duty,’ he remarked. ‘Just so long as you don’t go calling your mates at the city council.’
‘I don’t have any mates there,’ Helen assured him. ‘So they sure as hell won’t hear anything from me.’
‘Nor me,’ I added, as his eyes flicked my way. ‘And it was a great show last night, by the way . . . even if I did end up with a drag queen sitting in my lap.’
‘That was you? She was sorry you left . . . I think she wanted your number,’ he chirped.
‘Well, she’s going to be plumb out of luck then,’ offered Helen, always looking out for my best interests. ‘I’m afraid he’s taken.’
‘So?’ the manager asked, with a laugh.
‘Christ, you poofs are all the same. Come on then, Golden Boy. Let’s get you out of here before you get led astray!’
* * *
Leaving the hotel behind we decided to make a detour via Redfern before heading back to the station. With the Mardi Gras parade now only twenty-four hours away we decided we needed to check on progress with the float at the car pool. We found that the place was a hive of activity, with the large roller door on the front of the workshop wide open and the bow of the float visible, as the workers applied the finishing touches, like a brand new ship just about to be launched upon its maiden voyage.
Even before we reached the workshop we could hear the music that was pumping with considerable volume from some speakers, coupled with the commands of what proved to be the choreographer, working a group of dancers hard in the adjacent workshop bay, while an amused looking Donohue, the head mechanic, looked on from where he stood, propped up against the door frame.
‘Like anything you see, Harry?’ Helen quipped as we came to a stop beside him.
‘Not bloody likely,’ he spat.
‘Go on, Harry. You should live a little . . . you never know what you might like until you try it . . .’
‘Honey, it’s a bit like raw fish . . . that’s just one of many things I ain’t ever going to try.’
‘Actually, on that one, I think I’m with you,’ Helen replied. ‘And I don’t think I’d be able to stomach that other stuff, you know, the thinly sliced raw meat they sell, that proscieta, or whatever it’s called.’
‘It’s prosciutto,’ I said to them.
‘Bloody typical. Trust you to know that,’ Harry scoffed, before pushing himself off the frame of the doorway and turning to head toward his office.
‘It’s like Helen said, Harry . . . you should live a little . . .’ I called after him.
‘And like I said before, laddie . . . not bloody likely,’ he called back over his shoulder, while laughing as he went.
As Harry walked away the dancing troupe decided to take a break from their rehearsals. A couple of them headed toward the float, where we noticed Tristan and Ben, the two guys we met had the other day, stop work and climb down. They spotted us standing by the doorway and came right over, with their dancer friends in tow, all jabbering excitedly about what the next twenty-four hours was going to bring.
‘Well, fancy meeting you here,’ Tristan said to us. ‘What do you think . . . everything looking ship shape?’
‘It looks amazing,’ Helen replied, as I received a few curious looks from the male dancers who had joined us.
‘It looks damn fine from here,’ one of the dancers responded, as he looked me up and down.
‘Sorry to disappoint you, Simon, but like I’ve already told one guy today, he’s taken,’ Helen giggled.
‘Oh, honey, that’s the story of my life,’ the guy replied, giving a deep sigh has he did so. ‘Does he have a brother then?’
‘Sorry, mate. You’re plumb out of luck there, too,’ I laughed, as I gave him the once over and thinking that for the right guy he would be quite a catch. ‘Maybe you’ll find Mr Right tomorrow?’
At first glance I would have put him in his early twenties, but after getting a closer look I’d say he was a bit older than that, maybe even thirty. He was good looking, as all these out and proud dancer-types seemed to be, with short dark hair and nicely tanned skin. At the moment he was wearing old denim shorts and a tank top that exposed his smooth and hairless midriff, and I had no trouble at all imaging him all dressed up tomorrow and doing high kicks the full length of Oxford Street.
‘About the only thing I reckon I’ll be able to find tomorrow will be the blisters on my feet after dancing from one end of Oxford Street to the other for about four hours,’ he groaned.
‘Awww . . . I think the princess better toughen up,’ Tristan teased. ‘But don’t worry, we’ll be right there beside you to flog your sorry old arse along when you start dragging it.’
‘Sweetheart, we’ll see whose arse will be dragging along the bitumen when the parade is over,’ Simon pouted.
We all laughed at this brief exchange, which to me was almost like watching two colourful bantam roosters dancing about each other in a farm yard, each posturing as if they were getting ready to strike, their hackles raised in anger, yet neither quite game enough to make the first move. I was enjoying meeting some of Helen’s acquaintances and couldn’t help but wonder who it might be that she would unearth next.
‘So, are you two quite finished?’ Helen huffed. ‘How are things with the float and the dancers? Will everything and everyone be ready for tomorrow?’
‘It’s all sweet,’ Ben answered confidently. ‘Everything will be fine.’
‘Well, I’m certainly glad to hear that. Did any of the reinforcements from the other divisions arrive to help out?’
‘Only a few . . . but they weren’t really of much use though. Still, they’ll help make up the numbers around the float for the parade . . . get their photos in the paper, that sort of thing, so we’ll be able to muddle through.’
‘Well, at least someone around here seems to know what they are doing,’ Helen quipped. ‘I guess we’ll see you there, then. We’ll be on duty, but we’ll be keeping an eye out for you.’
‘Oh, I think you’ll know it when we’re getting close,’ Ben chuckled, with the note of excitement in his voice clearly evident.
‘Oh, Jesus. What have you got planned?’
‘Just keep your eyes and ears open,’ Tristan explained. ‘You won’t be able to miss us.’
‘As if that was ever going to be an issue?’ Helen laughed. ‘We’ll see you tomorrow.’
As we made our way back to Helen’s car I couldn’t help but think of how the mood amongst this little troupe seemed to be one of general excitement. I suppose that was hardly surprising, however, given that it was the eve of the big parade and the whole week so far had been filled with events associated with Mardi Gras, even if I’d been too busy up until now to really take much notice. As the week had worn on everywhere we went we could see the signs of what was to come, with the city starting to come to life with rainbows and decorations appearing all over the inner city and hundreds of hand-holding same sex tourists converging on the streets, eager to see what the place had to offer. Even the bigots seemed to have gone quiet, although that could have simply been because they knew they were now outnumbered and were afraid of being slapped down.
We were both quiet on the drive back into the city. I wasn’t sure what Helen was thinking about, but I for one had a lot on my mind.
Nerves were beginning to build, and it wasn’t just the butterflies that were associated with the gaiety that the next day was going to bring. There was a darker side to the Mardi Gras that was now foremost in my mind, the side to the parade, and to our lifestyle, that the majority of the public would, thankfully, never get to see. Ours was a world that was unique, a world that, whether rightly or wrongly, was often misunderstood and just as often feared. A world that encompassed good and evil, was forbidden to some, and yet so enticing. And with Mardi Gras being seen as one time when the worlds of heterosexual and homosexual mixed freely, without prejudice or fear, it was important that no shadows be cast over the event.
That was why I was now silently contemplating Corcoran’s threat, and the possibility of coming face to face with him again tomorrow.
* * *
The Inspector was waiting for us when we returned to the squad room, and quickly pulled us aside to discuss what had happened overnight at the Imperial. He was pleased to hear that we didn’t think the latest stabbing was linked to Corcoran, but was quite surprised to learn of Adam and me having a run-in with him last night ourselves.
‘Are you sure it wasn’t Corcoran who stabbed this poor fellow?’ he asked.
‘Yes, sir. We have a still from the security cameras which caught the victim and his assailant together before their altercation occurred, and neither look anything like Corcoran,’ Helen said, as she passed over the image.
‘And while we need to check the timeline to see when all of this happened and when they each left the Imperial, there are no similarities between the way this guy died and with the way Corcoran operated. Corcoran may have been there last night, but this wasn’t his handiwork,’ I added.
‘Fair enough,’ the Inspector responded, as he sat back in his chair, his elbows on the arm rests and his palms together in front of him, almost appearing as if he were praying.
‘We also have CCTV footage from the Imperial Hotel that we will take a look through this afternoon so we can try and piece together the movements of these two characters, and also Corcoran if we can find him there,’ added Helen, while showing the Inspector the discs she was holding.
‘Very good. Now, what about tomorrow? You expect him to show?’ he added.
‘I think it’s a certainty, sir,’ I answered. ‘He has passed on a message saying he will see me there, so I’m about as sure as I can be that I will.’
‘And then what?’ he urged.
‘I honestly have no idea, sir. Somehow we need to arrest him, but it’s not like we’ll be able to just walk up to him and slap the cuffs on him. It won’t be that simple.’
‘It never is, Cooper. He will have a plan, of that there is no doubt. We just need to figure out what that might be before he gets a chance to put it into play,’ Helen added.
‘I can’t order everyone to be there and on duty, but I’m certainly going to encourage all of our officers to help out on this. Uniformed officers will only be a hindrance, at least as far as having Corcoran come out into the open, so we need some plain clothes guys there. I’m sure most of our guys will come on board,’ said the Inspector. ‘Come on, let’s go give them the good news.’
Helen and I followed him out into the squad room, where we found the rest of our team waiting.
‘It doesn’t look like last night’s murder was related to Corcoran,’ the Inspector announced as he entered the room. ‘But we still expect him to make a move of some kind tomorrow. Now, I’ve said before that this case is a priority, and nothing has changed, so I’d like to think that we will all be doing our bit tomorrow.’
‘Sir?’ said Joe Benevetti.
‘Are you ordering us to be there, sir?’ Joe asked.
‘I know it’s not exactly your scene, Joe,’ the Inspector replied, ‘but let me put it this way. We have a murderer who has made a specific threat against a member of this team, we have three murders still officially unsolved, and we have a situation where the person of interest in those outstanding cases has openly stated he will be in attendance at a public event, where there may be hundreds, if not thousands of people possibly at risk. We also have the situation whereby the police force is being shown in very bad light at the moment, with the negative press that we are receiving undermining any confidence that the public has in us right now. We now have the opportunity to do something about all of those things, so, the answer to your question is, no, you don’t have to be there . . . but I know that you’ll do the right thing, Joe.’
‘Yes, sir,’ he grudgingly replied, while giving me a stare that left no doubt as to just what he was feeling.
I suspected that Joe’s fishing trip or dirty weekend away had just been canned. Great! That’ll be something else he’ll be able to resent me for.
‘What’s the timetable for tomorrow, Wheeler?’ the Inspector asked.
‘As I understand it, sir, the floats will start gathering from around two o’clock. I believe the parade doesn’t kick off until around seven-thirty,’ Helen replied. ‘It starts near the Whitlam Square, and makes its way along Oxford Street, then Flinders Street, before finishing at Moore Park.’
‘And what about Corcoran? Where do you think he would be most likely to show?’
‘If I were him,’ Garry Kwan offered, ‘I’d make it where the crowds are heaviest . . . where there’s a better chance of getting away . . .’
‘Or of having a bigger audience,’ I added.
‘What makes you say that?’ Garry asked. ‘He’s never had an audience before, so why would he want one now?’
‘Just a hunch,’ I replied. Everyone heard Benevetti’s groan, but I continued on, undeterred. ‘He might never have had an audience before, but he has changed everything in the past week or so, become more out there and also seems to have lost any fear of being spotted. He only has one target and he won’t care what happens provided he gets what he wants.’
‘Which is?’ Benevetti asked.
‘Christ, you’ve got tickets on yourself,’ Joe snorted.
Everyone ignored the comment, seeing it for what it really was, being sour grapes at his having to miss whatever it was he had planned for the weekend.
‘I have a feeling that this time he wants to go out with a bang,’ I replied. ‘He’s got nothing to lose, especially now he knows we’re onto him and can tie him to at least three murders, plus another serious assault, so why not?’
‘And where will the crowds be heaviest?’ the Inspector enquired.
‘It’s hard to say, but I would imagine it would be near the city end of Oxford Street,’ Helen replied. ‘So if we concentrate our resources at that end, maybe cover a block with each pair of us, one on either side of the street, we might be able to cover a fair bit of area.’
‘That sounds good to me,’ the Inspector agreed. ‘Everyone will still be close enough to help out, and there will still be uniformed officers and Mardi Gras security around as well. We’ll have a briefing here at one o’clock tomorrow, then we’ll hit the streets. If we stay alert we’ll have a good chance of getting our man.’
‘And if we don’t?’ asked Craig Andarakis.
‘Then Corcoran might just get his man,’ the Inspector flatly replied. ‘Which, it goes without saying, we can never let happen.’
At that moment everyone looked my way. There were nods of agreement all round, even if one of those nods seemed to be forced. I wondered what Benevetti might be thinking. Could I trust him with my life?
I have to admit that that thought kind of scared me a little.
To be continued . . .