Copyright © 2015
by Bob Goodwin
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13th Black Candle
Cover design by
In memory of
William Henry Goodwin
A creative artist
And my Dad
1 - Tuesday - June 3rd
2 – The First Interview
3 – Narangba
4 – The Bodytone Club
5 – The Ruins
6 – Second Interview
7 – Familiar Friends
8 – The Briefing
9 – Surveillance
10 – The Walking Wounded
11 – Security
12 – Under Lock and Key
13 – Race Day
14 – Playing Chess
15 – Breach of Duty
16 – The Red Scarf
17 – Dinner is Served
18 – Sweet Dreams
19 – An Innocent Man?
20 – Poor Old George
21 – Friends and Foes
22 – The Madhouse
23 – Robes and Rituals
24 – Don’t Leave Me This Way
25 – The Departure
26 – The Great Pentacle
27 – Devilish Creatures
28 – Return of the Lust Busters
29 – A Snake in the Grass
30 – Goldsmith
31 – Lucy
32 – Cherry Minx
33 – A Waiting Game
34 – Stakeout
35 – Let the Service Begin
36 – The Sawmill
37 – Sacrifice
38 – Confessions and Apologies
39 – Sex on the Beach
40 – Unfinished Business
Books by Bob Goodwin
- June 3rd
Stacey looked beyond his car headlights and into the darkness as he
drove along the quiet country road. Being
one kilometre from his home, he could normally spot the location by
the external night-lights; but tonight, there was just blackness. One
minute later he turned onto his property and headed down the
He braked sharply to avoid hitting a metal jerry can. The car skidded
a metre or so on some loose gravel before coming to a halt. After a
quick scan of the area, Simon got out and retrieved the can. He shook
it. It was empty. ‘Huh, weird. Who’s been in my shed?’ He
shrugged his shoulders and placed the can off to the side of the
driveway before continuing towards the house.
‘Alison, the bloody
security lights. They need to stay on!’ he muttered.
As the headlights of the
Mercedes illuminated the rear of the house, a man, wearing only a
pair of shorts, darted across in front of the car.
‘What the fuck?!’
The man stopped in his
tracks, turned, and raised a pistol. But then, as if suddenly
changing his mind, he lowered the weapon and ran.
instinctively put his foot on the accelerator. With the car almost
upon him, the man had little choice; either scale the high pool fence
to his left or become one with the driveway. He tossed the gun over
the fence, then with outstretched hands, grabbed the top rail and
swung his legs high. The vault itself was a medal winner; the
landing, however, was a disgrace. He plunged chest-first into the
grassed area surrounding the swimming pool. Simon slammed on the
brakes. Before his winded adversary regained his feet, Simon was out
of the car, through the pool gate, and had the pistol in hand.
the hell are you? And what in God’s name are you doing on my
property?’ Simon was trembling. He held the weapon uneasily with
both hands, but its general aim towards the stranger’s head kept
him from running off a second time. Clutching at his chest, the man
slowly straightened himself up.
‘Mr Stacey, it seems you
have me in an awkward position. You don’t really want to use that
gun, do you? It would be very foolish.’ He took two steps backward
off the grass and onto the tiles that encircled the pool.
‘Don’t move! I may not
be a good shot, but from this distance I’ll do you some serious
damage. That’s a promise. How do you know my name? Who are you? If
you’ve harmed my family, I swear I’ll kill you!’
‘I can assure you, Mr
Stacey. No harm has come to your family.’ The man slowly lifted his
arms from his chest and displayed two open hands, as if to reinforce
his sincerity. ‘My name is Romoli.’
‘Keep talking and keep
‘Your wife signed a
contract a long time ago. You might say I have come to see that she
honours the agreement.’ Romoli glanced at his watch.
‘What’s the hurry,
dickhead? You’re not going anywhere until I’m good and ready!’
Simon’s voice became louder and impatient. ‘I don’t like this.
I’m not hearing what I want to hear. You got any ID? Empty your
‘Don’t panic,’ Romoli
replied softly, while turning his two pockets inside out. A
handkerchief, a few silver coins, and some newspaper clippings fell
to the ground.
‘Hey, I travel light.
‘Move to the side.’
Romoli took a couple of steps sideways. Simon knelt and picked up the
pieces of newspaper, at the same time keeping a close eye on his
captive. He held them toward his car headlights and scanned the
MAN DISEMBOWELLED BY
WOMAN SLAIN IN RITUAL
LIVE HUMAN SACRIFICES BY
CHILDREN TARGETED BY SATANISTS
WITCHCRAFT SECRET SOCIETIES
jottings in pencil at the top of each clipping was a date, clearly
written in red biro. None were more than two years old. Down the side
of one piece of paper was a short list of what appeared to be phone
Simon had seen enough. He
now had a very good idea what this oddball was on about. As he shoved
the pieces of paper into his pocket, his expression changed. His eyes
narrowed, his teeth clenched, and his head moved slowly from side to
‘She made a commitment,’
said Romoli very matter-of-factly. ‘I needed the articles to help
remind her of our continuing work. She signed her name in front of
many people. She signed it in blood.’
‘You bastard! You
deadshit, deviant bastard! She’s finished with all that Satanist
crap. I helped her over it. That’s ancient history.’
‘Ancient history? No.
Continuing history? Yes,’ nodded Romoli. ‘And our future will
therefore be assured. And just to put the record straight, we are not
‘An arsehole by any other
name would still smell like shit,’ retorted Simon.
‘We are the Order of the
13th Black Candle.’
‘Yeah, as I just said.’
Romoli glanced at his watch
once more. He smiled and extended his arms to the sky. ‘Dear Lord,
Prince of Darkness and Ruler of the Universe, accept this offering
from your loyal servants.’
‘Shut up!’ Simon
glanced nervously back at the house. It remained shrouded in
darkness. All was still. Romoli continued his prayer.
‘Hail Satan, accept our
souls. Hail Satan, accept our gift.’
‘I’m warning you! If
you’ve harmed my family I swear I’ll blow your fucking brains
out!’ Stacey straightened his arms to steady his quivering aim.
‘I’ll shoot! I swear I’ll shoot!’ His finger tightened on the
trigger. There was a tremendous flash of light, followed almost
instantly by a thunderous explosion. Simon felt his body being pushed
forward by the force of the blast. The gun discharged. Romoli flew
backwards into the pool. Stacey fell forward onto the tile work.
man’s body was face up in the water, slightly below the surface.
Golds, yellows, and reds flashed over the pool from the explosion.
Romoli’s eyes and mouth were wide open. Bobbing up a few
centimetres, his face protruded from the rippled pool surface, then
slowly sank. A stream of small bubbles ran from his mouth. An
enveloping cloud of redness, emanating from the back of his head,
closed over him, and he disappeared.
The First Interview
came as some surprise to Simon that he was permitted to freely leave
the Alderley Police Complex after an exhausting three hours of
interviews with numerous police officers and detectives. He had
endeavoured to be as cooperative as possible, without disclosing
more than was necessary. The investigators were very sympathetic to
the loss of his family, allowing him several opportunities to take a
break and compose himself. Of course, they wanted to know all the
details of where he was and who he was with when his Samford Valley
home burnt to the ground. They focused at length on anyone who may
have had reason enough to commit such a dreadful act. Simon gave them
a few names of individuals he had crossed swords with over the last
few years, knowing full well that they were all dead ends.
they did take his fingerprints for
and to assist in eliminating him from their line of enquires, it did
seem strange that nothing had been said about a body in the pool or a
weapon being found at the scene. And there was no reference to the
empty jerry can he’d left lying on the ground.
Marshall had provided him with some general details about the arson.
An accelerant had been used;
petrol. They were still investigating how ignition had taken place.
The fire was virtually an instantaneous explosion throughout many
rooms of the house. Any occupants had no chance of survival. Two
bodies had been found, an adult and a child, and were awaiting formal
Simon walked slowly to his
parked Mercedes-Benz W126. He stood near the driver’s door, staring
out across the busy South Pine Road but not seeing anything. There
was a lot to think through. And the numbness he was feeling was not
helping. He stood motionless for a full two minutes before opening
the car door.
okay there, Mr Stacey?’ came a call from behind him. He turned. It
was Detective Marshall. Marshall was a tall, slender man with a
weathered complexion. He had seemed compassionate, thoughtful, and
Simon thought he was not too bad.
‘Yeah. I’m okay. Just
needing a few deep breaths before I go.’
‘You sure you’re okay
to drive? I can get one of the boys to drive you if you wish.’
‘Very kind, but I can
manage. Thanks.’ Simon raised his hand and nodded. The detective
in the car, he managed to decide on three things. Right now, he
needed to see his best friend, Adrian Devlin. He needed rest, and
tomorrow he needed to go back to his property to see the damage and
convince himself that the nightmare was real.
the highway turnoff to Adrian’s Narangba flat and had to double
back at the next exit. He briefly told himself off, then forgave
himself the error as he drove the extra ten kilometres before pulling
up in Main Street outside a block of six brick veneer flats.
area was on the outskirts of Brisbane, about forty kilometres from
the middle of town. As a place to live, Simon didn’t mind it; it
still had some rural appeal and some good-sized acreage properties.
At the same time, it was handy to the station and a few shops. But
the best thing about Narangba was that this was where his lifetime
friend Adrian lived, and for the time being, this was also the place
he would be calling home.
was one parking space for each flat underneath the building. Number
two was vacant, but Simon decided to park on the street anyway; it
seemed the courteous thing to do. He slipped on his jacket when he
felt the cool air against his skin. Looking down at himself, he would
normally have felt a little embarrassed at his untidy appearance, as
his jacket, shirt, and pants were all creased and dirty. As he had
told Detective Marshall, he’d had an argument and a bit of a fight
last night at a poker game with his friends. Teddy Duncan had a bit
too much to drink and didn’t like losing, but liked it even less
when Simon went to leave. That’s when the fight started. But right
now, he needed to lie down. Sleep deprivation was taking its toll.
Later, when Adrian turned up they could talk, share a drink or two,
and try to get their heads around the whole bloody mess. Simon
climbed the fourteen stairs, lifted a small plant pot, grabbed the
key, and let himself in.
Five hours later, Simon
Stacey woke himself up screaming. He breathed heavily for a few
moments while he slowly regained orientation to his whereabouts. It
was dark, but the room was partially illuminated by the street
lights. He took a moment, sitting on the side of the bed, then
plodded through to the bathroom. He flicked the light on and splashed
copious amounts of water over his face.
He studied his dripping
image in the mirror. Still wearing the same clothes. Still untidy.
‘You look like a fucking
hobo, Stacey. Get your shit together!’ From his pocket, he removed
the newspaper clippings he’d obtained from Romoli. He wandered to
the kitchen area and placed them on the table under a bottle of
Johnnie Walker. Back in the bathroom, he stripped off and took a long
didn’t bother to dress; he wandered into the kitchen-dining area
just wrapped in a towel. Adrian had not arrived home. This was not
completely unexpected, as he had left the poker night earlier than
everyone else with some hope of getting lucky with Angela. The
passion and lust were still running rampant. The only way Adrian
could know about Alison and Robbie was if he had heard about the
Samford Valley fire and deaths on the news via radio or television,
and if that was the case, he would definitely be here right now.
moved the phone from the bench top to the table, poured a big glass
of Johnnie Walker, and looked through the phone numbers scribbled
down the side of one of the newspaper clippings. There were two that
he knew immediately; his own, and the Bodytone Fitness Club. The
other three were unfamiliar, so he rang them one at a time and hung
up after each call. Strangely, one of the numbers was the Alderley
Police Station. Another was Ward 21, the psychiatric ward at the
hospital. The final one he called several times but it just went
The Bodytone Club
Apart from a handful of new
recruits trying to hide in the back row, the room was alive with
synchronised activity, and the third aerobics session of the morning
was well underway. The four large black boxes were visibly vibrating
with Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time.” Despite the hard work of the
ceiling fans, all faces were beading sweat. Full wall mirrors at
either end reflected a multi-coloured plethora of leotards, and
enough footwear to bring a smile to the face of any Nike shareholder.
A solitary performer shouted out commands from the slightly raised
‘And one - and two - and
three - and other - arm - and two - and three - and four’. The
counting and staggered speech continued monotonously, never missing a
beat. ‘And - don’t - forget - to breathe - and one - and two...’
Madden, the fitness club manager, had been standing near the door
watching the aerobics show for the last two songs. Deborah, wearing
glistening sky-blue leotards, moved alongside him.
‘Why is it necessary to
remind people to breathe?’ muttered Charlie. ‘A perfectly normal
automatic bodily function. I really wonder what happens to these
people when they go to sleep at night. Perhaps they have a cassette
playing under the pillow. Now breathe. In two three four and out two
important. It helps you keep rhythm, allows your body to work more
efficiently, and stops you getting exhausted too quickly,’ replied
the slender brunette standing at his side.
‘You’ve been an
aerobics instructor too long, Deb. The brainwashing seems to be
should try it, Charlie. What have you got to lose except that lower
back problem and a couple of kilos?’
‘The last thing I want to
do is bust my backside learning how to count and breathe, and my
weight is exactly right for my height. Thanks all the same.’
Charlie was amused with Deborah’s attempt. It was not the first.
Several of the regular staff had been trying for the past few months
to convert him to their fitness religion.
‘It would be good for
you. You know, a healthier lifestyle and all that.’
‘What are you suggesting?
That I’m not healthy? Not fit?’
‘I’d have to see you
work out to know that for sure.’
‘Well, that event seems
‘That’s a shame,’ she
‘Hmm…I best be on my
way. My morning rounds await.’ He held his farewell glance a little
longer than he normally would have for a polite good-bye. Deborah
Charlie Madden generally
made two strolls a day through all areas of the prestigious club,
greeting and chatting with members and staff, checking on any
repairs, and looking for new ideas. The appointment of a part-time
medical practitioner, a part-time physiotherapist, together with the
development of the social club, were three such ideas that had proved
most popular. These innovations were all financed by the wealthy club
owner, Simon Stacey. Membership had increased fifty percent in the
few short months since these developments had come to fruition. The
social club, more affectionately known as Pluto’s Den, boasted a
games room, a quiet lounge, covered outside barbecue area,
restaurant, and a small but well used night club. The two bars within
allowed members to replace those kilojoules they had worked so hard
at removing in the gym, pool, sauna, squash courts, and aerobics
It was a challenging start
to the day after a little too much Johnnie Walker the previous
evening, but Simon had somehow found his way, as planned, to his
property. Now, here he was, surrounded by the charred remains of a
once beautiful home.
lowered his head, sighed heavily, and tried desperately to hold back
another emotional outburst. The attempt caused a choking ache in the
back of his throat and a stabbing pain over the bridge of his nose.
He pushed his thumb and forefinger hard into the corner of each eye
to suppress the feeling. It may have been better to allow his grief,
anger, and confusion to run full rein and discharge itself
completely. However, this trauma would demand a long passage of time,
and would not simply be satisfied by one massive catharsis. Besides,
there were reasons why he needed some control. He couldn’t get
swallowed up by this; not yet.
Past and recent events
weighed heavily on his mind. Things that he had long forgotten now
welled up like an eerie fountain of muddled happenings. The sensation
pushed back against his fingers. A knot at the base of his sternum
grew tight. He wanted control, discipline, and reasoning; later the
please later,’ he pleaded, as he pressed harder with his fingers.
He kicked a small piece of charcoal and forced himself to raise his
head and survey the burnt-out shell that was once his home. His
breathing was forced in short, controlled grunts. It seemed to help.
As best he could, and to prevent a total meltdown, he tried to focus
on his property and on the surrounding landscape of low rolling
He looked across the
Samford Valley. It was a cool and cloudless winter morning. A few
houses could be seen in the distance, with any closer locals being
well hidden behind native tress and gullies. It was a picture fit for
an artist’s brush and one that belied the tragedy that had occurred
only 32 hours earlier.
home had been a stand-out in the local community, with five bedrooms,
three bathrooms, a study, sunken lounge with adjoining bar and
entertainment area, and of course, his pride and joy, the library. It
was only twenty kilometres from Brisbane City, where he had spent the
previous five years. But from a lifestyle point of view it had seemed
so much further. Now, after his dream’s destruction, he failed to
comprehend both his feelings and commitment towards its completion in
the first place.
Simon stepped gingerly
through the soggy black mush and angled himself carefully under some
flimsy charcoal framework that somehow had remained standing. The
recliner rocker was more or less in an upright position, with the
mesh of exposed springs supported by the remains of the burnt wooden
frame. Hundreds of books were spread amongst the rubble; some of the
larger ones he recognised as long-standing favourites. All, however,
both large and small, were damaged beyond any hope of repair.
For Simon, the library had
occupied many of his recreational hours. He could picture the room.
Two of the library walls had been exclusively devoted for exhibition
of his family photographs. The old brown and white print he had
painstakingly restored depicted the stern, bearded face of his
grandfather, and was the first in the family tree series that
staggered across one wall. The lower-most image was of his son,
Robbie; a fine shot indeed, which captured the innocent, excited
gleam in his eyes and that unforgettable cheeky smile which always
preceded a high-pitched chuckle. The picture had sprung to life, and
Simon could see his son toddling towards him. There was the smile,
soon followed by the chuckle. Quickly the volume and intensity of the
laughter gathered an unusual, disturbing dimension. Louder and louder
it became. Something was wrong. The chuckle had altered. It was no
longer a chuckle. His son was now screaming. The flames gathered
behind the child as if in anticipation. They sprang forward and
enveloped him. In a flash, Robbie was gone.
Simon opened his eyes, then
closed them as tightly as he possibly could, moisture oozed between
his lashes. The tortured image of his son wanted to return, but he
somehow found the strength to suppress it.
and nestled amongst burnt, water-soaked books and broken glass, Simon
shook his head slowly and ventured another look. He attempted to
identify some of his possessions. Why he even wanted to, he was not
sure. It was something to do, and having something to do seemed to
help, if only for a few seconds at a time. To his left, he noticed a
large pile of burnt paper. The top pieces disintegrated as he pushed
at them with his fountain pen. He carefully slid the pen into the
middle of the stack and tipped it to one side. A small, undamaged
section of a photograph revealed itself. It showed the face of
Alison. She was wearing a blue, floppy towelling hat. Simon
recognised the picture instantly. She had just thrown some manure his
way after he had surprised her with the camera as she tended the
roses. Tears welled in his eyes, and two drops fell in quick
succession onto a charred piece of wood and disappeared like water
into a sponge. Another terrifying image was forming in his mind.
‘Hey, Stacey!’ came a
commanding shout. Simon welcomed it at first. ‘I told you not to
disturb anything.’ It was the policeman guarding the scene of the
tragedy. The two had argued only minutes earlier, with Simon finally
being permitted a few minutes to look through the ruins. Forensic
investigators had spent all day yesterday examining the scene and
taking evidence. The area was still surrounded with blue and white
police crime scene tape.
‘Just a small bit of a
photo. No harm done.’
you touch anything else you’ll have to leave. Looking only! Is that
clear? The forensic guys will be back here later. They will kick my
‘Okay, okay. I get the
message, all right!’ snapped Simon, catching himself by surprise
with his sudden change into irritability.
He stood and meandered
through the rubble, coming to another halt in the remains of the
lounge. He moved slowly toward the fireplace. With images of Alison
dancing through his mind, he cupped his face in his hands. A warm
stream of tears now flowed uncontrollably down his cheeks. Simon was
wearing a grey, pin-striped suit which he had intentionally left at
Adrian’s flat. It was possibly not the best thing to wear given the
state of the area in which he now stood, but there was little other
choice, with pretty much everything else having gone up in smoke. He
sat down on the cracked brick surround of the fireplace. Simon always
prided himself on his appearance, no matter what the occasion. It was
his trademark, a sign of confidence and success.
He tried to focus his
vision and attention on a winding trail of ants that had carefully
plotted a dry course through the black sludge. In ant terms this must
have been like Hiroshima, thought Simon, yet here they are organised
and already going about their business of cleaning up and starting
afresh. Lucky ants.
Startled by the sound of a
car pulling up sharply on some loose pebbles in the circular
driveway, Simon quickly rose to his feet and reached for his
handkerchief. He wiped his face, not realising that his right hand
was partly covered with the black ash that coated the brickwork where
he had been sitting.
‘Mr Stacey!’ a voice
shouted, as a car door opened. Simon hesitated. The voice was very
familiar, and one he knew he should recognise immediately, but the
name somehow eluded him.
I’m in here,’ his voice wavered. ‘Just a moment.’ Looking
down at his red silk tie, he cursed as he noticed that, not only was
it wet from his tears, it also bore a large, sooty smudge.
Shit. Shit,’ Simon muttered as he removed the tie and stuffed it in
his hip pocket. Proceeding through what used to be a set of sliding
glass doors, his eyes met those of Inspector John Cochran. How could
he not have recognised that husky sergeant major voice? ‘Yes,
Inspector. I’m guessing you have some more questions for me?’
‘I’m sorry, Mr Stacey,
just a couple. And if you could remove yourself from the crime scene
it would be greatly appreciated.’ The inspector glanced over at the
policeman on guard duty and shook his head. Simon took a few careful
steps forward and lifted the tape over his head. ‘Thank you. Look,
I know this must be difficult for you,’ continued the inspector.
‘But it would be a great help to our investigations if we could
have a chat.’
was surprised by Cochran’s manner. He had actually addressed him as
and used the word sorry
in the same sentence. The fat man’s sensitivity was verging on the
puzzling you, Inspector? You’re unusually restrained and oddly
polite this morning.’ Stacey was demanding self-control. He and
Cochran had some history and they did not get on. Seize
he told himself. Such directive self-talk seemed foreign; his
responses normally flowed freely. His brain was struggling for sharp,
cutting responses. ‘Hey, I know, you old devil,’ continued Simon.
‘I’ll bet you got lucky last night. And I’m guessing it must
have been with your elocution teacher? Good score.’ It was a
slightly provocative remark, but wasn’t terribly impressive. Simon
knew he could have done better, but given the present circumstances
it was the best he could muster. Still, it would irritate the crap
out of lard arse, and once again it was something to be doing, and
provided a brief respite from the torment.
The policeman had clenched
his fists. He pressed his lips and teeth tightly together, then made
a concerted effort to relax them before responding.
now I accept that you’re very upset, but we both want answers don’t
we? I know you’ve already been very helpful and that you’ve spent
several hours at the station, but there are a few things that have
come to light that quite honestly leave me a little perplexed.’
There was a firmer tone in his voice, but the air of concern and the
attempt at empathy still prevailed.
now stood directly in front of Cochran, trying hard to look into the
fat man’s eyes. Direct eye contact had served him well in his
dealings with difficult acquaintances in the past. With Cochran, it
was different. His podgy face made it seem you were staring at his
eyelids rather than his eyes. Simon pondered for a moment on the
close resemblance to a walrus; just a few long whiskers under that
flattened nose, and SeaWorld would be signing him up.
have we? Shame. It wasn’t really you though, was it?’ The man was
a hopeless case, thought Stacey, couldn’t even hold a pretence
together for five minutes. ‘So, you’d like to know what’s going
on.’ Simon paused. That knot in his gut tightened. His temples
pulsed in pain. Any sense of control was plummeting headlong into the
ground. ‘Well let me tell you, Inspector. This is my house, my new
house. This is my life’s achievement. You know what I really
created here, don’t you? I created an elaborate coffin. A
crematorium. Notice how I’ve cleverly installed open skylights
throughout the building and developed a wonderful, charred, rustic
appearance, so authentic you can even smell it. Quite novel, don’t
you think? I must say though, the carpets are a bitter
disappointment. Scotch-guarded to the max, and the damned water has
got into them like a fucking sponge. And what about —’
‘Stacey!’ bellowed the
six-foot policeman. ‘Shut up!’
please let me continue, Inspector. My family. Alison, my wife, and my
son, Robbie; my little boy; only a little boy, Inspector; nearly two.
Nearly two years old…’ Simon’s speech faltered and stopped. The
tight knot spread quickly to his stomach and like a wave into his
throat. His mouth watered uncontrollably. He dropped to his knees,
vomited at Cochran’s feet, then sobbed loudly for what seemed like
an eternity for both men. Reaching into his pocket, he removed what
he thought was his handkerchief and began loudly blowing his nose
into his red tie.
‘Fuck, look at me. What a
mess. If you ever run out of hankies, Cochran, let me know. I’ll
lend you a silk tie.’ Stacey continued wiping his face regardless.
He thought for a moment of wiping the regurgitated specks from
Cochran’s shoes, but then changed his mind.
Simon slowly forced himself
into an upright position and exchanged his tie for his handkerchief.
‘Sorry, Inspector,’ he
said, wiping his face roughly and spreading more soot across his
nose. His own words caught him by surprise. Now both men had used
that word. He forgave himself the indiscretion.
‘You have no need to
apologise, Stacey,’ replied Cochran. ‘We do need to talk again,
and you need to clean yourself up. Be at the Alderley Police Station
by 1.00 p.m.’ Not waiting for a response, he pushed his bulky frame
through the open car door and dropped heavily onto the seat. The
suspension groaned as if to complain at the insult of the one hundred
and thirty kilograms. The engine sparked into a throaty rhythm and
jerked as the gear stick found its notch. ‘Be there, Stacey!’ he
said firmly. ‘And don’t tamper with anything around here.’
The white Ford Falcon XF
sedan looped around the driveway and was quickly out of view. Simon
thought about the gun and the jerry can, both covered with his
fingerprints. If they had found either, Cochran would have just taken
him in immediately. It seemed that someone had done him a favour. But
who? And why?
He looked to the side of
his private roadway, at the large rectangular plot of carefully
turned soil. Several rather bare-looking sticks protruded from the
earth. Alison had a passion for roses. She had spent much of last
weekend tending her garden. Many other plots had been planned, and
she had meticulously marked them all with sticks, string, and
coloured ribbon. To the right of the garden was the oval-shaped
swimming pool and spa, both covered in a fine, black-and-grey
speckled film. Simon stared at the coated water, imagining it to be a
thick, oily quagmire. A place where you would slowly descend into the
murky depths and be captured and tortured for eternity. A soft, cool
breeze reached his cheeks. A chill penetrated his spine and goose
pimples spread from his neck to his limbs. On the pool, a slow wave
ran under the carpet of mire.
The garden beyond the
swimming enclosure was a picture, with two pergolas and some
strategically placed garden furniture. A cobblestone path wound its
way through the thick grass carpet, finishing at a large, aluminium
garden shed that was carefully tucked away behind a cluster of native
trees and shrubs. The goose pimples were receding. Robbie had been so
fascinated with the garden, spending so much time running, playing,
and rolling on the cool grass. Hide and seek had taken on a whole new
dimension since moving from the city. The goose bumps were gone.
With the stale smell of wet
charcoal lingering in his nostrils, Simon hung his head, turned, and
slowly made his way along the driveway to the entrance where the
solitary policeman stood on guard.
thirty minutes of driving he arrived back
at Adrian’s Narangba flat. Simon pondered for a moment on how he
had arrived at his trusty friend’s dwelling in what only seemed to
be a matter of minutes. He thought back and had no memory of passing
the Samford Valley Dairy, had completely missed the deserted sawmill
at Eaton’s Crossing, and surprisingly had not the slightest
recollection of even turning onto the highway.
Back inside the flat there
was still no sign of Adrian. Simon placed a call to his Bodytone
Club. He spoke to Wendy, the receptionist, and enquired about Angela,
one of the personal trainers.
‘She has called in quite
ill, Simon. She said she would be away for a few days,’ recalled
‘Can you give me her
phone number please?’ Simon wrote down the number as she spoke.
‘Thanks for that, Wendy. Now I need to ask you, have you heard
about the fire and the deaths out at Samford?’
‘I heard about that on
the news. They didn’t give out any names. I hope it wasn’t
anybody you knew.’
‘Are you sitting down?’
Simon proceeded to give her the details and asked her to inform
Charlie Madden, and also let him know that he would be dropping
around in the late afternoon.
the kitchen table, he picked up the newspaper clipping with the list
of phone numbers. He checked them off against Angela’s number that
Wendy had just given him. There it was, on the list, third from the
‘Fuck me!’ He dialled
the number and waited. It rang out. ‘Shit, Adrian. What the hell is
going on? I need you.’
The two men had shared so
much and had always been there for one another when the chips were
down. The bond they had formed from school days was still as strong
as ever. Simon could recall numerous occasions when he and Adrian had
teamed up to do battle against some of the school’s hardheads and
overlords. They had certainly copped some hidings, especially in the
beginning, but their track record of memorable victories had improved
markedly when they realised their strength lay with their guile and
cunning rather than their modest physical attributes.
Simon glanced at his watch:
11.45 a.m. He sat motionless for a few seconds then checked his watch
again, having already forgotten the time. He went to pour himself a
drink but changed his mind.
your arse, Stacey. Inspector Cochran awaits,’ he muttered to
himself as he moved to the bathroom. After noticing his
charcoal-smeared appearance in the mirror, he was pleased to feel the
steady stream of soothing, warm water running over his face. The old,
thinning towel was only sufficient to render him half-dry. On
entering the bedroom, a further dilemma —
no clothes. His legacy from the fire was one suit now in need of dry
cleaning, and yesterday’s dirty clothes. He threw the towel to the
floor and marched to the second bedroom. Simon rummaged through
Adrian’s drawers and removed a creased and faded pair of blue denim
jeans. Turning to the plastic laundry basket, precariously balanced
on a chair near the end of the bed, Simon delved amongst the
assortment of items. After rejecting two T-shirts he found a pink
‘Angela? Huh, the plot
thickens.’ The sleeve of a white shirt caught his eye, he pulled it
free. Well, it was almost white, and it did have most of its buttons.
It would have to do. Simon spent a few minutes searching for an iron.
This proved fruitless, and just served to cause irritation.
Stacey, get your shit together.’ His legs had slipped into the
denim before he realised he wasn’t wearing underwear. He continued
cursing himself and shook his head in disbelief of his faltering
style. Taking a little extra care with the zipper he was soon
dressed, out of the flat, and on his way to see Cochran.
briefly surveyed the block of flats and the few nearby houses before
turning the ignition. While Narangba itself was a nice enough place,
Simon wasn’t particularly impressed with the edge of suburbia; to
him it was a sign of a steady deterioration in living conditions
right through to the noisy metropolis. His rural living desires
developed as a child on an avocado farm with his parents until the
age of six. A succession of extraordinary weather conditions had led
to multiple crop failures and the family moved to town. The city had
its purposes, but over the years, incentives such as wealth, success,
and beautiful women had been strong enough to override his preference
for country living.
enough he was back at the Alderley Police Complex. He entered the
front parking area and took the only vacant spot in the Reserved
space alongside Cochran’s vehicle. The building was large, with
various police activities being distributed throughout many offices
over the two-storey structure. Simon entered the reception area of
the ground floor.
The first thing noticeable
on entering was an offensive odour of stale, sweaty feet. He looked
around to locate the source of the smell. The desk sergeant was
typing away awkwardly with two fingers at a computer keyboard behind
the counter, refusing in any way to acknowledge Simon’s presence.
Simon continued his surveillance. He spotted the problem. In the far
corner, a pair of joggers sat propped up on a low wooden stool in
front of a bar heater.
A large dot matrix printer
kicked into action then stopped. The sergeant walked slowly to the
other side of the room, grabbed a new roll of printer paper, then
returned and fed it into the machine. He jabbed with annoyance at a
few buttons. The machine came back to life. Simon had decided he
would neither say a word nor rap his knuckles on the bench. He placed
his hand over his nose and waited. The game continued for some time
until the sergeant spoke.
‘You know anything about
computers?’ he snapped.
‘Just enough to get me
‘Huh, what’s the good
of ya? Down the hall, second on the left. He’s expecting you. And
some relief, Simon proceeded down the corridor. Behind him came the
sound of spray from a pressure can. He smiled, brushed at a couple of
creases in his shirt with his hand, and then knocked three times on
‘It’s open. Come in.’
‘Good morning again,
Inspector,’ said Simon, trying to sound relaxed.
‘It’s afternoon, and
secondly, you’re thirty-three minutes late ...’ Cochran paused as
he looked up. ‘And where did you get those clothes? It’s just not
not mine, they belong to a friend who is helping me out.’ Simon
looked about the room. ‘I must say, this office is pretty ordinary.
A bit of a step down from your inner-city room with a view.’
It was in that Brisbane
City office where the two men had met three years earlier. Stacey’s
apartment had been ransacked. Nothing was missing, but the place was
a mess. Glassware and bottles smashed, books and documents ripped,
and blood smeared over windows and mirrors. A heated argument had
erupted after Simon repeatedly insisted he couldn’t help with any
enquires. Their second encounter was more recent; Stacey’s car,
another Mercedes, had been stolen. Investigations failed to discover
any trace of the vehicle. In both cases, no one was apprehended.
‘This office is just
fine, Stacey. Can I offer you a cup of tea or coffee?’
are really trying hard, aren’t you? It’s good to see a man who
recognises his own shortcomings and tries to change them,’ said
Stacey. Cochran forced a grin but said nothing. ‘Do you have any
freshly squeezed orange juice?’
‘That is a shame. I’ll
have nothing then.’
‘As you wish. Now, we
have some rather disturbing results of our preliminary enquiries.
Please sit down.’ Simon carefully slid out a rickety wooden chair
and sat down. The inspector shuffled a few sheets of paper as if
collecting his thoughts.
‘The fire was, of course,
deliberately lit, and this is a homicide investigation. Traces of
several incendiary devices have been found at the scene. I believe
Detective Marshall gave you some details. For what it’s worth,
Stacey, suffering for anyone inside would have been minimal.’
was silent. How do other people know that suffering was minimal; that
they all died instantly; that there was no pain? How can those who
are alive tell others what dying is like? Maybe seconds seem like
hours and suffering is unbearable. Maybe you have to feel the fire
singeing the cilia from the depths of your lungs. Maybe you have to
watch your own flesh burning and falling from your bones.
‘There’s more, I’m
afraid. A third body was found late yesterday morning. A man aged
probably thirty-five to forty. One point eight metres tall, that’s
about five foot eleven. Weight estimated at eighty kilos. He was
discovered in your back yard behind the garden shed. He had a single
gunshot wound to the head and he was naked. Any ideas on this guy?’
Simon’s brow was now
resting on the edge of the desk. His hands grasped the laminated
surface on either side of his head, as if to prevent his falling to
‘Stacey, if you’re
going to throw up again can you use the basin in preference to my
‘That sounds more like
the John Cochran we all know and love,’ mumbled Simon. ‘I’m not
going to do an encore. But I might just decide to die right here.
There’s another body? Jesus!’
‘What about this bloke
behind the shed then? Do you know who he might have been?’ said
‘I think it might have
been the milkman.’
Stacey, it’s time for some straight answers. This is not just
another break and enter like at your damned flat. It’s murder. It’s
now triple murder! This guy was shot in the head and guess what? His
tongue had been cut out of his head. Don’t fuck me around here!’
The inspector was overheating. The two men’s complexions were at
stark contrast. Stacey pale and ready to pass out, and Cochran on the
verge of exploding.
‘It was an apartment or a
home unit, not a flat. And I honestly have no idea who that bloke is,
or was. His tongue cut out? What sort of deal is that? Some mafia
thing? Fuck me.’
‘Was there anyone else
besides your wife and son staying at the property?’
‘No. There was no one
else there when I left the house at seven o’clock on Tuesday night.
I don’t know anyone who hates me enough to do such a thing. Why
didn’t they get out of the house? There must have been noises. They
should have heard something. They should have got out. There were so
many exits. Windows, doors. They should have got out!’ Simon found
his speech was racing as he tried to keep pace with his thoughts.
‘I believe the arsonist
planned it so that no one would escape with their life. We are still
waiting on final results of the autopsies, but despite the state of
the bodies, we have confirmation that one was your wife and another
was most likely your son — according to weight, age, height,
etcetera. As for the other body, we have no leads.’
‘I really want to help.
Don’t you think I want to nail the murdering sons of bitches?’
Simon’s voice faltered as a solitary tear ran down his cheek.
‘There are a couple of
questions I must ask that I know you’re not going to like.’
‘Okay, Inspector, go on
then, don’t be shy.’
‘You told the detective
yesterday that you were with that Duncan fellow, playing cards, at
the time of the fire.’
‘Yes, I was,’ replied
‘I’ll need his full
name and address to confirm that.’
‘You think I had
something to do with this! Are you crazy? This is totally absurd.’
‘At this stage I don’t
know what to think. I have to check out all the angles. Isn’t it
true that you stand to collect five million dollars from your wife’s
life insurance policy?’
‘That policy is nearly
three years old. It covered both our lives. I don’t need the money,
‘Isn’t it true that you
altered the policy six months ago and doubled the payout?’
‘You arsehole, Cochran!
That’s enough. Are you charging me?’
‘No, I’m not. But if
you hinder investigations, I’ll ...’
‘Well thank you very much
and good-bye.’ Simon promptly stood up and made for the door.
‘That name and address,
Kingsview Terrace! Teddy Duncan!’ shouted Stacey. He wrenched the
door open, hesitated briefly, then looked back at the inspector.
‘Those fat cells have infiltrated your brain, Cochran. Your
synapses have been replaced by cellulite.’ He slammed the door and
taking few deep breaths, Cochran sifted through his paperwork,
examining the reverse side of each page. He flipped over the
second-last sheet and found what he was searching for. There it was;
Duncan - 21 Kingsview Tce. - Deceased – time of death estimated at
0400 hrs. on Wednesday 4th June – (approx. 4 hours after Stacey’s
Upon completion of the
afternoon rounds, Charlie Madden entered the foyer and reception
area. His office was located behind the reception desk where Deborah
stood chatting with Wendy, the receptionist, and two other fitness
enthusiasts. Charlie smiled.
Charlie,’ she said brightly. ‘Excuse me for a moment guys,’ she
said to her companions before stepping across in front of Charlie
‘Hey there, Deb. Always
nice to see you. What’s up?’
‘How are you?’ She
placed her hands on his shoulders. ‘That news about Simon. I know
you were probably closer to him and Alison than most people here.’
‘It has shaken me up. I
do worry for Simon more than anything. He’s a pretty strong guy but
this…’ he paused and swallowed, ‘I don’t know how someone
could ever recover. It’s just too hard.’ Charlie dropped his
head, stepped away from Deb, and turned away. The small group had all
stopped chatting and watched with Deborah as Charlie scurried into
his office with his head lowered.
‘I’m just going to see
if he’s okay,’ mouthed Deb softly to her friends. They all
nodded. She followed him into the office and closed the door.
Charlie was sitting with
his elbows on the desk, resting his head in his hands. As Deborah
entered he immediately grabbed a pen and paper.
‘You know, Deb, I’ve
got a couple of great ideas. I have been thinking about the night
club area. It’s a bit too small, but if we open the side wall
towards the barbecue we can double the floor space as well as... as
well as allow easier access to...’ Deborah squatted down next to
him and grabbed him in her arms and squeezed.
‘You are a good man,
Charlie Madden.’ She kissed him on the cheek.
‘Sorry,’ he squeaked.
have nothing to be sorry about.’ She turned his head to face her.
‘Showing you have feelings is a good thing.’ Deb kissed him on
the mouth. Lightly at first, then more passionately as he responded.
‘Wow,’ said Charlie
when they finally broke. Their faces were still close.
‘I think we should sleep
together,’ said Deborah.
‘Oh, do you think that’s
a bad idea?’
‘Oh, yes… I mean no. I
mean of course. Yes, yes. It’s probably the best idea I’ve ever
heard in my life.’
‘I have been told you can
‘I do okay. You should
come over for dinner.’
‘Yes, I should.’
A sharp rap on the door
disturbed the conversation.
‘Hey, Charlie, you got a
minute?’ Came a loud voice through the door.
Charlie blotted his face
with a tissue and settled himself back at the desk. Deborah took only
a moment to turn the door handle slightly to release the lock and sit
door’s open. Come on in,’ said Charlie. He took some deep breaths
and began drawing on a blank sheet of paper. As the door opened, Deb
took the initiative.
‘That sounds like a good
idea, Charlie. How do you think it will work out cost wise?’
‘Ah! Simon. It’s good
to see you.’ Charlie stood and moved to the side of the desk.
Deborah gave Simon a consoling hug and a kiss on the cheek. Apart
from his serious expression, Stacey looked a million dollars. He’d
felt compelled to do some shopping after seeing Cochran, and had
notched up a bill for five grand to restock some of his wardrobe. He
was very smartly attired in a white wool sports coat, navy blue tie,
and blue pin-striped business shirt.
‘We’re all so sorry to
hear about Alison and Robbie,’ said Deb. ‘It’s horrible. How
are you managing? Is there anything we can do?’
Simon returned the kiss,
shook hands with Charlie, then dropped into the soft single recliner
lounge to the side of the doorway.
‘Thanks, Deb. I’m just
managing to cope and that’s all. If you don’t mind I’m trying
to focus on the practicalities for the time being — to keep me from
losing my mind. But it’s comforting to know I have such good
‘If there’s anything we
can do, you know we are always here for you,’ said Charlie. ‘You
have no need to worry yourself about this end of things. Everything
is just fine. Business is booming.’
‘I know I can rely on you
both, as I can on everyone here. I just thought I’d better put you
all in the picture before you read it in the papers tomorrow
morning.’ Simon paused and swallowed heavily before continuing.
Deborah sat down.
‘It’s been confirmed
that the fire was deliberately lit. So you see, it’s murder. My
family has been murdered. And so was someone else; an unidentified
man’s body was found as well. Now, I believe that whoever
orchestrated this tragedy has some master plan. I have no idea at
this stage what that might be or who is involved, but it does mean
that you all need to be a little careful.’ Stacey was concentrating
on his words, trying to keep his emotions under control. He looked up
at his two friends. Deborah and Charlie were stunned.
‘What the hell are the
police doing about it?’ asked Charlie after an extended silence. He
began a slow pace around the office.
don’t tell me much. They just ask lots of questions. Apparently,
they have very few leads.’
‘Why do we need to be
careful here? Is there some sort of threat?’
There is no threat, Charlie. It’s just me being careful. When
someone targets your family, and blows up your house, it makes sense
to take a little extra care. Wouldn’t you agree?
‘Sure. Of course.’
‘You need to tell
everyone to keep their eyes open. If they see anything unusual or
anyone… Charlie, can you sit down please?’ Simon was both
surprised and a little irritated by Madden’s behaviour.
‘Sorry, just thinking,
that’s all. I think better when I’m walking.’ He returned to
his desk chair.
‘Now let’s get this
clear; I don’t want anyone else getting hurt. I don’t think
anything is going to happen here at the club, but I’m not prepared
to take any chances. I’ve hired a security guard. His name is Oscar
Schliemann. He’s a big German guy who knows his business. You can
expect him tomorrow morning. As far as security matters are concerned
he is to have full control. He will be doing a little quiet research
for me as well, so tell him anything he wants to know. No secrets
Deborah sat quietly. Her
dark-brown eyes glistened as the first tear ran down the side of her
nose. While she found the whole scenario very upsetting, it was the
soulless act of Robbie’s fiery murder that cut the deepest.
‘And what if we see
something then?’ asked Charlie, fidgeting with his pen.
‘Tell Schliemann, he’ll
know what to do. That’s what he’s getting paid for. And one more
thing; let’s not start a panic here. Use those staff management
skills of yours, Charlie. I’m counting on you. We don’t want to
scare off our members, do we? It’s business as usual.’
‘Okay, sure. I’ll chat
with the others this afternoon. Where will you be in case I need to
‘I’m staying at Adrian
Devlin’s place. I think you already have his details.’
‘Yes, I do.’
Simon stood and moved over
‘Are you okay, Deb? I’m
sorry about all this, but we’ll have it sorted out within a couple
‘I’ll be just fine,
thanks, Simon. You take care now. It’s nice having you around.’
Deborah blotted the tears from her cheeks.
‘Right then! I’ll be in
touch. Sorry I have to rush, but as you might appreciate there are a
few matters I still need to attend to. Are there any other
lots, but I’m lost for words at the moment,’ replied Charlie.
‘Well, you know where to
reach me. Leave a message on the answering machine if you need to.’
Stacey reached across the
desk. Madden stood, and the two men shook hands firmly.
‘Thanks, my friend,’
added Simon. Charlie nodded and escorted Simon to the main entrance.
On returning to the office he found Deborah still sitting quietly,
but looking much more composed. He squatted beside her chair.
‘Yeah,’ she sniffed.
‘I’ll be fine. What sort of a world is it, Charlie, when a family
can’t be safe in their own home?’
‘You hear about this sort
of thing, read it in the papers, then, suddenly it’s all so real,
and so very close. It’s frightening. Makes you realise how
vulnerable we all are. I don’t mind telling you, Deb, it makes me a
They both pondered quietly
for a moment. Charlie felt a hint of guilt for not being able to
devote his thoughts completely to Simon’s cruel ordeal.
‘Deb, about before?’
‘Oh, that. It’s
nothing. I’m fine, really. Just got a little upset with all that
talk. It’s so sad.’
‘No, no, I don’t mean
that. I mean before that.’
‘Oh, that! I guess I was
a little forward, wasn’t I!’
‘I’m not complaining.’
She laughed lightly at his remark. It helped dry up her tears.
‘I’ve been trying to
get your attention for a while. I wasn’t just sitting on your lap
at the night club the other night for the benefit of the
‘I guess I’ve been a
bit preoccupied,’ said Charlie, with a slight flush in his cheeks.
‘Sorry.’ Deb put her finger over his lips.
‘No more sorries. Just
dinner. At your place.’
‘What about this
evening?’ Charlie wasted no time with his response.
‘I’d love to, but I’ve
promised to babysit three kids for friends. Worse still, I’ll be
going to spend a couple of days with my parents. They live out of
town and I’m driving up there tomorrow after work. I haven’t seen
them for ages. Mum’s been a bit unwell. But I’m free on Monday
‘Monday, eh! Seems an
awfully long time away. I’ll just check my diary.’ Charlie
grabbed the book off the desk and opened it. ‘Yes, it looks like I
have some room in my schedule.’
‘Best pencil me in then.’
The idle chatter quickly
subsided as Cochran marched through the open door to the debriefing
room and took up his position in front of the large whiteboard. He
threw some notes and photographs on the table. The four men took up
their pens and notebooks.