Michael had been in and out of town three times in the last three hours, and he wasn’t sure how or when he would get back to a telephone, let alone have anything, besides a drink of water. Just then he looked up to see two guys in suits exciting a green Holden sedan. One held a camera. The one without the camera spoke,’ I’m James Cleary from the local rag. Can we head down?’
‘Yeah, I guess so. Knight’s down there.’
‘ And who am I speaking with?’ James raised his eyebrows.
‘Michael Connelly.’ He deliberately didn’t say anymore, and drew himself up, looking past the reporter and down the road.
The reporter looked at him again as if to speak, but Michael stepped away, and he heard the two men tromping through the bush behind him. An hour later a familiar black car, sped through the twilight towards him.
Mason Wise wound down the window, and looked up at Michael, as dispersed dust settled on their shoulders. ‘ Well, I hope this is worth it. I was down for a round of golf tomorrow, and I’m due to take leave in a week.’
Michael grinned,’ I know you Mas, if you couldn’t see the possibility in this little find’ (he checked a little, realising he sounded callous) ‘ scuse, the expression— you would’ve sent Dick. I know your trying to impress AG Murray.’
‘Ok, Ok’, Mas nodded. ‘Like you I’ve always been curious about Carrera, thought the name was a code. He is mentioned, I think, in the files on Mal Laromo. If we can put this together, we might be able to pin Mal for conspiracy to murder and racketeering, before he gets out of jail in six months.’
‘Yeah, hearing him only being sentenced for his first offence of ‘possessing stolen goods’, nearly made me puke. If the judge hadn’t looked as unhappy as I did, when I saw him afterwards, I might’ve lost my block there and then. Would you give me a lift back to the house? Bev will fix us a sandwich, I hope, and I’ve asked the Sergeant to call as soon as they confirm the identity of the deceased.’
Mason nodded, and Michael headed to the passenger side door.
At the house Bev greeted them, expressing her surprise at seeing Mason.
‘The kiddies are next door, playing with Doug and Wendy’s kids’, she told Michael. She heated up a couple of pies that she had bought earlier, and made coffee.
When she heard they were going to work, she said that she was going out to float on a lilo in the pool. At the door she glared from behind Mason’s head at Michael, and made a throat cutting gesture with her hand. He nodded at her and gave an uneasy smile. She turned away, and walked off.
About ten minutes later she was back, ‘I’ll lend you guys a hand.’
‘ I almost don’t want to start in case that phone rings and the Sergeant says that guy is Joey Carrera’s first cousin twice removed. Would you like a beer?’ Michael asked.
He pointed at Wheeze and the fridge, and she nodded yes.
‘I’d like a beer, Mick’, Mas said, ‘and we may as well start. I’ve already been through the first two from three years ago, and all the blokes from the stolen goods ring mention Carrera—That they had to contact this Carrera before making the deliveries. None of ours ever found evidence of anyone named Carrera, so at one stage someone suggested it was a code name for something, and we had that focus after that. Let’s have one beer, and let’s look at the files.’
Bev grabbed some files and a red biro, and flipping through began to read and underline. Her wet bikini bottoms were sticking to the vinyl chair, but she was reluctant to leave the task.
‘Ok’, said Michael two hours later, ‘ most of these twenty files mention Carrera. How do we link him to Laromo?’
Bev gave him her scary look. He said ‘I’ll explain later, Wheeze.’ She shook her head and beckoned to him. He slid out of his chair, and they walked into the hallway. ‘I’ll just be a minute, Mas.’ She shut the kitchen door.
‘Why are we working on the first day of our holiday? Is this cause you stuffed up with the Laromo case?’
He stared at the wall. ‘Is this stuff that should have been dealt with before. If you’d been thorough?’ Her words were coming out like bullets now.
‘The police stuffed up too. We’re a team on these cases.’
‘Michael’, she folded her arms, ‘did you miss any of this stuff because you were being an overzealous prick?’
‘Hey, don’t be harsh.’ He bit his bottom lip. She stared at him. ’I might’ve rushed a few things.’ Bev nodded.
The telephone rang. It was Sergeant Paulson. ‘ Both parties have confirmed the deceased was one Joey Carrera of Prince St Collingwood. He was meant to visit his mother’s house at 7pm on Thursday evening, and didn’t turn up. His brother put in a missing person’s report about 10 pm on Friday night. He insisted that they phone up here because his brother likes fishing here. Apparently, his sister is seriously ill, and they felt something was really wrong for Joey to leave Melbourne.’
Michael spoke, ‘ Did you ask him if he knows what his brother does for a quid?’
‘Yeah, I waited until the mother had gone to the ladies and I asked. He said his brother had gotten out of the family business about five years ago, that he had a profitable business distributing packages— said it was state wide, and even interstate. He spent a lot of time away from home.’
‘Ok. Has Detective Black arrived from Melbourne yet?’
‘Not yet, but the boys found a small handgun, wrapped in plastic behind the rocks, up river from the body. Its being dusted for prints, and the slug size matches the victim.’
When the Detective Black arrived the next morning, he was interested in the handgun and tracing it. He said, ‘These things have been restricted since the end of World War Two, except in New South Wales, they changed their laws in the fifties. This is quite a find.’ The detectives from Wangaratta, had found two independent witnesses who claimed that they had seen a female with Carrera; he had spent two nights at the motel, not one. He had arrived about midnight on Thursday.
Everyone dispersed to the hard procedural work of policing and Michael set about playing golf. When he got stuck in the sand bunker on the eighth, late Wednesday morning, he lost his temper on his fourth attempt at freeing his ball. After being giggled at by two small boys who were scouting for lost balls on the edge of the course; and failing to retrieve his wedge flung into the creek that bordered the golf course, he returned to the clubhouse, via the car to get some dry shoes, and enjoyed a stiff whiskey. I can’t tell Wheeze I threw away the sand wedge she gave me for my birthday, he thought.
It was on Thursday, while picnicking on the foreshore of Lake Mulwala, enjoying the laughter and voices of the children, splashing at the water’s edge, that he finally let it all go. Right now he was happy just to admire the glow of the sunlight on Wheeze’s blonde hair, and remark how much Mickie had grown since last year.
When they arrived back at the house, they were sitting on the back verandah, admiring the evening star as it appeared on the horizon. Michael went inside to get some drinks. He passed the kids lying on the couch watching the black and white television. Sally was dozing off, her head lolling against the base of the armrest. He grabbed a pillow from a nearby chair and positioned it under her neck. The phone rang and Mason was on the line. He had returned to Melbourne on Tuesday, to follow developments in the case.
‘I’ll give you three guesses who they traced that handgun to.’
‘Well, my first two guesses would be Joey Carrera, and Mal Laromo. Why would I need a third?’
‘Because’, the phone went silent, Michael was about to jiggle the connection buttons, when Mason continued, ‘the gun belonged to Lina Laromo, Mal Laromo’s sister. Her prints have been found in that Motel room at Yarrawonga, too. She was Carrera’s go between, and no-one knew she was the brains behind the stolen goods ring, because she worked at this bar in Clifton Hill, and just pretended she was the house whore. She was adopted, had been disowned by Mrs Laromo years before, so only a couple of insiders knew who she was——’
‘ Hang on, who shot Carrera?’
‘ She did. She was his lover. She had a really tight business going, but she mixed business with passion, and that was her undoing.’
‘Why did she do such a stupid thing, like leave the gun near the body?’
‘One of her minions she sent back to fix things up, got confused about which side of the river border to plant the gun. They’re not illegal in New South Wales, and if it wasn’t near the body, most likely no one would have traced it.’
‘So, its really her we want to put away.’
‘ Yeah, well she’ll probably get more than twenty years, if we can convince the jury she pulled the trigger. It shouldn’t be too hard. Then while she’s away, we could try and dismantle the organisation she’s got going. Looks like we can build a strong case. Gotta go. Enjoy the rest of your holiday, Mick.’
When he told Wheeze, she frowned at him. ‘ So it was a woman that mucked up the start of our holiday.’
‘ But it was her male lackey that stuffed up, and allowed us to crack the case.’ He nodded to her.
‘You’re learning Michael, you’re learning’
He pulled her into a hug, but before he could kiss her she began to laugh.