All rights reserved 2007 by Ernest Bywater
The images used are Brownswirl with cgbc eyes1 811 from the Lulu cover art page and are used with permission of Lulu. The trimming, manipulation, and adding of text is by Ernest Bywater. All rights to the cover image are reserved by the copyright owners.
July 2016 Edition
Table of Contents
I use a Chapter Title, a Sub-chapter Title, and a section title.
Table of Contents
The Story Starts
Thursday - Getting Organised
In the City
Start of Studies
I use a Chapter Title, a Sub-chapter Title, and a section title.
The Story Starts
Every story starts somewhere, so this is where I’m starting this one. I’m a student at an Australian university, and not saying which one. I’m involved in some heavy duty therapy, due to some heavier duty on campus events. My therapist asked, the reality is she ordered, me to write down everything about it, and some related key periods in my life. I’m writing this as a short story, in the first person, from just before the first major traumatic incident. Some things which I found out later are included as at the time they occurred.
My name’s Robert Phillips, I’m smarter than average (but not a genius), a speed reader, and a good problem solver. I’m very tall, with an athletic build - as I keep fit, fair complexion, blue / grey eyes, very light brown hair, and average looks. I left school just after I turned sixteen years of age, at the end of Year 10. I always got good marks, but studying was hard that year, due to a small group of bullies in a gang which used me as their main punching bag. I always defended myself, but the Deputy Principal thought I must be to blame, since I was part of more fights than anyone else; he never noticed it was always with the same dozen or so boys who belonged to the same gang. Anyway, the Principal was a much smarter man, he knew what the true situation was, and always intervened. However, he was retiring, and the Deputy was taking his place. I left while I could still do so with dignity, and not give the idiot Deputy the chance to throw me out, as he’d wanted to.
I immediately got a job. I worked hard in a production and service company. They promote on competency and skill. I advanced very fast; for someone with my education, age, and work experience it was very fast. Just before my eighteenth birthday I’m promoted to Group Leader, an important position in this company. Of the three hundred and fifty employees in this facility there are sixteen foremen, and only four are Group Leaders. When I first started working I lived at home, and walked nearly an hour to work. When I got a part-time evening job near my work I found it expensive eating dinner out every night. I work two jobs to save up so I can afford to go to university later. I’ll be a full fee paying student when I can afford it, and can go to university.
After doing some research, and sums, I moved out of home to live in a boarding house only a short walk from both jobs. I had time to go home, have dinner, get changed, and make the second job. Both bosses know about the other job, and there are no conflicts of interest, so they’re happy. This is cheaper than living at home while eating out, and gives me better meals. The board I’m paying Mrs Miller is the same as I’d been paying Mum and Dad. My leaving home allows my sisters to have a room each, because my parents’ home is only a three bedroom affair. Walking to work and back keeps me fit. About seventy percent of my take home pay is going into the bank. I’m paid a full adult wage at both jobs. I’m a supervisor at both, and the government award scales don’t include any minor’s rates for supervisor positions. I think the idea is: if you’re good enough to supervise you’re paid full wages, regardless of your age. Personally, I think it’s stupid to have different wage rates based on a person’s age, and not on their skill level or work done.
I’m earning a lot more than others my age. I don’t drink alcohol or use tobacco. Also, I eat healthy food, and have no car. My biggest costs are my board and nice clothes. I’m also studying the Higher School Certificate part-time, at technical college and home, in which I’m doing quite well. I expect to graduate as a private study student the year after next, just after my twentieth birthday.
I have two sisters, and we’re nearly two years apart. Mary has just turned sixteen years old while Nancy is just about to turn fourteen years old. They’re typical sisters, and we’re in a love / hate relationship, but usually get on well. Mum is thirty-eight, and Dad is forty years old. Mum looks after the house and kids while Dad works as a day shift supervisor at a factory. Our only other family is Mum’s sister, Vera with her husband and two children. They’re on the other side of the suburb.
Mrs Miller is a very fit woman in her thirties. She has two daughters Joan, a year older than me, and Emily, a year younger than me. Mrs Miller owns an old large house, more like an old mansion, with twenty bedrooms and five bathrooms for guests, a huge lounge room, and a giant dinner table. It sits on a very large block of land with a huge back yard. I don’t know what’s on the floor she and her family use, as guests aren’t allowed up on the top floor, which is their private quarters.
As a rule each bedroom has one permanent guest in residence. For a reasonable board we get accommodation, a large healthy breakfast, and a large healthy dinner. For both meals we have to be at the table on time, or have given Mrs Miller plenty of warning - then a meal’s put aside, and kept ready for when we arrive for it. Lunch is always our own concern. We’re allowed to have small fridges and minimal food preparation stuff in our rooms for snacks etc. We also have space for our own foods in the kitchen, under our own padlock. All in all, it’s a very good deal. It’s very much like living at home, but without the usual parental nagging that goes on. There are monthly inspections to ensure we’re keeping the room tidy. We also wash and dry our own clothes; either using the available machines or at a nearby laundrette.
The majority of guests are young men away from home, most for the first time, who are working in the local factories or businesses. There are some young women here, too; but very few young women work in this area, since it’s mostly factories. Most guests are nice, good, honest people. But there are a couple who you wouldn’t leave your change lying about near; well, not if you expect it to be there a minute later.
I get on well with the majority of the guests, very well with Mrs Miller and Emily, but not so well with Joan. All three Millers are very good looking. No one knows Mr Miller, as he’s not in evidence, and has never been seen by anyone in the suburb. The family moved into the area without him. The house is from Mrs Miller’s family, not his.
About eight months back I salvaged a damaged wardrobe from the half-yearly council rubbish removal campaign. The back and bottom were broken, but the doors, sides, and interior were good. My best friend, Peter - he’s another guest, helped me carry it back to put it in the work shed; after I got permission from Mrs Miller to put it there.
Over a period of four weeks I pulled the cupboard apart, and built a steel frame to secure it to. The finished unit is a steel frame cupboard with light sheet steel sides. The wooden sides and doors are attached as the visible part of the cupboard. It looks like an old wooden wardrobe. The insides of the doors are lined with sheet steel. The hinges and locks are all attached to the steel. Three slide bolts for one side, and three keyed alike Yale dead bolts for the other side. All the bolts go vertically into the steel frame. I stained and lacquered a new wooden plinth to look like the doors and sides. It’s secured to the frame, so is the wooden back. The strong wooden shelves sit on the steel frame, well able to take some heavy weights. Very solid, and very difficult to break into.
Inside the cupboard is a shelf at just above waist height, with five drawers below it on the right, and hanging space one metre high on the left. Above the shelf is a one metre high space with another shelf of a fifth of a metre above it, then the top of the cupboard. Each open space has a small fluorescent lamp at its top. The drawers don’t quite go the full depth of the cupboard, and there’s an open area back there with a power-board in it. A section at the back of the main shelf pops out to allow me to drop power leads into this area. The main part of the cupboard is about a hand’s width less deep than the sides. The back of the cupboard is a perforated steel sheet, while the final back is a piece of solid wood. This leaves a nice airing gap between the two.
My room is wider than it’s deep, with an off centre doorway. When Peter helps me carry the cupboard upstairs I place it beside the door, where I can see it from both my bed and the card table I have in the room. I’ve a coat rack and a valet rack beside the cupboard. A power lead runs behind them to the lead feeding into the cupboard. On the other side of the door is my fridge, and a cupboard for some food stuffs.
Once we have it in place Mrs Miller inspects the cupboard. She makes me open it to have a close look at its construction. She has us move it away from the wall while she finds her stud finder. After locating the studs she has us move it a little, so the cupboard’s in front of two studs, and tells me to arrange a way to secure it to the studs in the wall. She doesn’t want it to be able to fall over or be knocked over. I agree with her, and devise a way to bolt it to the studs in a way to make the bolts difficult to remove while shut. “Now you have your hidden safe,” she asks when it’s set up, “what do you expect to put in it?”
“A decent TV.” I reply, with a smile. “I’ll get it Saturday, while everyone else is out.” Both she and Peter smile.
The next weekend Peter helps me to carry a high definition sixty-eight inch digital television to my room. As I planned, it fits perfectly. When we go back to get the DVD player recorder, with 500 GB hard drive, we take the box the TV came in with us, and leave it in the rubbish skip at the store I bought it from. All this gear fits in the cupboard just right, along with space for the satellite TV box. The feed for this comes out the top to go into the wall, up into the ceiling, and to where the TV fellow installed a splitter during the week.
Mrs Miller examines the finished product, and nods her agreement.
I’ve a nice sound system with an old TV in my room for personal use, they’re known about by all, and visible; but not worth stealing. This top line outfit is worth a lot, and well hidden. I even have four high quality headphones, with very long leads, to plug into the digital sound output of the TV via a small sound equalizer unit that came as an optional extra; they’re surround sound headphones. Now I can safely enjoy decent TV in my room, because this is a much better unit than the one Mrs Miller has in the lounge room. My laptop is also stored in the cupboard, and the TV can act as an external monitor for it, too.
For several months life is very good - very, very good.
Late October, a Wednesday night a week just after my eighteenth birthday, and a fortnight before Nancy’s fourteenth birthday, it’s my weekly night off from my second job as an office cleaner supervisor where I work five hours a night, six nights a week, for a local cleaning company, and have every Wednesday night off. I’m at home at Mrs Miller’s Boarding House, in my room watching TV with my friend Peter. There’s a knock on my door. Lifting off the headphones I place them on the bed, stand up, and open the door. A concerned Mrs Miller is standing there with two police officers. I know one, a sergeant whose brother I work with. Smiling at them, I say, “Good evening Missus Miller, officers. Can I help you?”
“Can we come in and talk?” asks, Sergeant Danny Williams, the one I know. Mrs Miller goes to leave, “ Missus Miller, please stay, I’d like a witness.”
This is a bit surprising to us all. I ask Peter to leave while I turn off the TV and put the headsets away. Danny’s eyes go wide when he sees the entertainment set up I have in the cupboard, but he says nothing. This worries me, because he’d be joking, unless this was very official and serious. I joke while I close the cupboard, “Has Steve finally confessed about that bank robbery we pulled?”
“No, not yet,” he replies, “But Mum’s still working on that. May I have some hot chocolate, please?”
Turning to my table I make the hot chocolate while I wonder what this is about. It’s obviously official, but not related to a criminal matter, at least they don’t suspect me of being involved in one, because he wouldn’t have joked back if it was. What can this be about. I run many things through my mind, and finally find a possible answer. “Which hospital is Dad in?” I ask while I hand out the fresh made hot chocolate.
“What makes you say that?” Replies Danny when he takes his cup.
“This is clearly official, and you don’t suspect me of any crime. The only thing I can think of is Dad has had an accident in the company car, and you want me to help break the news to Mum.” We don’t have a car, but Dad has a company car for use on company business. He often has to visit clients during the day, or on the way home from work, and sometimes of an evening, too. I’d no sooner said this than I remember Danny knows Mum and Dad well, because they belong to the same bridge club. With slow care I put my cup down while slide onto the bed. “Both of them?” I ask with a quiver in my voice. He nods. Gulping hard, I squeak out, “How bad?”
He says two words, and I know exactly how bad, “I’m sorry...” Holding back the tears, I wave him to silence. Mrs Miller just sits there, because she doesn’t know what’s happening. But can tell I’m very distressed, reaching over, she pulls me into a cuddle. I cry while she hugs me. “When you feel up to it,” he says, “I’d like your help to tell your sisters.” I nod in reply, as I cry. We sit, unmoving, for several minutes while I cry the worst of it out of my system.
Gathering myself together, I release Mrs Miller, and look at her, “Can my sisters stay in the empty room for a few days, while I sort things out?” It’s clear she still doesn’t fully understand, but nods yes. “Please make it ready for them while we go and collect them?” Again, she nods. Then I see the realisation hit her when she puts together the police and my request. Her eyes go wide with concern. I give her a weak smile, and a nod, to let her know I’m OK, for now. We quietly finish our drinks, and leave, after I lock everything up properly. Mrs Miller has a look of concern when she shows us out the front door. I know the room will be ready when we return. I get into the back of the police car, and belt in for the short ride to my old home.
We pull up outside my parent’s home at 7:15 p.m. “Please wait out here for about ten minutes, or so,” I ask Danny. “I’ll leave the door unlocked.” He nods agreement while I get out of the car.
Walking to the front door I realise it’s no longer my parent’s home, since they no longer live here. It’s a very sad thought to have. I get out my key, unlock the door, click the latch back, and push it shut. Walking into the lounge room I find my sisters sitting down eating pizza while they watch TV. I’m about to ask them what Mum would say about them having pizza while she’s out, when I realise she’ll be saying nothing, now. I gulp hard while I try not to burst the terrible news out. “Got enough for me?” I ask in as normal a voice as I can manage. They both turn around to see me, and spring up while talking fast. Wanting to know what I’m doing here unannounced, what I’ve been up to since my last visit etc.? I lead them back to the pizza, and sit down with them.
Nancy says, “Mum and Dad have gone to a work dinner, the address and phone number are by the telephone, if you want to chase over to see them.” I shake my head no. Those details are for a little later.
“Go pack your bags for a week-long stay with me. You’re skipping school for a week.”
“Yeah,” replies Nancy, “as if.” Mary turns to look at me as her eyes go very wide while her lower lip quivers, she was always the smart one of our family. Gulping hard while she holds back the tears, she gets up, and heads upstairs. I know she’ll pack for them both.
I look at Nancy, and hold open my arms for a hug, “Come here.” She always likes being hugged, so she’s quick to slide into my arms, and I hold her tight. “Mum and Dad aren’t coming home again.” She gives me a strange look while we hug. Noticing some movement in the corner of her eye, she turns to look at the two police officers standing in the lounge room doorway. I feel her body go stiff. She turns to look at me, and I nod. Now she understands what I’d said. I hold her tight while she cries. Mary returns with their two bags, she’s crying, too.
Standing up I take Nancy to the lounge to sit her down on it, Mary joins her. They both hug tight while they cry. I leave the room to check everything’s turned off, with the windows and other doors locked. I remove the perishables from the fridge and cupboards to boxes to take them with us. Mum and Dad always joked they could count on me to be the reliable one, the one who made sure things were done right. For once I wished I wasn’t.
Danny stays with the girls while his partner joins me in the kitchen to help with the boxes. When I load a box she takes it to the car, placing the boxes in the boot. She also puts the girls’ bags in the boot. By the time that’s done it’s time to leave. Danny helps me lead the girls to the car, and we sit them in the back, with Nancy in the middle seat.
I go back to the house to get the address of the dinner function, and turn off the lights. I double lock the front door. Returning to the police car I get in the back, and cuddle up to Nancy as well. I give them the address of the dinner: it’s on the way to Mrs Miller’s. Thankfully, they deliberately take a longer route, so we won’t have to pass the scene, because they’re still busy cutting out the other driver. He was lightly injured, and trapped in the car, but survived the crash.
When we arrive at the hall where the dinner is being held I ask Danny’s partner to stay with the girls while Danny accompanies me into the hall. I wouldn’t have got past the door if he hadn’t. Once inside I look around for anyone I know. They’re still in the pre-dinner drinks stage. Spotting one of Dad’s staff I ask Danny to stay at the entrance while I work my way to Mr James.
“Excuse me, Mister James,” I ask when I reach him, “can you find father’s supervisor and his supervisor please?” He looks at me strange, for a moment, then nods, and moves off into the crowd. A few minutes later he returns with two other men in tow. “Please step outside with me, for a moment.” They follow me to the entrance, and look sideways at Danny standing there.
In the foyer Dad’s boss asks, in an aggravated tone, “Robbie, where’s your father? He should be here by now, and we need him for the main ceremony, because he’s getting the big award.”
I don’t need this sort of rubbish, and I’ve had quite a bit too much tonight. “He’s not coming, he’s gone to the morgue instead,” I respond in a harsh tone. Turning, I stride out the door, in great anger.
They stare at Danny with very wide eyes, while he says, “Both his parents were killed in a car accident on their way to this dinner. He’s just told his sisters, and is very upset at the moment.”
Mr James says, “Oh, please give him our condolences. Tell him I’ll let the staff know. I’ll see his father’s office isn’t disturbed until after he can come to clear the personal effects. Please ask him to make it soon.” Danny nods, to indicate he’ll pass the message on. All three turn, and slowly walk back into the dinner. It’s no longer a festive occasion for them. When he get back in the car Danny tells me what transpired, and I thank him for his help. We move off to go to Mrs Miller’s.
When we arrive at the boarding house Mrs Miller and Peter are waiting for us. She’d roped him in to help, but hasn’t told him why. While I lead Nancy in Mrs Miller leads Mary and Peter carries their bags while the police carry the perishables into the kitchen. Both girls are still crying, they haven’t stopped since they started. I wish I can join them, but someone must get things done, and I’m the only one standing near the election podium for that job.
Peter leads the way upstairs. When I left the only spare room was one with a double bed on a different floor, and at the other end of the house to me. Peter is leading us to the room beside mine, his room. I wonder what’s happening, but leave it go, because I can’t be bothered to ask about anything, at the moment. Entering Peter’s room I find all his gear’s gone, and the single bed replaced with a double bed. There’s four bedrooms, a bathroom, and a toilet on this little landing: Peter’s, Harry’s, Linda’s, and mine. Turns out there’s been some changes while we were away. Harry’s moved to the spare room, because it’s bigger than the one he had opposite me, while Peter’s moved into Harry’s old room, and the double bed’s been moved into Peter’s old room beside mine. So the girls will be sharing the room next to me. I smile my thanks, weak smile as it is, at Mrs Miller and Peter, when I realise what they’ve done for us. They smile back at me, and nod to acknowledge my non-verbal thanks.
We soon have Mary and Nancy settled into their room for tonight. We leave while they get ready for bed. I make them some hot chocolate while they get ready. I know they’ll have trouble getting to sleep, but will sleep well, once they do fall asleep; the emotional drain will help in that regards. I take the hot chocolate to them. We all sit and chat while we drink. I tuck them into bed, and we leave. Mrs Miller gives me extra keys for both rooms we’re using. We’ll each have a key to both rooms, that’ll be useful. Leaving the girls to sleep, we go downstairs.
In the kitchen I find Danny and his partner (Mona, I find out) are helping Emily put the perishables away. Seeing us enter, Danny turns to me, “Uhmm, tomorrow...” he starts to say.
“In the morning I have to go to work to organise someone to do my job for the rest of the day.” I interrupt. “Then, I guess, I’ll have to go to the morgue to make the official identification.” He simply nods at me, since this is what he was trying to lead up to. “Then I have to go to the girls’ school to let them know of the changes. Back home to get some papers; the funeral parlour; the solicitor, if I can find out which one; my work boss for tomorrow night; and back here. I know you’ll provide a car for the identification. Can you have them pick me up at work, say at ten a.m., and drop me back at home?” He nods again. I thank him for everything, and show them out, they’ve got other work to do.
I later find out they went back to the station, and Danny phoned a sergeant he knows on the day shift. He organises for a vehicle to be made available to run me around for most of the day. It’ll all be within the division area, so the field supervisor can cart me around while waiting to be called in as support. Later, I was very moved by the amount of help they both give me in the next few days, but I’m too numb to realise it for most of those days. I think they understood that, at the time.
Thursday - Getting Organised
Thursday morning I get up at the usual time. I hustle Peter through the bath to get my bath, and wake the girls. Arriving downstairs in time for breakfast, I warn Mrs Miller the girls may be a little late. She nods acknowledgement, “I expect that,” she replies, “it’ll take them a while to get used to the routine.”
I smile my thanks while I eat. I’m quick to finish my breakfast, and go back upstairs. “You’ve got thirty minutes left to make breakfast,” I tell the girls. “You can bathe afterwards, because you’re not going to school today or tomorrow.” They look a bit stunned, but nod. They get dressed, and go down for breakfast. I ask, when I see Mrs Miller in the dining room, “Missus Miller, will you please keep an eye on the girls today? I’ll be back as soon as I can. They’re not going to school, but I don’t want them sitting around their room doing nothing.” She nods her agreement.
I leave at my usual time of 7:55 a.m. to walk to work, arriving at 8:20 a.m. for my usual 8:30 a.m. start. Once inside I go through my calendar, and start redirecting all the work I can, while making sure not to overload anyone. Having done that, I go around my staff to inform them of the changes. A few are a bit stunned, but are quick to agree. Back at my work station I complete the tasks I couldn’t delegate. At 9:30 a.m. I tell Duke, a fellow I think will be a suitable replacement for when I’m away, I’ll be upstairs, and ask him to keep things rolling in my absence. He nods agreement.
Upstairs I run into the first bit of trouble for today. I expected it. Mr Hemingway, my boss, has a very nosey and bossy secretary, Judith. “I need to speak to Mister Hemingway on an urgent personal matter,” I say as I walk up to her. “When can you slip me in for a few minutes?”
Without looking up or checking his calendar, she replies, “I can give you a fifteen minutes tomorrow afternoon, what’s it about?”
“Personal, and I need to see him a.s.a.p. When can you fit me in?”
“I can’t fit you in until tomorrow, and I can’t even do that, until I know what it’s about.” She sits there glaring at me, and daring me to fight with her. I’m not in the mood for that rubbish today.
Turning around I walk four paces to the next desk, and ask Alison, Mr Carpenter’s secretary, he’s Mr Hemingway’s boss, “I urgently need to talk to management on a personal matter. When can you slip me in for a few minutes?”
She looks up at me, because she’d heard my little exchange with Judith, and knows I don’t come up here unless I absolutely have to. “He’s just finishing up with Jones of accounting,” she says while looking at his calendar. “Dickson is due in as soon as Jones leaves, but I can slip you in now, if it’ll only take a minute or two.”
“Thank you,” I reply. “It should only take a minute or so.”
Judith says, while glaring at us both, “Mister Hemingway won’t be happy about you going over his head.”
Turning, I reply, in a harsh tone, “I know, and I bloody well don’t care how you explain to him why you made it necessary.” Both go very wide-eyed, since they’re not used to me being anything but ultra-polite.
Before this can turn into a staring match Mr Carpenter’s door opens, and Miss Jones leaves. Both stop in the doorway, because they can feel the tension in the air. “Sir,” Alison says, “Rob has an urgent matter to discuss with you, it should only take a moment.” He nods at her, and signals me into his office.
He shuts the door behind me. “What was that all about, and why me, instead Hemingway?”
Giving him a weak smile, I reply with much anger, “I urgently need to take the rest of the day off. Judith wouldn’t let me near Hemingway until tomorrow afternoon, and even that requires me to tell her all about why. Since this is personal and can’t wait, I went up the chain. Judith isn’t happy, and I don’t give a damn about her happiness.” He watches me while he takes his time to walk around his desk and sit down. This is the first time he’s heard me swear about anything. He nods, and waves a hand for me to continue.
“Last night my parents were killed in a car accident. A police officer will be here to take me to the morgue to make the official identification, soon. I won’t be coming back to work today, since I’ll have some other things to do in regards to this. I’ve done everything I couldn’t delegate, and arranged for Duke Bradley to take over for me, since he can handle it. If not, this is a good time to find out.” When I start speaking he sits up straight to look at me hard - very hard.
When I finish he stands, “Damn right you’re not coming back today.” Opening the door, he ushers me out, “Alison, Rob’s about to leave the building on a personal matter. Everything’s sorted for his work to get done today. Tell Duke Bradley if he has any issues he can’t handle he’s to bring them straight to Hemingway or me, immediate access. Get Rob one of the corporate cell phones. Have the switch redirect all his calls to you, vet what needs to go to Duke or others, and try to discourage any personal calls. He’ll get some that’ll have to go through, give them the cell number. Get his calendar up for tomorrow to redirect all his work, or put it off until Tuesday. Organise the paperwork for me to approve his absence today, and tomorrow, as special leave.” I’m standing there, stunned, when he turns to me, “I don’t want to see you back here until Monday morning. If you’re not well or haven’t finished everything you need to do, call in by nine, and you can have Monday off as well. You concentrate on what you have to do, there’s only the one of you who can do that, we’ve got a few hundred who can look after this place. Take care.” He shakes my hand before he turns to usher Mrs Dickson into his office for their meeting.
Still a bit bemused, I turn to Alison. From the corner of my eye I can see Judith is very angry, and very confused. Alison hands me a cell phone with some company business cards that have its number. She’s busy on the computer changing my calendar while talking to the switch about redirecting all my calls. She’s very good at multi-tasking. We all look up when a large shadow passes in front of the glass wall of the front stairwell, the wall beside the stairs is glass blocks, and faces the sun most of the day. Staff always use the back stairwell, so we know this has to be an official visitor to the front office.
A deep voice says, in more a query than statement, “Are you Rob Phillips, reception said I’d find you here?” I look over, to see the largest man I’ve ever seen: around two metres tall and solid, about a metre wide. For once in my adult life I have to look up at someone. All I see is his huge shadow. He moves closer, and I can see his police uniform, “Sergeant David Darling, Sergeant Williams said I’d find you here today. I’m your transport for today.” He looks at me, very expectantly. I figure he’s already heard all the jokes about his name, and I decide not to try any, because he may not like them - not at all.
“Yes, Sergeant, that’s me. If you care to wait at the front door, I have to pop downstairs and talk to someone, then I’ll be right with you.”
He simply nods his head in agreement, turns around, and heads back down the stairs. Judith’s eyes are almost out of her head. Alison just gives me a speculative look; I think she’s worked out what’s up.
I lean close, “We’re off to the morgue to identify my parents, car accident last night.” She looks up at me when she reaches out to give my hand a squeeze while she nods her sympathy. She’ll be very careful who she tells, but will tell the office staff who need to know. Going downstairs I find Duke. “Duke, I’ve got a clear board. I won’t be back again today, or in tomorrow. You’ve got the weight. See Hemingway or Carpenter if you need any help. If not sure if you should see them, talk to Alison first, she’ll help, if you need it. Avoid Judith at all costs.” He nods while he looks his question at me. “Last night, car accident, parents, off to the morgue and funeral parlour now.”
His eyes go wide. He reaches out to squeeze my shoulder, “We’ll manage while you’re gone. Take as long as you need - one day, one week, one month - we’ll manage.” I nod my thanks, and head to the front entrance. Good man, Duke. It’s taken a while to train him, but what he learns stays remembered, and he really knows it.
I climb into the front seat of the police car with Sergeant Darling. He says, “Call me Dave, I’m shift field supervisor. As long as we stay in the division area I can drive you around all shift. I may have to divert to a call or three. That should still be quicker than walking everywhere.”
“Thanks, Dave. Call me, Rob, I appreciate the transport.” He smiles, and nods. We move off.
I won’t say too much on this. We arrive, we walk in, they show me what that bastard did to them. I’m able to confirm identity from their faces, and a few marks on their bodies - scars and the like. I also give them the name of our dentist, so they can do a dental records check, if they want to. When we drive away from the morgue, I ask Dave, “I know it’s too early for a definitive ruling, but who does it look like was at fault?”
He glances at me, “Normally it is too early, but this one’s cut and dried. The other driver was in a large luxury four wheel drive. He clearly cut across the road in front of them, trying to make a turn. They ran into the side of his vehicle in a classic ‘T-Bone’ hit in their lane. Initial blood alcohol readings put him well over the legal limit. Your parent’s vehicle braked hard, but didn’t have enough room to do any good, no skid marks for his vehicle until after the impact.”
Next stop’s the school where Mary and Nancy go, and I used to go. Dave goes to the office with me. I give them change of contact details for the girls, and sign paperwork authorising their non-attendance at school until Monday week, telling them why. Their exams are over, so it’s no big issue, just some notes for next year’s subjects. I ask to speak with four students, the two best friends of Nancy and Mary. The office administrator sends someone for them. She makes a note of everything. Because the principal is in a meeting she sees no reason to interrupt him with routine matters, she also remembers my issues with him.
When Gayle, Tina, Melody, and Belinda arrive, I say, “Girls, Nancy and Mary won’t be back at school until Monday week. Can you please arrange to get the class notes for them?” They all nod. “You’ll know who needs to be told, our parents were killed in a car accident last night. They need time to recover their balance. They’re living with me, over at Missus Miller’s boarding house, for the next week or so, not sure what we’ll do after that. Visitors are welcome, very welcome, but please coordinate it to be only two or three each, at a time.” They all nod, give me a hug each, and head back to class with sad looks. Good people.
While we head back to the car Dave’s radio bursts into life; it’d been mumbling all along, now it roars. He listens as we run to the car, and get in. He heads off to an address they’d given. Arriving there we find a domestic dispute going on. Two neighbours trying to get at each other over the intervening police officer while their wives are doing the same with his partner. Other neighbours are standing around making bets on the outcome. I know most of those involved, I grew up around here, so I should know them. For several minutes they stand there yelling at each other about petty things like vines and trees hanging over fences. Nothing Dave or the other officers can do or say can shut them up.
This isn’t my day. They’re starting the rounds of their rubbish for the fourth time in about twelve minutes. “For Heaven’s sake,” I snarl, “shut up. You sound like a pack of silly Galahs squawking away.” They all go quiet, and stare at me. I continue, in a harsh voice, “I don’t need to hear this crap. I’ve just come from identifying my parents at the morgue. Stop acting like a bunch of four year old kids in a sand pit, and work together.” I give them a disgusted look before I turn to get back into the police car. They’re so stunned Dave soon has them settled down, and back in their houses. All the neighbours vanished when I spoke, seems they felt a bit guilty about their behaviour, as well.
Dave says, when he climbs into the car, “Danny said you were a very self-possessed and in control person. That sure didn’t sound like it.”
Turning my head, I look at him. “Usually, I am. But Danny has never seen me when I’m pissed off. At the moment I’m very pissed off.” He nods like a wise sage when he turns forward to start the car to drive off. “My other boss lives just a few streets away, can we stop there for a few minutes?” He nods approval, and I give him the address.