Just one more busy day
by Susan Kontic
SOUNDS OF DISTANT THUNDER
Chapter 1 Just One More Busy Day by Susan Kontic
Peter Fitzgerald checked his watch again as he walked through the door, nearly 8am, going well, but it was getting harder to juggle working out of two cities. He’d made an early start from Canberra and the drive gave him much-needed thinking time. Terry was in Sydney too, and Peter was counting on seeing her for lunch.
Life as a public servant wasn’t turning out to be the doddle he’d expected when he left Brisbane. His father had warned him that the job description, ‘facilitating matters for the government of the day’, could mean just about anything, particularly with the current state of affairs worldwide. Now the Director wanted him in Woomera as civilian liaison for the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee in the lead-up to Operation Buffalo at Maralinga. He’d found the Brits to be bloody hard work and he wasn’t looking forward to it.
Colin caught him in the corridor and after a quick ‘good morning’ started a run-down of the day’s schedule.
“There’s a girl coming at 9am for a second job interview, only young, 17 or 18 tops. The Director wants you to meet her briefly.”
“What’s so special about her?” asked Peter. “Mrs Benson handles office staff.”
Colin was ready, “This girl speaks three or four languages, says she’s from Paris but I’m sceptical, still there’s something about her, very clever, not at all showy. You’ll see. The Director thinks she’d be an asset, but would rather ASIO doesn’t hear about her.”
“Eastern European?” Peter mused.
“Maybe, lives with her family at Herne Bay – interesting?” Colin replied.
“Mmm, we’ll see, I suppose,” was Peter’s response. “By the way, I noticed that ratbag Harold Haroldson from “The Truth” setting up his camp stool in the main lobby. Haven’t we found a way to get rid of him yet?”
Colin shook his head. “Not if he stays in the lobby. He watches and makes notes of everyone who comes through the doors. If he can’t get a story he speculates, fills a page twice a week. I’ve seen him at The Domain on Sundays, too. Makes notes on all the Communists, the anti-war mob, the other ratbags.”
By midday Peter’s mind was on lunch with Terry. He hadn’t seen her since he left Brisbane and hardly recognised her in a floral dress and high-heel shoes. Terry had hoped for a posting at Moreton Bay Research Station after completing her B.Sc. at the University of Queensland. She’d topped the year and was disappointed she didn’t get the posting but settled for a research assistant job at Northern Rivers Fisheries. “They thought they were getting a bloke called Terence,” she’d laughed at the time.
“What are you doing in Sydney?” Peter asked when they were settled in the booth.
“The short version is a three-month intensive on ascidians at Sydney Uni,” she answered.
The longer version was harder to explain. She’d been collecting data along the Rous River and it was obvious that something was very wrong.
It was lonely work and the high point was a midday cuppa with Don, who was staying in a shack near where she tied up the boat. He said he was on a sabbatical, taking things easy, and he was always interested in what she was doing. Then one day Don didn’t appear with the teapot so she went up to the shack and found broken furniture, smashed crockery and blood on the door. She reported it when she dropped off the samples. Next day she was kept in the office and a day later she was in Sydney.
Peter was saying “It’s unlikely there’s anything mysterious going on – you just don’t know the whole story.” And then, changing the subject, “I wish I was staying in Sydney now you’re here.”
He looked up and saw Colin trying to catch his eye. Dammit, how did anyone know he was here?
Terry noticed Peter’s frown and the glances between the two men.
“It’s not the Petrov Royal Commission is it?” she asked.
“No, no – that’s all handled by ASIO thank God. Like I told you, the Director wants me in Woomera.”
“And you agree with the UK testing their bombs in our backyard?” she asked.
“Well, there’s every chance there’ll be a nuclear war, and Menzies wants us to share British technology or at least have British nuclear weapons here,” explained Peter. “Look, I’ve got to go, but we’ll get together when I’m back in town.”
He kissed her lightly on the cheek and walked out with Colin.
“What’s the problem?” Peter asked, “and how did you know where to find me?”
Instead of answering, Colin said, “You’re a quiet one, keeping your girlfriend secret.”
“She’s not a girlfriend, I’ve known her most of my life,” was Peter’s terse reply.
“Really?” Colin was smiling. “She’s gorgeous, mind if I ask her out?”
Peter thought a minute. “Not at all, but you’d better know that she’s Cecil Bateman’s daughter.”
“You’re kidding! Cecil Bateman, war hero, newly elected senator, probably the most popular man in Australia at the moment?”
“The very same,” Peter nodded. “Her mother’s Valerie Thorsen, the champion water-skier.”
“I saw Valerie on a newsreel, she’s amazing,” Colin replied. “Runs a marine park. She was skiing behind a boat, a rope round one foot and holding up a hoop for dolphins to jump through. Never saw anything like it! But they’re divorced aren’t they?”
Peter had heard enough. “Something like that. Terry’s on a course at Sydney uni. She’s staying in digs there so she should be right.”
“Want me to keep an eye on her?” Colin offered.
“No, I do not! And you don’t want to tangle with Cecil Bloody Bateman.”
Chapter 2 A Shadow of Doubt by Stephen Roberts
Colin left Peter’s office tapping the side of his nose and giving an exaggerated wink has he went.
“At least Terry is well able to take care of herself” Peter mused. He liked Colin, but he half-heartedly hoped that Colin might make a play for Terry. He was sure that Colin was not Terry’s type at all and she would let him know in no uncertain terms.
He smiled at the thought but was shaken from his reverie by a sharp knock on the office door. He hardly had time to think that no meeting was scheduled for 3.00pm when the unmistakable shambling bulk of Peter’s Director, Ernest Forbes pushed through the office door without announcement.
Ernest Forbes was a huge mountain of a man, comfortably 6 foot 6 inches tall and with a waist-line almost as much again. He had trouble finding clothes to fit and his suit hung baggily and crumpled. Woe betide anyone who judged Ernest on his shabby looks alone. He possessed the sharpest mind in the public service and it was said that he over-awed even the likes of Prime Minister Menzies.
The puzzle this particular day for Peter was that he had no idea that the Director had also travelled from Canberra. Even more puzzling, Ernest was not alone but accompanied by a British military officer and a very senior one too by the look of all the braid on his uniform.
Before Peter could get out a word of acknowledgment, Ernest began.
“Peter.” Fitzgerald noticed immediately the British officer’s disapproving face twitch. ‘Not accustomed to first name familiarity.’ Fitzgerald groaned inwardly.
“May I introduce you to Brigadier Smythe-Porter, the new senior British Head of Operation Buffalo”.
Fitzgerald had the curious feeling the Smythe-Porter was looking at him in the same way that he might view an offending cow pat he had stood in. Instantly he knew that Smythe-Porter and he might find it difficult to develop a comfortable working relationship.
“I have to tell you that the Brigadier and I do not quite see eye-to-eye on the need for an Atomic Tests Safety Committee or a Civilian Liaison Officer but I have assured him that you are top drawer and he has no cause for alarm about your appointment. I have also made it very clear that your appointment has our Government’s backing from the very top”.
With that Forbes produced a beaming smile “Well Brigadier, I think you had better accept that you are lumbered with Peter” Again Fitzgerald noted Smythe-Porter’s angry facial twitch. “I will leave you with him so that you can become better acquainted”. At that, Forbes turned on his heels and left the room remarkably quickly for such a large man.
There was an uncomfortable pause. Smythe-Porter stood ramrod straight with hands clasped behind his back looking down his nose at Fitzgerald. After what seemed an eternity but was probably no more than a minute Smythe-Porter spoke.
“Mr. Fitzgerald are you aware of the importance of Operation Buffalo to the British Government? In Britain we face the prospect of another war much more devastating than the one we waged against Hitler. The Russians are developing hydrogen bombs far more powerful than those used against Japan in the last war.”
“We are in a desperate race against time to develop our own nuclear bomb. We do not have the luxury of waiting to see whether our experiments are safe. The Atomic Tests Safety Committee is an unnecessary encumbrance. It could cost us valuable time developing the only thing that can guarantee our safety, an atomic bomb tested and delivered as promptly as possible”.
“That is what I will achieve Mr. Fitzgerald and your civilian liaison work damn well better not slow me down. Is that understood, Mr. Fitzgerald”.
Fitzgerald felt his hackles rise. “I understand perfectly, Brigadier, but these atomic tests are in Australia and my duty is to help ensure that they are carried out without harming the local or wider Australian community”.
“What local and wider community” exploded Brigadier Smythe-Porter “The tests are being conducted in the middle of the South Australian desert!”
At that, Smythe-Porter left Fitzgerald fuming. How on earth will I be able to do my job when I get to Woomera, he thought. At that point, the office manager entered with an envelope. Fitzgerald opened and found travel warrants for the day after tomorrow. First a train Sydney to Melbourne. Then a stop overnight before travelling on to Adelaide and finally a RAAF pass for a flight from Adelaide to Woomera. There was no turning back now, although after meeting Brigadier Smythe-Porter, he wished he could.
Chapter 3 Nobody Seems to Care. by Ian Ferrie
Peter was still fuming when the phone rang. It was Terry: “The police have just been to interview me about Don Anderson who disappeared up at Rous River. They found his bloated body at low tide with his throat cut from ear to ear and a chain around his stomach tied to a rusty anchor, so they went back to his shack and did a thorough search. His camera was missing but a roll of film was discovered under his sleeping bag, and they have had the film developed. Some of the photos were of a large fishing boat tied to an old run-down wharf next to a dilapidated boatshed, and four of the photos showed two heavy-set men in dark suits carrying suitcases disembarking off the boat onto the wharf and walking into the boatshed. The police said that one of the men had a scar on his left cheek and other one, who had a bulbous nose and cauliflower ears, seemed to be looking directly at the camera, so maybe Don was spotted.”
“Good grief” replied a concerned Peter. Are you all-right?”
“Oh yes, I’m ok, but I am upset about Don. He was such a nice guy and did not deserve this. The police identified the wharf and went to have a look at the boatshed this morning. It was deserted, of course, but in an old garbage bin full of garbage, they found a dog-eared Russian paper-back and a crumpled-up envelope addressed to Father Ivan Zykov, a priest of St.Vladimir's Russian Orthodox Church at Centennial Park. No doubt the police will follow that up.”
“What on earth have you become mixed up with, Terry? Please be careful and do not get involved. It all sounds too dangerous. Oh, and by the way, my co-worker, Colin Davenport, would like to take you out. Would that be of any interest to you?”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind a bit of company at the moment, actually. My last date was a disaster with an immature engineering student, so please give Colin my phone number. At least he is a bit older and good-looking.”
Just as Peter finished the phone call Mrs. Benson knocked on Peter’s office door, “I just wanted to let you know that young girl has been selected for the office assistant job and is going to be transferred to Woomera after spending a week here first, starting tomorrow. Her name is Claudette Dubois, she is eighteen years old, is smart and can type accurately at 120 words a minute.”
“Everything seems to be happening fast around here, Mrs. Benson. Thank you for letting me know.”
The next morning Peter arrived early at his office building around 7.30am, only to be confronted in the main lobby by Harold Haroldson that ratbag reporter from ‘The Truth’.
“Good morning Peter. I’ve heard that you are now the Civilian Liaison Officer at Woomera. How’s it going?”
Peter did not want to get Harold off-side but he had to be very careful not to contravene the ‘Official Secrets’ agreement that he had been required to sign when he was given the job.
“Everything is going well, thank you, but you will have to excuse me as I have plenty to do today.”
“What are you going to do with the 500 aborigines who live in that area?” prodded Harold.
Peter’s defensive mechanism went into overdrive: “We will ensure that everybody is outside the safety zone when the time comes.”
Harold did not hide his scorn “Nobody seems to care. Menzies doesn’t care, the Brits don’t care and the army couldn’t care less. It’s a disgrace and you had better fix it. Oh, and by the way, I heard a rumour that the Ruskies are sniffing around and keeping an eye on developments.”
At that time Peter thought that retreat was the best course of action and without any further delay made a hasty departure to his office on the third floor.
Later in the morning he received an excited phone call from Terry: “Colin invited me to dinner tonight and we are going to go to that new Italian place in Darlinghurst called Beppi’s. I’ve never had Italian food before so it will be a new experience. Thank you for introducing him to me.”
Peter was not too sure whether he had done the right thing or not. What if it did not work out? Ah, well. ‘C’est la vie’.
After concentrating on trying to empty his in-tray before his departure the next day, Peter was slightly annoyed when someone knocked on the door and entered carrying four more files. It was the new girl and she was apologetic about disturbing him: “I’m sorry, Sir, but the Director asked me to give you these files urgently.”
“Please call me Peter. May I call you Claudette?”
“Of course. I understand that I will be working for you in Woomera, is that correct, Peter?”
It was the first that Peter had heard about this, but he was not unhappy about the surprise. Communication in this office was not good and he hoped that things would be better in Woomera.
“Yes Claudette, we will be working as a team and I hope that we will be efficient, hard-working and achieve the objectives of the organisation.”
Chapter 4 Room 3B by Helen Grimmett
Peter and his younger sister Katie had received an inheritance from a childless aunt who died in the late 1940’s. The legacy delivered Katie a certain level of financial freedom and with this in mind she had applied for a place at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music. It had been a long, hard slog to reach the requisite standard demanded by its Director, Sir Eugene Goossens. Her impressive submission and subsequent audition greatly impressed the Conservatorium selection panel and much to her delight her application was successful. Katie moved to Sydney to take up her studies. Peter was exceedingly proud of his sister’s musical achievements and fully supported her decision to use her cache of money to purchase a small terrace house in Paddington; a place conveniently close to the city but with enough of a village and community atmosphere to make her feel at ease.
Peter was delighted that Katie was fulfilling her ambition to be a professional musician. Best of all, Terry was pleased to have a cherished friend in Sydney during her stint at the university. He felt a warm sense of satisfaction knowing that Terry and Katie could continue their enduring friendship in his absence. The happy trio of brother, sister and friend had spent countless happy times together in their youth back in Brisbane, playing tennis, swimming and water-skiing, the latter introduced by virtue of Terry’s mother having a champion’s status in her chosen sport.
Peter’s departure from Sydney was imminent, but there were some aspects of his secondment that still puzzled him. He decided to have a chat with ‘Benny’, his affectionate moniker for Mrs. Benson, used only when out of earshot of the other staff.
“Benny”, he said, “I take it that I will not be wearing a suit and tie in Woomera, surely I would stand out like a sore thumb!”
“Don’t worry Peter,” she replied. “On arrival at Woomera you will be issued with your Woomera apparel. All personnel on the base must be instantly identifiable by their distinctive attire, it is a Woomera protocol. So, all you really need to take is underwear and socks, and perhaps some casual clothing should it be necessary to leave the base. It’s a low-key environment dress-wise, except for the British military of course; those mad dogs will probably wear their full kit and suffer terribly in the heat.” Peter thanked her, smiled, and blew her a kiss as he left the room. “Be gone with you!” she said with a grin, “and good luck Peter!”
Peter went back to his office to call his sister. “Katie, it’s Peter. I am leaving tomorrow morning for Woomera, but am a bit concerned about Terry; one of the locals she recently befriended up north, where she has been working, has been murdered. Can you give her a call, she can tell you all about it, and please, keep me posted?”
“Will do,” said Katie, “and don’t worry, I’ll keep in touch.” Peter ended the call and gathered up the rest of his files. “Oh boy”, he thought, “this is really happening”. He sat quietly for a few moments trying to digest and rationalise the job that lay ahead of him in Woomera. His head was reeling. The building was quiet, most of the staff had gone for the day but he could hear somebody talking in the office next door. “That’s odd”, he thought, “nobody uses Room 3B, it is full of Roneo stencil duplicators; no one goes in there if they can avoid it, everyone hates the smell of the ink!” Peter was intrigued and decided to investigate. He slowly opened his own office door, noticing that 3B’s door was slightly ajar. He trained his ear so that he could listen more intently. He could make out a woman’s voice and ascertained that the hushed conversation he was listening to was being spoken in Russian. He grabbed his notepad and wrote down anything he could understand. “Zykov, Kurakin, Cruickshank.” ‘Zykov’ rang bells with him, that name was on the crumpled envelope found in the garbage bin that Terry had mentioned. ‘Kurakin’, he knew that name too, Alexei Kurakin was the newly appointed Assistant Director to Eugene Goossens at the Conservatorium; he recalled Katie mentioning his name. ‘Cruickshank’, he recollected, was a prominent British nuclear scientist, whose name was often bandied around the conference table by Brigadier Smythe-Porter, who Peter regarded as the quintessential name-dropper. Suddenly, with a jolt to his senses, he heard the distinctive click of the switch hook as somebody in the next room replaced the telephone receiver in its cradle. He quickly closed his own office door and almost instantly someone was knocking on it.
“Come in”, he called out, wondering who it could be. It was Claudette, and he beckoned her to enter.
“Just wanted to say, ‘au revoir’, until I join you in Woomera in a week’s time; have a safe trip Peter.” He thanked her and bid her goodnight. Peter was somewhat perplexed; this young woman, 18 years old according to Benny, had the grace and poise of a sophisticated woman in her late twenties. Claudette’s scent seemed to linger in the room. It was not the fragrant trace of a perfume by Chanel or Balenciaga; it was the unmistakable ‘pong’ of Roneo ink. Peter drew the conclusion that it was Claudette’s voice he had overheard in Room 3B.
Chapter 5 Spies in our midst by David Ross
Peter went into Benny’s office and scanned through her neatly filed admin. folders on cardboard hangers in her filing cabinet. He found one labelled “Assistant to CLO for AWTSC” (Benny’s abbreviation for Civilian Liaison Officer for the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee) and extracted it.
Claudette’s was the only application in the file! He read the Curriculum Vitae details: her address in Herne Bay, a post-war Housing Settlement to accommodate families of immigrants and returning soldiers converted from a US Army Hospital. The detail included her birthdate in 1937 which made her 18 years old this year 1955 and the Leaving Certificate with six “A”s including Mandarin and French. Nothing about birthplace, family or Russian language.
He held the single sheet up to the light. The watermark was “C of A”! She or someone else who prepared this CV had access to Commonwealth stationery!
Blast it, he thought. He had to be on tomorrow’s Melbourne Limited Express out of Sydney’s Central train Station at 8am. There was no time for him to ask penetrating questions. Who the hell was this woman working close to him, looking over his shoulder, in the sensitive and hopefully secure environment of Woomera?
The next day, he boarded a second-class carriage of the Melbourne Limited Express pulled by the mighty C3801 steam engine, a sleek streamlined green machine. The carriages jerked and bumped as the engine puffed, puffed and then puff-puff-puffed to overcome its inertia.
Peter forced himself to relax. He would telephone Director Forbes at Albury when he had to change to the Victorian Spirit of Progress. He pulled out the four files Claudette had brought him before he had overheard her in Room 3B.
All were labelled Operation Buffalo and marked with various degrees of Secrecy. The first, marked Top Secret, contained a list of British Army personnel, a large bundle of chronologically ordered typewritten copies of correspondence between Canberra and British Army HQ at Northwood, London about what the UK wanted and what Canberra was prepared to provide.
The second contained Top Secret reports of allied intelligence about Russian development of hydrogen bombs. Peter fumed as he had only just received his clearance after 7 years public service, for access to such files. What if she were blabbing those secrets in her Russian conversation in Room 3B?
The third contained “Priority Secret” maps of all areas of interest, the geographical landmarks, sea level metrics, description of land types and the fencing and security details.
The fourth contained “Classified” details of all residents in the areas to be affected by planning, preparation, and execution of Operation Buffalo, including the position of all resident indigenous and other communities and the displacement of bush and fauna.
In Albury, during a 30-minute delay before the Spirit of Progress left for Melbourne, Peter rang Director Ernest Forbes and related all his concerns about Miss Dubois. Forbes only said “Thank you for your thoroughness Peter. There is an explanation which will be given to you when Miss Dubois arrives in Woomera”.
The journey to Woomera dragged to its conclusion, on to Melbourne, overnight in a 4-star hotel, an early train to Adelaide and a mid-afternoon RAAF flight to Woomera.
The week before Claudette arrived passed quickly enough with settling into the male barracks. He introduced himself to Australian personnel and UK personnel, toured the whole facility and visited indigenous communities.
When Claudette arrived and was settled, he invited her to a picnic away from unwelcome ears. After consuming the picnic, Peter looked into her round grey eyes, noting her elfin features, petite frame and shoulder length blond hair, and said “You could pass for 18 but you are not really here to be my assistant are you?” Claudette flinched, but quickly composed herself. “You are not who your CV says you are. I want to know the full story”
Claudette returned his direct gaze and replied, “Director Forbes told me you have detected my cover and I am at liberty to tell you, for your ears only, the details. Yes, I am an ASIO plant in your team. I am 27, but my cover requires me to look 18. You overheard me talking Russian in Room 3B to my handler in Canberra. He is Stephen Miller, a Russian Australian citizen born Yevgeny Mitrov working for ASIO.”
“I was born in 1928 in Harpin, of White Russian parents who fled to Russia during the Japanese attack in 1932. We are Jewish and my parents fled again to Paris during Stalin’s Great Purge in 1937. Just before the German’s arrived in Paris, we fled to England. After the War, we came to Australia as refugees and got a flat in Herne Bay. I got special entry to Fort Street Girls’ High and matriculated with 6 As in the 1948 Leaving Certificate.”
“Because I speak Chinese, Russian, French and English fluently, a former teacher recommended me to ASIO. They accepted me in 1952 and I’ve had 3 years training. I am under cover as a scarcely noticeable Sydney teenager in a junior job. My CV was prepared by my handler.”
“ASIO knows there are pro-Russian spies in our midst here. I am one among others here to discover who they are. You must not jeopardise my cover.”
Chapter 6 The Art of the Con by Ross Hayes
Alexei Kurakin was a product of the Russian music education system. He’d been identified as a person with talent at an early age and, from the age of five, he’d studied at the Central Specialized Music School in Moscow. For thirteen years, young Alexei had musical rigour infused into his blood – nothing was done by half measures. Upon graduation, he was selected for further studies at the Conservatory Musical College to earn a degree. Piano was his specialty and he prided himself on his precise playing and strict adherence to the score. Just as he was about to graduate and secure a place at the Moscow “Tchaikovsky” Conservatory to study for a masters degree under Sergei Rachmaninov, disaster struck – he broke his right little finger playing soccer with his friends. Even though he received the best medical treatment available, the finger never regained its normal flexibility and his ability to play the exquisite filigree notes, at the right-hand end of the keyboard, left him completely. The depression he felt and the realization that he would, at best, become a pedagogue put him in a state of susceptibility and that was when the State made their move. The Stalinist forces began grooming him as a potential overseas influencer: he was encouraged to learn English and French; he was given teaching roles in the Conservatory; and he was schooled in diplomacy.
By the time Stalin died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1953 and the Collective Leadership had taken over with the ensuing power struggle in which Nikita Khrushchev emerged victorious upon consolidating his authority as First Secretary of the party's Central Committee, the Soviets were well aware of the need to be strong in the nuclear weapons race. Disastrous as a nuclear war was likely to be, it was important that Russia was at the forefront. Even Stalin, himself, was aware of the mass destruction of a nuclear conflict, saying four years before he died that "atomic weapons can hardly be used without spelling the end of the world."
When the position of Assistant Director at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music became vacant, the Soviet machine had swung into action. The Central Committee was well aware of Britain’s nuclear capability and the chance to view this at close range in a place, Australia, that they had heard was called “the Brisbane of the World”, was an opportunity to be acted upon.
A pooling of intelligence in Moscow had determined that the Director, Eugene Goossens was a nationalist through and through but one who had demonstrated in past wars his inability to assist, except through music. In England during the 1st World War and while he was conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in America during the 2nd World War, he had organized compositional contributions from composers of note to write fanfares to inspire the Allies. The results of these included a quirky fanfare from the satirical Frenchman, Erik Satie, and the Fanfare for the Common Man by the American, Aaron Copland. What they also were aware of was Goossens’ propensity for the occult and erotica. It was always good policy to have information about a target which would allow them to be compromised – almost chapter one of the Official KGB Handbook.
Goossens’ standing in the Commonwealth was unquestioned and he had the ear of many high standing people in Britain. With his qualifications, Alexei Kurakin was a shoe-in for the job and he set himself up next to Goossens’ office in the old Government House Stables overlooking Sydney Harbour. But really his job was to stay close to Goossens and find out as much as possible about his compatriots and their movements.
When the Fisheries Act 1952 was passed, the aim was for the Commonwealth Government to assert greater authority over the number of fishing boats operating in its territorial waters. Under the act, the Commonwealth had responsibility for the licensing of fishing boats between 3 miles and 200 miles offshore while the boats operating within 3 miles were the state’s responsibility. Mixed responsibilities like this are ripe for exploitation. So, when Russia was looking for a means of surreptitiously entering Australia, a backwater like the Tweed River and its tributary, Rous River, was a godsend. For six months now, Russian agents had been passing through the Rous River wharf en route to Sydney and other parts of Australia. Alexei Kurakin had cursed under his breath, “Gavno”, when he heard about the inquisitive Don Anderson, “he must be eliminated”, and issued orders for this to happen.
Word around the corridors of the Con was that George Cruickshank, the eminent British nuclear physicist who had worked in Australia since 1950, would be visiting Goossens in a few days. Upon making some enquiries with Father Ivan Zykov, he was made aware of Cruickshank ’s musical interests: he had sung in a church choir when he was young and played the piano, even now, at social events. “But”, thought Kurakin, “what was this visit all about?”
Chapter 7 Brisbane Bound by Susan Kontic
The loud rapping startled Terry and she wondered who could be at the door and whether she should open it. When a second loud knock followed and an authoritative voice called “Miss Bateman, Constable Ford, Randwick Police here,” she hurried across the small room, drawing back the lock and flinging open the door, not knowing what to expect.
Brushing aside a tentative invitation to come inside, the constable handed Terry an official-looking letter, explaining that she must present herself at the Brisbane Coroner’s Court at 8.30am the following Tuesday morning as a witness at the inquest into the death of Don Anderson. Terry’s stomach turned over and her knees went weak. “But, but this is in Brisbane,” she blurted out. “I gave the police a full account of all I knew at the time.”
“Sorry, miss. I’m just passing this on from the Queensland Police but I must warn you that if you don’t attend, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Good day to you.”
For several minutes, Terry paced the floor wishing Peter was still in Sydney. Then she put the kettle on, made a pot of tea and wrote up a list of people she’d need to call. Satisfied she’d covered everything, she collected all her change and hoped it would cover her first three long-distance calls from the public phone in the hallway downstairs.
The first call to her mother was the longest and by the time she hung up, Terry was seeing the inquest as an opportunity to learn a little about the process of law, with a bit of adventure along the way – Valerie had suggested that Terry spend a few days at Dolphins Reach and perhaps reprise their old water-skiing routine. She didn’t mention the man with an accent who’d rung and asked to speak to Teresa Bateman and been told there was no-one there with that name.
Three short reverse-charge calls to her father and Terry had the loan of an Austin A30 from one of his Sydney friends, along with a stern warning of all the possible dangers encountered by young women drivers. Terry had rolled her eyes at the improbability and reminded her father she was no longer a child, but nonetheless she decided to ask Katie if she was free to accompany her.
The calls had taken some time and she’d noticed a man walk past the phone box several times; he was back again and leaning against the booth. Feeling awkward about hogging the phone, she decided to leave her third call till later, so she was surprised when she looked down from the stairs to see the man still leaning on the booth but now watching her walk upstairs. “Sydney’s full of dirty pervs,” she thought and hurried on.
Katie hesitated slightly before agreeing to the trip, explaining that the British nuclear physicist George Cruickshank would be a guest at the Conservatorium later in the week.
“He sounds like a brilliant man and there’s an intriguing connection between music and physics. But I doubt if I’d get even a glimpse of him,” she laughed. “So, adventure here we come. It will be good to see my mum. And what a hoot to see you perform with your mother!”
Katie was sure Peter would want to know about the trip and the inquest, but when she phoned she was told he was out in the field and was put through to Miss Dubois. Katie didn’t go into detail, but asked Miss Dubois to let Peter know she was travelling to Dolphins Reach and Brisbane with a friend he knew and she’d contact him when they arrived.
Spirits high, Terry and Katie headed off early on Thursday morning, vacuum flasks of tea and a supply of sandwiches on the back seat. Traffic was light and as they drove along Anzac Parade Katie pointed to a dark blue Zephyr-Six. “Ooh, that’s the latest model, you don’t see many of them around. One of the violinists from the Symphony Orchestra has a green one and he waited weeks for it to be delivered. He offered to drive me home once but I wasn’t falling for that line.”
Enjoying the freedom of highway driving, they put the miles behind them effortlessly, and decided to take a break before crossing the Hexham bridge. Of course, they agreed, the only place to stop was The Oak Milk Bar. Settled at a bench near the window, they drank their milkshakes and idly watched cars coming and going.
“Look at that,” said Katie, pointing to a dark blue Zephyr at the far end of the parking area. “That’s a coincidence, isn’t it?”
Terry replied uneasily, “I hope! Not your violinist following you?”
“Not a chance, and his car’s green remember. I can just make out the licence plate. It’s OXL 530, I’ll write it down,” said Katie picking up her biro. “Maybe we should tell someone.”
“There’s a phone box on that corner but we’ll sound like hysterical women if we report it to police or anyone. I’ll call my mother and see what she says. You keep an eye on that car.”
Terry had almost reached the phone box when Katie noticed movement and looked up as the Zephyr gained speed, veering towards Terry who managed to pull open the door as the car flew by knocking her off her feet and into the phone box.
Katie screamed as did several other people in the milk bar, then she was on her feet and running, “Call an ambulance, call the police.“ she yelled. “Get help now!!”
Chapter 8 Loose Ends by Stephen Roberts
Detective Sergeant John Collier liked straight forward crimes. The more obvious the motive for a crime and the more obvious the suspects the better he liked it. Bang up the suspect, take down the case notes, all signed and sealed and down the pub before dinner. Those were the cases he liked most but this one would not fit the bill. Far too many loose ends for his liking.
First, it was obvious that the young lady sitting opposite had been deliberately targeted by the driver of the Zephyr in the Oak Milk Bar car park. She was lucky to be alive and miraculously after being thrown into the phone booth had suffered no more than minor cuts and bruises.
Second, she must have known the driver and the car.
“Could I ask you again Miss Bateman, are you sure that other than when you noted the car in Sydney you think, and then again in The Oak car park you have never seen it before?”
Terry racked her brain “I am sure … absolutely sure I have never seen that car before today”.
At that point there was a knock on the door of the interview room and a young police constable entered cautiously and whispered in D S Collier’s ear. Collier’s brow furrowed in concentration as he listened to the police constable.
The police constable left the room and there was a brief pause.
“My constable has provided some news Miss Bateman. There has been a small bushfire just five miles from Hexham. The local fire service extinguished it quickly but at its heart was the burned out remains of a Ford Zephyr deliberately set fire they think and no signs of an occupant”.
“My constable has also checked with the Motor Registry. That number your friend Miss Fitzgerald wrote down OXL 530 does not exist. The number plate is false”.
Terry went pale “I do not understand Detective Sergeant Collier, does that mean that professional criminals are involved with what happened to me?”
“It would seem so Miss Bateman. You have told me that you would not have been travelling at all except that you have been summonsed to Brisbane Coroner’s Court concerning a death. This death of Don Anderson, can you think of any reason that might be connected with professional criminals”.
Terry was almost certain it must be, but she wasn’t going to let this provincial policeman blunder into the case. Adopting what she hoped was a look of complete innocence she looked D S Collier straight in the eye and said “I cannot imagine it could be”.
Way too many loose ends with this one, thought D S Collier and a cold beer with his name on it was waiting at the pub.
“Not much more we can do with this one for the time being, Miss Bateman. Here is my phone number in case you think of anything else. I will be in touch when you return from Brisbane. Hopefully your travels will be less adventurous from here.”
At Maitland railway station a man in a trench coat with hat pulled down low to shade much of his face waited patiently for the local service to Newcastle. He was sure that Miss Terry Bateman was dead. He had hit her hard with the car. He was also sure that he had got clean away. The Zephyr had been stolen two months ago in Sydney and fitted with false plates. It had been stored away from prying eyes with two other legation “special purpose” vehicles in the garage next to St. Vladimir’s Russian Orthodox Church. It had been used for this single project and destroyed beyond recognition afterwards. Whatever anyone thought they saw in the car park of The Oak Milk Bar was now redundant information. He was away from the scene and clear and would soon be back in Sydney awaiting his next job.
At that moment he looked down and saw a small boy peering up at him. “That’s a big scar on your face mister, did you get it in the war?”
A woman scurried along the platform. Obviously the brat’s mother he thought.
“Oh sir, I do hope my son is not bothering. Come here Jimmy and behave yourself”.
The man smiled at the woman. He dared not speak with his thick Russian accent. He turned on his heels and walked away up the platform.
What a rude man, the woman thought, and what an ugly facial scar. She would not forget him in a hurry.
Chapter 9 The Plot Thickens by Ian Ferrie
Terry and Katie drove non-stop from Hexham to Brisbane and stayed with Valerie at Dolphins Reach over the weekend. It was a relief from the tension and drama of her narrow escape of almost being run down by a car driven by someone who wanted her dead. They all went water-skiing and Terry found that she had not forgotten the techniques which she had used years ago and they had much fun and enjoyment.
The hearing on Tuesday at the Brisbane Coroner’s Court only lasted three hours and Terry was in the witness box for less than one hour saying what she knew about Don Anderson, which was very little: that he was on sabbatical from the University of Queensland staying in a shack near the Rous River, and that she met him and had a midday cuppa with him for several days until one day he did not appear with the teapot so she went up to the shack and found broken furniture, smashed crockery and blood on the door. The Police produced the photographs that Don had taken of the fishing boat and the two men who had disembarked onto the old wharf. The Coroner found that Don had met with foul play, had been murdered and that the suspects were still on the loose and yet to be apprehended. The photographs had been published in several newspapers without any response from members of the public.
After the hearing Terry drove with Katie back to Valerie’s place to stay the night before setting off early for Sydney. They took turns in driving because they wanted to drive straight through even though it would take ten hours. Terry was nervous when they drove through Hexham and they certainly did not stop at The Oak Milk Bar. It was nearly 6pm when they finally arrived at Katie’s small terrace house in Paddington, and Katie insisted that Terry stay with her that night.
The next morning after having a light breakfast with Katie, Terry set off to return to her digs at Sydney University Village in Missenden Road Newtown. When she opened the door to her bed-sit Terry was dismayed to find someone had broken in and gone through all her things including her lecture notes and research work. Everything was in disarray and nothing appeared to be missing but Terry was really upset about the intrusion. What were they looking for and why were they interested in her? Was it the same person who tried to kill her at The Oak Milk Bar in Hexham? She phoned the police but what could they do? A police officer came and took the particulars but lost interest when Terry said that nothing was stolen.
Terry wanted to phone Peter but he was in Woomera and difficult to contact, so she phoned Colin. He had been so nice when they went out to dinner at Beppi’s and a real gentleman. When Colin heard of her predicament he said that he would be right over to give her some moral support. Within the hour Colin was knocking on her door and when Terry opened the door Colin offered her a big hug which Terry gratefully accepted and burst into tears with the tension and emotion overflowing.
After several minutes of crying and hugging Terry finally broke away and felt embarrassed. “I’m so sorry, Colin. I have made your shirt wet with my tears.” Colin really did not mind at all and the hugging stirred quite a pleasant feeing in his body that he was not used to.
“That is the least of my concerns, Terry. I am worried about your well-being. You had better come and stay at my place for a few days until this all settles down. I am renting a three-bedroom terrace in Surry Hills and one of the bedrooms is vacant so you can use that. I am sure that my house-mate will not mind at all.”
It did not take Terry any time to think about it. What a relief. She gathered up all the scattered lecture notes and packed her bag with the few possessions that she had brought to Sydney and thanked her lucky stars that she believed in travelling light. They caught the bus from Newtown to Railway Square and walked up the hill to Colin’s terrace in Surry Hills stopping on the way to have a sandwich for lunch in a corner café. Gradually Terry started to relax after having been so scared, what with this incident and nearly getting killed the previous week. She was so grateful for having Colin and Katie close-by as friends to help her get through this dreadful mysterious situation.
In the meantime Peter was hard at work in Woomera getting the paperwork and numerous files in some sort of order and placing them in the three filing cabinets next to his desk, A, B, and C for classified and confidential. Claudette proved to be very helpful because of her methodical approach to the multitude of complicated material. She devised a classification system with a cross-referencing index. Pure genius. She was both beautiful and smart and Peter was alarmed to realise that he tingled whenever she came near him or brushed past him. He enjoyed her company but was determined to try to keep the relationship entirely professional.
Chapter 10 Grave Concern by Helen Grimmett
It was fortuitous for Terry that Colin’s offer of accommodation had presented itself. Whilst she acknowledged that he was a very recent acquaintance the move provided her with a degree of ease about her safety. The shared house option offered social possibilities too; she imagined that she would make new friends, and this brought added comfort to her decision. Colin left Terry to settle in; he had his weekly basketball game that evening and his team were playing the ‘Bronte Bulls’, a challenge he was looking forward to, more especially the after-match drinks at Kings Cross.
Terry made herself familiar with her new surroundings as she explored the house. Poking out from underneath the telephone table in the hallway she spotted a couple of old books. She picked one of them up, ‘Sydney Cemeteries – Historic and Modern’, was the title. The book’s jacket had a photograph of the old Devonshire Street cemetery at Brickfield Hill. There was something tucked into the back of the book, it appeared to be a folded map. “Dare I open this and have a look?”, she thought to herself. She carefully unfolded the paper and saw that it was a roughly drawn layout of the Botany Cemetery. There were handwritten notes on the drawing indicating the location of several graves, with names written next to them. One of the names caught her attention immediately ‘Colin Davenport Born:1925 Died:1951’. Terry hastily grabbed a blank page from her lecture pad and sketched a copy of the map and the notes. Taking great pains to conceal evidence of her having discovered the map, she carefully refolded it, replacing it in the book and putting it back exactly as she had found it. This discovery was intriguing. She carefully folded her sketch and squirrelled it away in the back of her transistor radio.
Terry’s thoughts were interrupted as she heard the front door open. “Ah, must be the house mate.”, she thought to herself. The mystery of the graveyard map was swiftly despatched to the back of her mind. Terry walked out of the bedroom to introduce herself. Standing before her was a tall man with a straggly mop of blonde hair. He was very tanned, wearing board shorts and a singlet and carrying a Maui style surfboard. Terry introduced herself and learned that the young man was indeed the ‘house mate’ she was expecting.
“I’m Shane”, he said, “pleased to meet you. You make a very pretty addition to this bachelor establishment.” Terry smiled at him and blushed a little. “Colin’s told me a little bit about you, but hey, how about we go to ‘The Dolphin’ for a welcome drink? I’m meeting my girlfriend there and we can both get to know you better. I’ll just go and stow the board and take a shower,” he said. “back in five.” Terry accepted his offer and returned to her room to freshen up for this unexpected but welcome invitation. She felt that she could rest easy, Shane seemed open and friendly and she sensed that they would quickly become friends.
Far away in Woomera Peter Fitzgerald was locked in deep thought concerning the security aspects of the Buffalo project he had reluctantly become involved in. “Some of these files should be secured in a safe.”, he thought to himself. The British were keen to keep everything top secret and any breach of that secrecy could result in his immediate dismissal, and worse still – a prosecution. It did not sit well with him that Claudette Dubois had acquired access to sensitive secret documents in such a short space of time. Despite his underlying sexual attraction to Claudette, he was beginning to grasp the reality of his situation. He could not explain why but his sixth sense was prodding him uncomfortably, and he felt a general sense of uneasiness. Peter made the decision that he would discuss his concerns with Ernest Forbes. He would suggest that the most highly classified files should be transferred to the ‘Winchester’ safe, which resided next to Forbes’ own office, the combination to which would be restricted to Forbes and himself and access to its contents would require their written authorisation. This would effectively prevent Claudette’s access to them. “It’s only a few of the files,” he thought, “and I will rest easier if I follow my own good sense and put these precautions in place.”
The next day Peter met with Ernest Forbes and his suggestion was accepted and acted upon immediately. Forbes did not take much convincing; Peter’s proposal was sound and logical. “Claudette”, Peter thought, “might be slightly piqued about this but I intend to tread carefully when I am around her.” Uppermost in his mind was the constant bleating from Brigadier Smythe-Porter about the importance of keeping the Woomera operation under close wraps. “Keep the joey in the pouch boys,” he would often say at the planning meetings, “secrecy is sacrosanct”.
Peter had no inkling of any of the events that had befallen Terry in the last few days but he had promised to stay in touch with Katie and when he rang her she told him the whole story. He was somewhat dismayed to hear about Terry’s close brushes with disaster, but relief danced in his heart as the warmth of his childhood memories of her slowly soothed away his present anxieties. He was happy that Forbes had been sympathetic to his security concerns and he ended his day in the Staff Mess sipping contentedly on a glass of Clare Valley Armagh Shiraz.
Chapter 11 Kidnapped? by David Ross
Claudette came into his cramped office in one of the portable buildings dotted around Woomera for administration personnel, greeted him warmly and went to the filing cabinet. She paused and said, “Where are Files A and B?” referring to the 2 Top Secret files which had gone to the Winchester safe. Peter replied, “They have gone for safe keeping under orders from Ernest”.
Claudette’s eyes momentarily narrowed and the lump at the end of her jaw indicated she had for a split second clenched her teeth. “You know why I am here and to whom I report. How do I get access to them? I need to update the list of British army personnel and report to Canberra about intelligence matters.” She began to sound huffy, as if she realised the removal of the files was to exclude her. “Do you have access?” she asked with a penetrating glance. Peter’s earlier unease was graduating to a sense of danger. He replied coolly, “Yes, with consent of Ernest”.
“Bloody bureaucracy! How am I supposed to do my job for ASIO if I am obstructed in essential areas?” exploded Claudette.
Snap! went the sexual attraction Peter had been nourishing these past weeks. This is not a woman to be close to. She is far too belligerent and pushy.
Claudette left in a temper. Peter went to discuss the outburst with Forbes. He had taken everything she had told him at face value without verifying her claims. Forbes himself had eased his concern in the phone conversation from Albury that Miss Dubois would explain when she arrives in Woomera. Peter told Forbes what had just occurred. A frown creased Forbes’ brow. “All right Peter. This bears looking into a little deeper. I need to go to the Minister on this to discover the security clearance and provenance of this Yvgeny Mitrov now called Stephen Miller. I will let you know”
Peter asked “Ernest, may I ask for leave to return to Sydney for 2 or 3 days, as soon as there is direct transport. My close friend Terry Bateman, the daughter of Senator Bateman, has had a close call.” Forbes cocked his left eyebrow. A faint smile of amusement creased his face. Peter summarised what he knew about the discovery of the murdered body of Don Anderson in Rous River and the inquest to which Terry was driving when her murder was attempted; that she had accepted residence with Colin Davenport, but was still at risk because she may have seen something about which her silence was wanted.
“Rous River you say Peter. That’s a tributary of the Tweed River. I have seen some recent intelligence about suspicious activity at Tweed by foreign language speaking men of European appearance. I will dig into it. There is a RAAF DC3 going to Sydney tomorrow. Go, and let me know if you come across any relevant intelligence. Say no more to anyone here or in the Sydney office, including Davenport, than that you have taken compassionate leave to see an ill or dying relative”.
After walking to the Woomera aerodrome to board the RAAF ‘Dak’ at 6 am, Peter found himself in the forward seats ahead of cargo space, seated next to the only other passenger, a familiar man, tall, heavily set, with florid complexion, bushy eyebrows and piercing gaze. “Senator Bateman! I didn’t know you were in Woomera. May I ask what brings you here, sir?” Peter now understood Forbes’ cocked eyebrow and amusement.
Bateman replied, obviously not surprised to see Peter, “I’m not sure your security clearance entitles me to tell you, but I came here yesterday on this Dak on behalf of Minister for Defence McBride, to meet a certain person who turns out not to be here. I am on my way back to investigate why. Forbes told me you would be sharing a seat.”
Peter resisted further inquiry. The rest of the 5 hours trip to Richmond Air Base west of Sydney, was taken up with small talk about their respective families or paperwork they had both brought for the journey. When Peter said he intended to see Terry while he was in Sydney, Bateman replied “Valerie has told me about the incident at The Oaks at Hexham Bridge and Ernest briefed me on what you told him about it. I am most concerned. I will be digging deeper when I get back.”
Peter hesitated but offered “It is the main reason I have asked for this leave, sir. I sense she is in danger from some source which wants to silence her. I want to make sure she is well protected.”
After arrival at Richmond Air base at 11 am, they were about to leave for Sydney in Bateman’s waiting Commonwealth car, when an RAAF flight officer ran out from the administration building and handed Bateman a message. “Urgent attention, sir” Bateman read it and exclaimed “Christ Almighty!”, then looked at Peter. “I tell you in the strictest confidence that the man I was supposed to meet in Woomera is George Cruickshank, the British nuclear research scientist. I am just informed he can’t be found, feared possibly kidnapped. There is a suspicion that the agents of a foreign government are responsible, seeking to extract his knowledge and cooperation for their own endeavours. We must keep the lid on this to prevent public panic.”
Chapter 12 Exotic Rituals by Ross Hayes
When George Cruickshank received the phone call from Eugene Goossens, he was immediately so excited he absent-mindedly forgot his pickup appointment in a Commonwealth car to go to Sydney airport for flights to Adelaide then Woomera..
“How about a night up the Cross?” enquired Goossens.
George had been told all about the Cross when it was decided that he was heading off to Australia.
“Make sure you go up the Cross!” was the usual response from those who’d been to the Land of Oz.
In his mind’s eye, he saw the glitz – much like SoHo in London but with a colonial abandonment that made the tame conservatism of England seem almost infantile. With the flashing lights in his eyes, Cruickshank eagerly accepted the invitation and it was arranged that he would be picked up from his hotel room on Elizabeth Street at 7 o’clock, the next day.
First stop was Beppi’s on Yurong Street. As they walked through the door, they saw the fresh seafood laid out in a display cabinet next to Reception.
“The usual to begin, Sir?” asked Beppi as he showed them to their table in the corner.
“Make it a dozen each” said Goossens with a wink in Cruickshank ’s direction.
“Got to keep your end up, Old Boy” added Goossens as Cruickshank accepted the chair proffered by Beppi.
“A nice crisp Chablis to go with the oysters? I have a really good one for you: a 1950 Domaine Raveneau Premier Cru – it’s only their third vintage but a beautiful depth of flavour” suggested Beppi.
“Not an Italian wine?” asked Goossens
“Trust me Mr Goossens this will be a match made in heaven.”
“Sounds perfect” said Goosens who then sought agreement from Cruickshank who barely managed a nod – not being used to such opulence.
Freshly baked bread rolls – still warm from the oven – appeared with curled balls of butter and the wine waiter showed the chilled bottle of Premier Cru as though cradling a baby.
After a nod from Goossens, the cork was carefully extracted by the waiter and passed to Goossens for inspection. He raised it to his nostrils and having satisfied himself of no taint, again nodded to the waiter who proceeded to deliver a splash of wine to Goossens’ glass. He swirled it and after watching the “legs” appear on the side of the glass, raised it to his nose. Cruickshank saw the expression of appreciation sweep across Goossens’ face as though watching some exotic ritual.
Finally, Goossens brought the rim to his lips, took a sip, and briefly startled Cruickshank as he gurgled air through the wine across his palate before swallowing.
“Perfect” said Goossens and the waiter, with one hand behind his back and the other holding the bottom of the bottle, carefully filled each glass to two thirds full, wiped the neck of the bottle with a napkin before wrapping it around the bottle and nestling it into an ice bucket. The pair clinked their glasses and savoured the wine.
Almost as if by clockwork, the plates of oysters arrived as they put down their glasses. A dozen of the plumpest Sydney Rock Oysters, sitting on a bed of finely crushed ice, beckoned their consumption.
Cruickshank tried one au naturel and decided that some lemon and freshly cracked pepper were needed to complete the taste sensation. Goossens continued with his unadorned – just savouring their flinty lusciousness interspersed with warm buttered bread and that exquisite Domaine Raveneau Premier Cru.
As they consumed their main course of snapper fillets, Goossens began to look nervously at his watch and on hearing the beep of the taxi outside, they wiped themselves clean with napkins, settled the bill, and with utterances of gratitude to Beppi made their way outside into the cool evening air.
The taxi turned right out of Yurong Street onto William Street heading up to the Cross. Cruickshank could see the bright lights ahead of them, including the red and white Penfolds sign at the top of William Street, and he had an air of anticipation.
Surprisingly, the taxi turned left into Brougham Street and stopped outside of number 179 and they were soon pressing the bell. The door creaked open and a dark figure said “Yes? Oh, it’s you Djiin – you’re late.” In the flickering light of a brass lamp Cruickshank caught a glimpse of a narrow face, prominent nose and teeth, with eyebrows angled sharply upwards.
“Come in Djiin [Goossens’ coven name]. Who do you have with you?”
“His name is George, Rosaleen, George Cruickshank. He expressed interest in what goes on at the Cross so here we are – late but keen” explained Goossens with an apologetic manner.
They followed her up the stairs to the attic. Rosaleen Norton was wearing just a leather apron tied around her diminutive waist. Upon reaching the top of the stairs she said: “Put these masks on, remove your clothes and join the circle.”
Now stripped, Cruickshank saw a small group of devotees similarly wearing only masks and they were sitting on the floor in front of an altar to Pan, God of the Wild.
Rosaleen said: “I’ve done the verbal part of the rite, now it’s time for your physical act of devotion, Djiin.”
Chapter 13 Up the Cross by Susan Kontic
The late arrival of Djinn set off a frisson of anticipation that rippled through the circle of devotees. Rosaleen had earlier completed the verbal part of the rite, and now they awaited the magical energies of Djinn’s act of devotion. It needed little preparation, a few minutes of silent meditation as he visualised the procedure, a few deep breaths to relax.
George Cruickshank, sitting opposite his friend, cross-legged on the floor, was both intrigued and self-conscious. He’d expected a bit of good-natured hocus-pocus but this was something completely different. What had he got himself into? He couldn’t think of Sir Eugene Goossens as Djinn even wearing that mask. Like a spectator at the theatre, he watched as Eugene rose easily and slowly approached the recumbent Rosaleen.
As ritual demanded, he knelt before her and was about to assume the prostrate position when the hush that had fallen over the room was suddenly shattered by heavy banging on the downstairs door. Sounds of splintering wood and a mighty crash quickly followed. The spell had been broken and those in the circle were scrambling to their feet, searching for clothes, attempting to dress. Uniformed police were already pushing into the room, shouting “Vice Squad! Stand where you are,” wielding their truncheons wildly against their bewildered victims.
Vice Squad detective Albie Traynor leaned against the wall of the house his men had just entered and lit a cigarette. Somewhere nearby a radio was playing and snatches of Tony Bennett’s Stranger in Paradise floated out through an open window. On a job like this, Albie usually sent his men in first and gave them a few minutes to impress on the degenerates the seriousness of their situation. It made it easier to get a confession and it gave the boys a bit of fun, forged a sense of camaraderie in his team. Tonight he was joined on the footpath by his informer, Harold Haroldson, together with a photographer armed with the latest twin-flash Haselblad Reflex. Harold often tipped off Albie about politicians and rival newspaper owners who might be found in unlawful or compromising situations, and Albie would give a heads-up of where Harold could get the ‘candid’ front-page photos that were bread and jam to The Truth newspaper. Harold was fairly dancing at the prospect of next Sunday’s cover featuring startled looks on a couple of bare-bummed cabinet ministers up from Canberra for a bit of fun and games. The Cross drew them in like flies to honey.
A small huddle of rubber-neckers on the footpath opposite speculated on proceedings. It was nothing new; they’d seen it all before, and before morning 20 different versions would be repeated on the streets. Albie had finished his smoke and was about to join his men when he noticed a dark sedan slowing then stopping for a better look. Albie recognised it as a Commonwealth car and cursed under his breath. Stranger in Paradise was still playing, so maybe a record on repeat, not a radio after all.
It had been a long and frustrating day for Cecil Bateman and Peter Fitzgerald, starting with an early flight from Woomera. All avenues in the search for George Cruickshank had been dead-ends and it was time to call it a day. Neither man admitted it, but each of them had concluded that there was little chance that Cruickshank would be found alive. How would they explain this to the Prime Minister? There’d be hell to pay when the Brits were notified. Instinct told them to keep it to themselves as long as possible – it didn’t bear thinking about.
Settled in the back seat of the car on the way to their respective lodgings, it wasn’t long before Senator Bateman launched into his pet topic, “Russia’s itching for a fight, there’s trouble brewing in Suez, Nasser won’t listen to reason, Korea is likely to flare up again, and then there’s Malaya, that could drag on …” Peter had heard it all before and barely listened, he was just too tired. Traffic was slow, barely moving, when the line of black police vans on Brougham Street caught their attention. More from curiosity than anything else Bateman asked his driver to stop. “Don’t worry about blocking the bloody street, this could be important, man,” he barked when the driver demurred.
“Haroldson and Traynor, what a chummy pair of dung beetles. Wonder what pollies they’ve got in their sights this time,” Senator Bateman sneered.
A few minutes later a sorry-looking gaggle of mostly naked men, many of them bleeding and limping, was led from the house to a chorus of loud cat-calls from the gawking onlookers. Bateman’s mouth opened in astonishment as he recognised a fellow senator, two cabinet ministers and Sydney’s highest-paid radio quiz-king.
“Bloody hell,” yelled Peter Fitzgerald. “That’s George Cruickshank! And there’s Eugene Goossens with him.” Peter was already out of the car with Bateman on his heels. This was going to be difficult, and Peter had no faith in Bateman’s diplomacy skills. “Leave this to me,” he called peremptorily, then, noting Bateman’s red face and twisted mouth, added “If you don’t mind Sir.”
Chapter 14 Mary Jones’ Surprise by Stephen Roberts
Peter jostled through the small crowd of noisy onlookers and grabbed the arm of the nearest arresting police officer. The police officer, while still holding onto the naked, bruised, tubby, middle-aged man with his left hand tried to elbow off the man holding his right hand.
“Back off now mate or I will arrest you.”
“Calm down officer”, Peter yelled, while flashing his Government authorisation card in front of the officer. “I need to speak to who is leading this raid and I need to speak to him now or there could be trouble for all concerned coming down from the highest level.”
This guy could be bluffing, the police officer thought, but I am not taking any chances.
“Detective Albie Traynor is the person you want, standing over the road”.
Peter released the officer’s arm who immediately took a firmer two-handed firmer grip on his quarry while stamping down on naked toes with his regulation size 12 police boot and was obviously delighted with the squeal of pain that came in response.
Peter crossed the road and introduced himself to Detective Albie Traynor. At first, Traynor was reluctant to release any of his suspects. But Peter built up a picture of what life for Albie Traynor might be like if he crossed swords not only with ASIO but also Prime Minister Menzies. Traynor buckled. Goossens and Cruikshank were detached from the group of naked men and bundled into the back seat of the car next to the less than comfortable Senator Bateman.
One hundred miles away on the outskirts of Newcastle, Mary Jones was tidying up her small fibro cottage after a brief visit from her sister Nell and her husband Bert. Nell and Bert had made the decision to go and live in Brisbane two years ago and this was their first visit back to Newcastle to visit Mary. The two sisters had been very close growing up and Mary had found Nell’s move difficult, especially as Brisbane was so far away.
Mary had never liked Nell’s husband Bert either. He was too flash by half. Always scheming, never achieving. He was a lazy sod too. Never picked up after himself. Just made a mess and would leave to be tidied by someone else.
Now they had left, Mary was tidying up the mess left by Bert. He had left dirty plates here, there and everywhere, cigarette butts on the lounge room floor and she had just come across a stash of newspapers that he had brought down him and left here and there. Mostly they were Brisbane papers and as she was picking up Mary noticed a headline about an inquest into a suspicious death. It was not so much the story that caught her attention but the accompanying photo of two men that the police wished to interview.
She looked more closely at the photo. One of the men seemed familiar. After a moment or two puzzling where she had seen the man it came to her. That was the ugly brute with a scar that she had seen on Maitland station. Mary called out to her son.
“Tommy come in here a moment could you please?”
Tommy never knew when his mother called whether he was in trouble. The tone in her voice was gentle, not the “just wait ‘til I get my hands on you” tone that was more usual. He decided it was safe to make an appearance.
“What is it Mum?”
“That man you were pestering on the station at Maitland last week. The man with the scar. Is that him?”
She passed over the newspaper and Tommy screwed up his face and took a close look.
“That’s the man, Mum”.
“Thank you, Tommy, that’s all I need to know. How about you go out back and play outside”.
Once Tommy had left, Mary considered what she should do. She could phone the Brisbane number included in the article. But that would be dreadful expense and she would have to go down to the Post Office and book a call from there.
Surely, she could just take the newspaper article and tell what she knew at the local police station. That seemed a much better idea. There was something about that man on the station that had frightened her. Seeing his picture in the paper was a big surprise and had increased her sense of unease when she read what he may be wanted for. She determined then and there to take herself down to the local police station.
Chapter 15 Sculduggery by Ian Ferrie
It was the letter that Detective Sergeant John Collier had been waiting for. Six months ago he had applied for a transfer from Maitland Police Station to Sydney and now, at last, he had been granted a posting to Kings Cross Police Station. He would have preferred Sydney Central but was still happy to be given Kings Cross where he could be closer to his new girlfriend who lived in Paddington near Centennial Park. With only two-weeks notice he had a lot of tidying up to do – hand over his jobs and files to another officer, break the lease on his one-bedroom flat in Maitland and pack up all his things. On top of the huge pile of files on his desk was one titled “Attempted murder. The Oaks Milk-bar.” The last thing he wanted was a phone call from the front desk asking him to come downstairs from the Detectives Room to interview a woman with an unusual story.
When he arrived downstairs the duty constable directed him to the Interview Room where a small attractive middle-aged woman was nervously waiting.
“Good afternoon madam. My name is Detective Sergeant John Collier. What can we do for you today?”
Mary produced the newspaper clipping with the photo of the ugly brute of a man with a scar on his face.
“I seen him.” Mary blurted out. “He was on Maitland Station last week waiting for a train to Sydney.”
Collier felt a chill run down the back of his neck and his brain went into overdrive. Possibly the murder suspect had been in Maitland after the car used for an attempted murder at the Oaks Milk-bar had been found burnt out. Was this a coincidence or not?
“Madam, you have been most helpful in the investigation of a serious crime and I am most grateful for you taking the time to come to the Station to give us this valuable information. Thank you.”
After Mary had departed the Station feeling that she had done her duty and had been well-received, Collier went back upstairs to the Detectives Room to continue tidying up his files. Something at the back of his mind would not let go. Surely someone must have recognised the two wanted men in the newspaper photos and must know their identities. There was only one police officer who he knew in Sydney who may be able to help. Collier had attended an internal course for “protocols and procedures when attending court” and had sat next to Vice Squad detective Albie Traynor from Kings Cross. They had made friends and Albie had said that anytime that John needed any help not to hesitate to call. Collier reached for the phone and rang Traynor’s direct line.
“Traynor” responded the gruff voice.
“It is John Collier from Maitland. Do you remember me?” said Collier hesitantly.
“Yes of course I do.” replied Traynor. ”How are you, old mate?”
Collier told Traynor of his pending transfer, explained the outline of the case and finally asked the crucial question “Can you help?”
Traynor immediately rose to the challenge as the case rang a bell and tickled his curiosity. He had always wanted murder investigations but had to settle on Vice but he still had plenty of contacts in the Crime Division. He said he would make inquiries and get back to Collier if he discovered anything of interest, and looked forward to Collier arriving in Kings Cross in two weeks time.
The two weeks went fast and at 8am on the Monday Collier arrived at Kings Cross Police Station ready for work. He was introduced to everyone and then shown his desk in the Detectives Room which was much bigger than at Maitland. After settling in he went looking for Traynor but was laughed at.
“He never comes in until well after lunch but he works late into the night” was the response.
Later that day, close to 5pm Traynor came in and made a bee-line to the Detectives Room to see Collier.
“Welcome to the Cross, old mate. I’ve been sniffing around and I’ve got some news for you but it is all hush-hush sensitive stuff. ASIO is involved and we have been told to back off as they have a covert operation going on. Something to do with Russian spies and nuclear secrets at Woomera. They know the names of the two thugs as they used to be officials in the Russian Embassy before Australia kicked them all out after the Petrov affair. The thug with the scar on his left cheek is Sergey Ivanov and the one with the bulbous nose and cauliflower ears is Igor Smirnov, but you won’t win any friends if you interfere. My advice to you is to drop any thought of investigations until we have been given the green light by ASIO. But don’t worry, we have plenty of other unsolved murders for you to work on. You won’t be bored”.
Chapter 16 Orchestrated Ambitions by Helen Grimmett
Katie Fitzgerald had thoroughly enjoyed the Conservatorium Orientation week, learning more about the sought-after musical competencies necessary to a professional musician. Katie had elected to study Orchestral Performance; her choice of instrument was the piano, but she was also an accomplished violinist. Katie had ambitions to play, eventually, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Now that she had completed the compulsory orientation sessions, she was studying under the watchful eye of Madame Guinot, a well-respected tutor at the Conservatorium, and one with a formidable reputation. As Katie sat on the bus on her way to the city, her thoughts meandered back to the events of two weeks earlier. How could she forget “that morning”? Katie had arrived early that day at the “Con”, as it was affectionately known, and had popped into the café to grab a morning coffee. Usually, the café was rather quiet and sedate but this day it was abuzz with chatter and blabber and Katie was keen to find out what it was all about.
“Have you heard the gossip?”, asked Susan, one of her fellow students. “No.”, replied Katie, “What’s happened? Tell me everything!” Susan enthusiastically disgorged the information that was hot on the lips of everyone at the Con. Katie listened in disbelief, “Goodness me!”, she thought to herself, “Goossens’ goose sounds as though it’s really cooked.” Katie rushed off to her first lesson of the morning. Her head was awash with astonishment but for the moment she needed to concentrate on her lesson. Peter was in Sydney and would be staying with her for a day or two. “Oh, what a fiasco! she thought, “He will want to hear about this.” Little did she know at the time that Peter was already involved in the developing drama. When she saw him that evening, he related the whole of the sordid events of “that day”, and she listened to his story eagerly, and relished every minute of it!
Peter recounted to her how he and Cecil Bateman had delivered the shaken Goossens and Cruickshank to a small, terraced house in Woollahra. Senator Bateman had explained that such “safe houses” were a means of protecting high profile “targets” from those who sought to exploit the critical nature of their work and its importance to national security. Peter had accompanied the Senator and his driver as they escorted the two men to Woollahra. By this time, the two undressed men had donned blankets to cover their nakedness. As the car pulled up outside the house, they had been met at the front door by a burly man who ushered them inside. “You’ll be safe here for tonight,” said the Senator, “Tyler will look after you and fix you up with some clothing. On no account should you leave the house, you will be collected in the morning. Tyler has a gun and he’s ready to use it should there be any trouble, so do what he says, you’re in good hands here.” Goossens and Cruickshank nodded to signify their agreement. They knew that Senator Bateman was a force to be reckoned with and they were silently grateful for his intervention.
As Katie gazed out of the bus window, she vividly recollected Peter’s story, and she wondered how he was getting on back at Woomera. “Imagine having to deal with it all.” thought Katie, but her mind was quickly jolted to the present, it was her stop; she jumped out of her seat and alighted from the bus. “I’ll ring Peter tonight; I do miss him, and I have so much to tell him about Madame Guinot and her scholarly assistance with my music.”
Most of what had occurred at Kings Cross was ‘watered down’ for the Sydney newspapers and nothing further was reported about the Russian thugs in the Brisbane papers. However, nothing could dilute the enthusiasm of Detective Sergeant John Collier who, on assimilating the advice he received from Albie Traynor, was beginning to grasp the fact that the government machine was at work to cover up the entire business of not only the ‘Goossens incident’ but also the hunt for the Russian thugs who had attacked Terry at the The Oak Milk Bar. John Collier was aware of the obstacles he faced, but he was a tenacious man, keen to carve out a career for himself in Sydney. Traynor was always a late starter at the Kings Cross Police Station which could give Collier some ‘discretionary flexibility’, a term he often used to describe his tactics when ‘breaking the rules’.
Peter, Senator Bateman and George Cruickshank were returned to Woomera several days after the arrests at Kings Cross. Goossens was ensconced in a secret location, away from the press and in his absence Alexei Kurakin stepped in as the Acting Director at the Conservatorium. These neat little manoeuvres appeared to be the result of governmental ‘damage control’. However, Peter Fitzgerald, John Collier and Terry Bateman were looking to unravel a tangled web of government intervention and foreign interference, not only to satisfy their own curiosity but to deliver some form of justice for Don Anderson’s murder and the attempted murder of Terry Bateman. George Cruickshank was not interested in any of that. He was forging ahead working to his own agenda with his unwavering determination to get ‘Operation Buffalo’ to the testing stage as soon as possible. In the coming months everyone who worked with him would get to know his catchcry, “We’ll do whatever it takes, for all of our sakes.”
Chapter 17 A Nest of Spies by David Ross
At Woomera, Peter was summoned to Ernest Forbes’ office in a portable block of offices for senior personnel including Brigadier Smyth-Porter. Forbes gestured "Let's walk". At a rock ledge outside the encampment, Forbes gestured Peter to sit and began "After you spoke to me about Claudette Dubois' reaction to limited access to files, I began inquiries. As background, there is intelligence from UK that MI5 and MI6 have been compromised by locally born spies working for USSR. The Cold War is on and ASIO is on full alert.”
“I directed a covert sweep of all buildings by men disguised as cleaners, for listening devices. They found every building was bugged with high- powered battery-operated devices disguised as part of ceiling trim, capable of being relayed to a centre not far away. One device in the Brigadier’s conference room was innocuously disabled to look like a fault. I mounted a 24-hour watch to catch the repairer. We did and arrested one of our own electricians, caught in the act. I have put it about that he was seriously electrocuted on a job and sent to hospital, before he could alert others. He was sent to ASIO in Canberra for interrogation and the same bug was disabled again and surveilled. I await results. False intelligence was put out on other bugs.”
“A trap has been set for Miller in Canberra which could pull in Claudette if she is bent. Part of the false intel is, that UK is sending the Brigadier details of new designs for One Tree and Breakaway, the first two of four detonations planned this year for Operation Buffalo. The Ruskies will be desperate to get hold of it and must fix the bug in the conference room. We will be waiting.”
Peter spoke up “Sir, I want to get something off my chest. I have been researching the after-effects of nuclear explosions. We all know the devastation caused by the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those cities were devastated with massive loss of life and permanent maiming and shortening of life of the survivors. The Hiroshima bomb called ‘Little Boy’, was equivalent to 12 to 18 kilo tonnes of TNT. The Nagasaki bomb called ‘Fat Man’ was equivalent to 19 to 23 kilo tonnes of TNT.
One Tree and Breakaway are respectively equivalent to 12.9 and 10.8 kilo tonnes of TNT. Even though Maralinga is to us a desert waste, it is not so to itinerant tribes of aboriginals in this area, such as the Maralinga Tjarutja people. These uranium and plutonium bombs will leave a great deal of radioactive waste which will take 50 to 70 years to cease being a threat to human health, especially for communities living close to the ground. We may be able to herd them away while the detonations are happening, but soon they will return to their old ways and hunting places with serious affects to their health and reproduction. How can we protect them?”
Forbes smiled benignly at Peter, who suspected he in for a paternal putdown. “Son”, began Forbes, “we are but the tradesmen who do our master architects’ bidding. Yes, we can and should draw attention to the matters you raise, so that it can never be said that the architects of this policy were never forewarned nor inadequately advised. Include a set of recommendations that the Brits should follow to minimise harm to our native tribes and environment. You may not get traction, but at least your advice is on record.”
“In years to come, if this becomes a political storm, our advice and representations will be on the record. More than that you cannot do, even if you foresaw an apocalypse coming. The driver of this policy is the Menzies government’s determination to collaborate with the UK to share its technology for nuclear power generation and weapons. Australia has not yet found any oil and has only limited known supplies of coal. Write your report to the Minister with as much detail as you can about post detonation consequences, but don’t presume to advise a change of policy.”
A week later, Forbes called Peter to his office and returned his draft advice to the Minister. “Very good and thorough. A caution for posterity. Send it.”
“On the listening devices, we caught one of the Brigadier’s British civilian crew red-handed at 3am three days ago. It just goes to show the extent of infiltration. All devices have been removed. Weekly “cleaning” will now take place.”
“In response to threatened charges of spying and treason, both the Brit and the electrician are singing their souls away. They have given up Claudette who was their principal leader in Woomera. They said she found out from a phone message left for you that your sister was going with a friend to Brisbane to a coroner’s inquest into the murder of an acquaintance. Claudette wanted one of them to leave immediately to drive to Sydney to follow them both and kill them to prevent exposure of other operatives. She was overruled by her Sydney base which said they would deal with it. Stephen Miller’s phone was tapped receiving her advice of false intelligence. He and Claudette have been arrested today. She has been flown to Canberra in handcuffs and leg irons for interrogation.”
Chapter 18 Born in the Dirt by Ross Hayes
Bobby Brown was born under a tree, an ooldea mallee to be precise. In the desert, any shade is a relief especially when your body is experiencing the stress of childbirth. But it was not only the thickish crown cover but the water source that lies beneath that provided the life force. Bobby clearly remembers his father digging beneath ooldea mallees for roots which he would then tie together and hang from the tree so that the scarified roots would then drip water into a container below. The ooldea mallee was a life-giving plant for the Maralinga Tjarutja people and especially for Bobby Brown – he felt like he was sprouted from the red earth of Maralinga.
Despite their nomadic existence, many times during the years of his childhood, the whole family would return to his birth spot and there would still be the skeleton. The skeleton of the humpy his father had built to shelter mother and child. There would still be the ashes of the original fire started to nourish the birth mother with sweet-tasting lizards, and still be the little bed, made of sticks by his father, to keep the baby off the ground and away from snakes. All this was part of the ongoing cycle of life that had repeated itself for so many thousands of years. This was their country, a country that despite its deprivations had sustained his extended family……forever.
He had been taught how to make a spear, how to extend its range with the arm lengthening woomera, and how to hunt down the agile kangaroos and the less tasty but lumbering wombats.
As he luxuriated in the cool of the rock overhang, all these memories came flooding back to him.
His dear mother had passed on – taken away to a spirit in the southern night sky. How she had managed to cook a nutritious meal each night, he never understood – this was secret women’s business. He only knew how to hunt and defend his family and, now that he was a young man, these skills were almost innate.
As a gentle breeze wafted through his place of respite, his thoughts turned to a girlfriend but in these remote parts they were likely to be very hard to find. He remembered the beautiful Mary. They would occasionally see each other near the Ooldea waterhole – many nights, after their earlier encounters, her lithe form and smiling face had accompanied him as he drifted off to sleep.
He also remembered seeing her on the back of a truck along with some 30 other inhabitants taken away……somewhere. Some said there were six such truckloads which halved their population. It left an emptiness in his stomach that almost equalled the feeling when his mother passed.
This disruption to their lives began with the surveyors – peeking through little telescopes sitting on tripods at red and white checkered poles held by disinterested chainmen who also rolled out the thin metal tape to measure distances. The men peeking through the telescopes would pause at times to make notes in a little red-covered book and then they’d move on.
Actually, these were the first white people he’d seen. His grandfather had told him of much earlier encounters as the rail line was driven through their land without so much as a beg-your-pardon.
After the surveyors, came the army personnel – all dressed in the same colour – a dirty sandy colour that reminded him of the ceremonial ochre used for special meetings of the Maralinga Tjarutja people. Bobby always looked forward to these meetings – the special food, the rituals, the dancing and, especially, a chance to see Mary in all her unadorned glory.
Now, it seemed that his memories were just that – recollections of times past – times which may never return. There were changes afoot, changes he could sense that would upturn his life – a life duplicated over many, many generations – perhaps 2,000 generations.
“Do we not bleed as they do?” he mused. “Do we not love as they do?” “Do we not have feelings as they do?” The indifference, paternalism and arrogance that had often been a feature of the white interaction with blacks was a soul-destroying ever-present grinding down of their people and their culture.
“What further deprivations could they inflict on us?” he asked himself, and yet, in asking that rhetorical question, he felt he knew the answer and it was not pretty.
Chapter 19 Into the Night by Susan Kontic
A week had passed since Ernest Forbes had approved Peter’s letter and it had been sent to the Minister but still Peter felt no peace. Intentionally or not, Forbes had treated him in a patronising manner and he began to loathe himself for being fobbed off with writing a letter that had Buckley’s chance of being read let alone considered. In his mind he compared himself to Pontius Pilate, washing his hands of the situation, saying “don’t blame me”.
He knew he had to pull himself together. He was here to do a job but no less determined to get to the bottom of Don Anderson’s murder and Terry’s close call. It wasn’t going to be easy. Something else was niggling him too. Something about Claudette’s arrest didn’t ring true. Had he been misled in that too? There were so many interlocking strands of power and influence, it was impossible to know what was really going on and who held the strings.
He decided a walk would do him more good than all this introspection. It was a bit cooler now and shadows were lengthening as he set off with determination for a scrappy stand of trees about 50 yards away. Lost in his own reverie, he stopped in his tracks at the sound of chuckling just a few feet away, and then he noticed two men sitting cross-legged on the ground. He recognised Corporal Lance Patrick immediately by the unruly shock of thick blond hair and his lanky frame – he was a six-footer and then some. He thought the other man could have been Bobby, a local black with mournful eyes who seemed to come and go. They were drawing with sticks on the ground and seemed to be in accord on something judging by their easy manner.
“Curious how they understand each other,” thought Peter, who’d have liked to join the conversation. He’d had some great chats with Lance and knew he was planning to join the ministry and come back here when he got out of the army. Peter had asked him once if he wanted to convert the heathens and Lance had laughed “No heathens on that side of the fence, mate. They’re the most spiritual people you’ll come across.” Peter turned quietly and walked away not doubting that Lance would return. Thank God, the future is not ours to see and Peter would probably never know that within five years both of these men, and many others who served at Woomera, would have died in agony from the effects of their exposure to radiation.
Peter walked back to camp enlivened. He no longer felt the city man’s uneasiness at the vastness of the land and the sky; he welcomed it in fact and embraced the opportunity to experience the spectacle of nightfall here where he felt so small and at peace.
In Sydney, the change from dusk to night had been gradual and largely unnoticed by its busy inhabitants. For Terry Bateman, however, the onset of darkness had caused a shudder and the buttoning of her jacket. Last Wednesday she was certain she was being followed, so she walked past her building and turned quickly at the corner to see a young woman behind her looking almost as scared as Terry imagined she did.
This was the second Wednesday evening she’d spent at the Sydney City Library trying to find a trace of the Colin Davenport, born 1925 died 1951, whose gravesite photo she’d come across tucked in the back of a book at the home of the Colin Davenport who worked with Peter. There may have been a completely innocent explanation, a cousin of the same name perhaps, but it had unnerved her.
It wasn’t as if she could come right out and ask Colin about it. She’d been his guest and he’d been looking out for her so rifling through his things without permission would definitely put her in the wrong. She hated to be so suspicious, but she did feel happier now she was back in her digs at uni, although she was being very cautious and let her friends believe she was doing important research for her course.
Terry had started her enquiries at the Births, Deaths and Marriages office but without identification papers she couldn’t check the records. She’d visited the actual gravesite at Botany cemetery but it had offered no clues either. Because he was buried in Sydney, she assumed that’s where he was living when he died, so she was searching Death Notices for all of 1951. Then she would check university records and newspaper records of Leaving Certificate results. After that she’d thought of tax records, club memberships and electoral rolls, but hopefully she wouldn’t need to do all that.
She checked her watch as she reached the bus stop on York Street and wondered if it would be quicker to walk on to Town Hall station and take a train to Central then a bus from Chalmers Street. No wonder Sydneysiders were always frowning – so many decisions to make, and with public transport you never got it right. Not like home, where there was only one option – a bus that came and went at the whim of the driver. Terry was at the head of the line and there were plenty of seats, so she settled in and watched the others climb the steps and look around for the best of the seats that were left. The last one in looked particularly tired she thought, and then she noted the newspaper under his arm was yesterday’s – there was a story on the Melbourne Olympic Games on the front page. When he stopped beside her seat, she sat frozen trying to ignore him. His mouth curved a little in a forced smile and his eyebrows raised in a question. He wants me to move across, she thought in panic. He jerked his head impatiently, other passengers were staring, so she slid across to the window and he sat down beside her with a smile.
Terry stared fixedly out of the window, determined to avoid eye contact, and she was startled when he thrust the newspaper in front of her eyes. Across the top margin was written “Detective Sergeant John Collier, we need to talk. Read story page 5, column 4 (underlined). We get off at the top of William Street.”
Chapter 20 Uncomfortable Allies by Stephen Roberts
Terry had not recognised Collier at first when he jostled on to the seat next to her. The last time she had seen him was more than three weeks ago in an interview room at Maitland Police Station going through details of her terrifying experience at The Oak Milk Bar. So many questions raced through her mind.
What would a provincial policeman be doing here in Sydney? Why was he obviously monitoring her movements to the point where he could jump on her bus and bail her up effectively? Why the unusual stuff with the newspaper so out of keeping with any normal police procedure she had ever been aware of?
Terry was in two minds one part screaming shove the newspaper back at him, jump off the bus at the next stop and disappear in the bustling early evening commuter crowds. Another part said maybe this policeman can help you make sense of the confusing, frightening events blighting her life over the past few weeks.
The bus was turning into William Street before Terry opened the newspaper at page 5. Her eyes moved quickly across the page to column 4. It was a brief article about car thefts and police looking into car re-birthing operations at a garage beside a Russian Orthodox Church. Terry was puzzled. The article meant nothing to her and she looked quizzically at Collier sitting next to her.
Collier’s expression did not change, but he nudged her gently as the bus pulled up to the stop at the top of William Street. Once they had alighted, Collier spoke.
“Sorry for the cloak and dagger stuff, Miss Bateman, but I need to talk more to you about your experience at Hexham plus other matters that may be related. Let’s cross the road over to Victoria Avenue where there’s a nice Milk Bar where we can chat more freely”.
Terry did as he asked and let Collier guide her to a booth at the far end of the Milk Bar. There were only two other patrons, a young courting couple canoodling in a booth near the street entrance. It was Terry had to admit the perfect spot for a private chat.
“What is all this about, Detective Sergeant Collier?” Terry exclaimed barely containing the sense of outrage in her voice.
“You have every right to be upset, Miss Bateman. What has happened to you shouldn’t happen to anyone going about their ordinary business. But you have become involved – I am sure quite sure innocently involved – in something very big that a lot of powerful people want to keep under wraps whatever the cost.”
“A few things have happened since we spoke last in Maitland. The first and least important is that I have transferred to Kings Cross police station. The second and more interesting is that the local police have dealt with several incidents where their efforts have been closed down by ASIO. The latest is that story in the newspaper I handed you about the car re-birthing operation, a standard police job closed down by ASIO. They were beside themselves when the story made it into the papers. The third development is that we almost certain that the driver of the zephyr that tried to run you down is a Russian thug, Sergey Ivanov, ASIO wanted that kept under wraps too.”
“Already, Miss Bateman I have told you enough to get me dismissed from the police force and worse. I am in your hands so to speak. I think you are a fine, decent person and it is only right we get some redress for what you have suffered but it cannot be by the book. We can be allies of sorts getting you some sort of justice. What do you say?”
Terry’s head was reeling. Collier’s revelations were frightening in their potential consequences. A clandestine operation with Collier to find out the truth given all who may be involved could be extraordinarily dangerous. Yet the temptation to find out what going on overrode all other considerations.
It took what seemed an age before she answered “I will help you Detective Sergeant Collier”.
“Good” he said with obvious relief in his voice. “now that we are allies, we need to be open with each other. Why have you been doing so much checking up on Colin Davenport?”
Chapter 21 Stolen Identities by Ian Ferrie
Terry looked surprised as she realised that Collier had discovered her interest in Colin Davenport.
“Well, Detective Sergeant, I have reason to believe that that is not his real name.”
“Miss Bateman, may I call you Terry? And I would be pleased if you would call me John as it makes conversation a lot easier. You have accidentally found out something which the Police are investigating. We have had a tipoff from Claudette Dubois who has rolled over and has given up the name of Colin Davenport and others. Apparently Claudette had been blackmailed by the Russians to do their bidding or her relatives in Moscow would be killed. She has now been released, is living in a safe-house in Glebe and wants to apologise to Peter Fitzgerald for her misdemeanours. It appears that Colin Davenport is the false name for a criminal who is a forger and supplier of false and stolen identities for a number of Russian spies. It is suspected that this person creates false driving licences, passports and birth certificates based on documents of deceased persons. And it does not stop there. We have suspicions that he has extended his skills into horse racing and substitution of champion horses with identical-looking hacks with convincing registration papers. He has won a lot of bets by knowing when the real champion horse is running and not the substitute. We have no concrete evidence, but plenty of theories and suspicion. You can’t arrest someone based on theory and no evidence.”
Terry was fascinated by these revelations and said “How can I help, John? I do not see how I could assist.”
“Terry, you are a sort of friend to Colin and he may divulge to you something that will help us with a lead. For instance, we do not know the location of his printing workshop which he uses for printing the driving licences, passports, birth certificates and other documents. If we knew that we could get evidence to prove our case. There is a horse-race meeting at Randwick this Saturday which you could attend and maybe bump into Colin. We think that the champion horse Hercule was substituted at the last race meeting because it came last, and this week will race with favourable odds and probably come first. It is a perfect opportunity to get Colin with his defences down while his is winning.”
Terry felt a frisson up her neck as she became excited at the prospect of being an undercover agent.
The following Saturday Terry had lined up Katie and they both dressed up and went to the races. They arrived early to familiarise themselves with the large betting ring, the refreshments area and the seating arrangements. After having each bought themselves a fancy drink in a champagne glass they found two seats in the grand-stand and studied the form. Sure enough, Terry spotted the name Hercule who was in Race 5 at long odds but she decided to bet on another horse by the name of Archy because she knew an Archy who was an old friend.
“Terry and Katie - what are you doing here?” came the familiar voice of Colin, who had spotted them. “Come up to the Members Lounge where I can get you in as my guests.”
The ladies did not hesitate and went with Colin to the prestigious Members Lounge. The view of the race-course was superior to their previous location and the seats were far more comfortable so they smiled gratefully to the beaming Colin.
As the races proceeded the atmosphere became electric as everyone cheered on their chosen favourites. And then came Race Number 5, and Colin became both nervous and excited.
The race started and Hercule immediately leapt to the front of the pack and continued to lead half-way around the course. Dark clouds had come across the sky and it started to rain which seemed to upset Hercule for some strange reason and he started to shy around every small puddle of water on the track. The other horses surged past led by Archy and by the time the race was over Hercule had come last. Colin went red in the face, swore and ripped up his betting tickets. “I’ve had enough of this. Do you want a lift home because I am leaving?”
Terry and Katie agreed and went with Colin to the parking area to get into his brand-new blue 1956 FE Commodore. “I hope that you do not mind but I have to pick up a package on the way home. Is that ok by you?” asked the rather deflated Colin.
They drove to nearby Kensington and stopped outside a small factory at 113 Doncaster Avenue. Colin ran inside via a side door and came out carrying a small package which he put into the boot. Without commenting he drove Terry and Katie back to Katie’s house in Paddington and dropped them off saying “Well, I hope that you enjoyed yourselves at the races. We must do it again sometime.”
Chapter 22 Fowler’s Fortuitous Find by Helen Grimmett
Detective Sergeant John Collier arrived early at the Kings Cross Police Station. It was unusually quiet for a Friday morning. As he leaned back in his chair enjoying his first coffee of the day the phone rang and he recognised a familiar voice at the other end of the line.
“Good day John, it’s Bill Fowler here, how are you getting on in the big smoke?” Bill was one of the senior police constables at Maitland, a good honest cop, and he and John were great mates.
“Bill, I’m keeping well thanks, Kings Cross is certainly different to Maitland. Wife and kids all okay?”
“Yes, they are all fine thanks. John, I am calling about that Zephyr, the one that was stolen and used in the attempt on Terry Bateman’s life at the Oak Milk Bar.”
“Yes, I remember, it was later dumped and torched!”
“It was, but we took what was left of it back to Maitland for closer inspection. We were a bit strapped for manpower the first time we examined it and, frankly, the forensic guy who was assigned to us was not up to the task; he was young and a bit wet behind the ears. I’m acutely embarrassed John, something extremely significant was overlooked.”
“What have you found?”
“There was a metal cooler box in the boot, you know, one of those new flash ones made by Malleys, they call it an “Esky”. The forensic guy had not bothered to look inside it, probably because he was unable to remove the lid. The heat of the fire caused the metal to buckle a bit, but it was still mostly intact. Working alone I used an oxy cutter and eventually got it open. Inside it I found a couple of large Thermos flasks, which appeared to have been miraculously insulated from the inferno. Guess what, they both contained traces of an accelerant. There’s more, I’ve been able to lift some fingerprints from the flasks. Have I got your attention?”
“Abso-bloody-loutely!”, responded John in an excited manner. “Bill, does anyone else know about this?”
“The other officers here know about the Esky and the accelerant but nothing about the fingerprints. Like you, I have been ‘cautioned’ so I have kept shtum about the prints. I don’t want to instigate a check on them from here in Maitland as it might arouse suspicion.”
“Agreed. Bill, we need to talk, but not on the phone. I will drive up to Maitland today, and be there about four o’clock.
“Probably best if we do not meet at the police station, come round to my place. We’ll have a family barbie and a few beers in the backyard, and you are welcome to stay overnight, we’ve got some catching up to do.”
Collier left a message at the front desk for Albie Traynor, ‘Called away on an urgent family matter, back on Monday.’ Albie had made it clear from day one; investigating the Ruskie thugs was a no-go area but Collier saw Fowler’s fortuitous find as an opportunity to get his hands on some real evidence and he was going to follow it through come hell or high water.
Terry Bateman was up to date with her studies and resolved that on Friday she would have a ‘free’ day away from the University. She had half a mind that she would hop on a bus and go to 113 Doncaster Street to take a closer look at the factory where Colin Davenport had collected his package. Terry recalled that there was a ‘For Lease’ sign displayed on the front of the adjacent factory at number 111. A plan was starting to take shape in Terry’s mind. She decided that she would do two things; firstly, she would ring the Estate Agent whose name appeared on the sign under the pretence of being interested in leasing the premises. She could then ask the agent what kind of business was operating at 113. There was no signage there to indicate its use. Secondly, she would go to the Registrar General’s office to try and find out who owned the premises at number 113.
“But what if I am followed,” she thought to herself. Out of the blue a bizarre idea crept into her head. Terry and Katie were similar in age, height, weight and colouring; in fact, they could almost pass for sisters. Her plan was to dress up in Katie’s clothes, and Katie would dress in her clothes and act as a decoy for her. Katie could lead whoever was following her on a wild goose chase while she made her enquiries undetected. “I wonder if Katie is up for it?”, she asked herself.
Terry went to the public phone and rang her friend.
“Katie, it’s Terry. I have a free day tomorrow, any chance that we can meet up?”
“Funny that you should ring, I was going to leave a message at the Uni for you to call me. Madame Guinot has had to cancel all her Friday commitments as she has gone down with the flu. That means I’m free on Friday.”
“Great. This might sound a bit strange Katie, but could you come to my room at the Uni, and bring a couple of casual outfits with you, oh, and a couple of hats too? I know this sounds strange but there is method in my madness.”
“Of course, I am absolutely intrigued. I’ll meet you at the Uni on Friday morning, looking forward to it.”
Katie arrived at the Uni early on Friday carrying a large holdall. Terry carefully explained her daring plot to the mystified but intrigued Katie.
“Count me in,” was the enthusiastic response to Terry’s plan. There was much banter and laughter as each of them tried desperately to look like the other in selecting the appropriate garb. Katie had even brought an empty violin case to complete the deception.
Whilst Terry and Katie hatched a scheme to uncover more information about Colin Davenport, John Collier was well on his way to Maitland.
Chapter 23 The Roar of Distant Thunder Approaches by David Ross
Terry and Katie set off from Sydney University dressed as each other, Terry carrying Katie’s empty violin case slung over her shoulder. Katie nudged Terry “I have a surprise for you. To help us search the title of 113 Doncaster Street before we go to see the Agent, I have asked a legal friend to meet us at 9.30 at the Queens Square entrance to the Land Titles Office of the Registrar General. I met him while I was studying at the State Library and he had a stack of Law Reports spread over the big table. We got to talking and he invited me to coffee at a cafe in Macquarie Street. His name is Duncan. Duncan Richie. He is an articled clerk in his final year at Sydney University’s Law School and he knows his way around the LTO. I think he is keen on me.”
At the broad steps to the LTO, opposite the imposing St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, a tall broad shouldered, athletic man about 22 was waiting. He greeted Katie warmly and bowed slightly, smiling, as he was introduced to Terry. “Do you have a reference to the Title?” Terry looked mystified. “Where do we get that?’ “Come inside with me and I will show you” They mounted the steps and went to a public phone inside. Duncan flicked through the White Pages Directory and dialled a number.
“Rates Clerk please”. He looked at Terry as he waited “Address please”. Terry told him. To the phone Duncan said “I would like the reference to title of 113 Doncaster Street, Kensington. Leslie Randall Solicitors calling.”
He wrote some details on a notebook, thanked the other end and hung up. “Right. It’s Certificate of Title Volume 111962 Folio 232. Let’s go and find the owner. Down these stairs” They descended to a large basement hall area with a long counter where searchers waited for ordered register books, so called Volumes of 250 duplicate Certificates of Title each. Duncan filled out a ticket and placed it in a queue and the three of them stood back to wait.
“This is how the Torrens System of Title works” he explained. “It looks complex and it is, but you should have seen the Old System title it is replacing. We are lucky this lot is Torrens. Old System came with the colony from the old country and is from the Arc.”
The clerk called out “Randall” and the Volume arrived. Duncan produced a printed sheet filled in details of the Folio before returning the Volume to a used stack for refiling by LTO clerks.
“The warehouse is owned by Alexei Kurakin free of encumbrances” announced Duncan. Katie gasped incredulously. “Alexei? Alexei Kurakin?” He is Assistant Director to Eugene Goossens at the Conservatorium. Now that Goossens is on indefinite leave, he is in charge.”
Duncan’s left eye widened, its eyebrow shot up and his right eye narrowed. “Just what are you ladies getting yourselves into.”
Meanwhile, that evening, over barbecued lamb steaks laced with mint sauce, with roast vegetables washed down with cold ale, John Collier and Bill Fowler were shooting the breeze about days gone by. Collier got down to tin tacks. “What do you know about the fingerprints on these two Thermos flasks Bill?”
Bill replied, “It looks like they contained petrol, used to torch the car. Only one set of prints. The flasks were probably bought for purpose, in torching the stolen car. The prints belong to Sergey Ivanov who has form for assault in a pub brawl.”
“Pretty thin on evidence Bill” opined Collier. “We’ve got a stolen car, false plates, driven by a man the victim can’t identify. A small boy and his mum who saw an unidentified scar-faced man on Maitland Rail Station. And Sergey’s sole fingerprints on the flasks in the remains of the car and he was in the area at the time. Add Terry’s evidence. Maybe arrest him, put him in a line-up for Mary Jones and her boy, charge of attempted murder and see what happens?”
“What about ASIO?”
“Aye. There’s the rub. I’ll do a bit more investigation on Ivanov. Stay schtum pro tem.”
At Maralinga, Peter reflected on the Russian spying incursion. The Venona project, a United States counterintelligence program, revealed evidence of Soviet agents operating in Australia in 1948. Venona had revealed Walter Seddon Clayton, a leading official within the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), as the chief organiser of Soviet intelligence gathering in Australia. Clayton had formed an underground network within the CPA. ASIO uncovered eleven Australians identified as spies in the cables that were decoded. The latest discovery of CPA spies in Maralinga attested how resilient the effort was, but hopefully completely disrupted.
In a few day’s time, on 27 September 1956, the first detonation, that of One Tree at 12.9 kilo tonnes, in the range of Hiroshima’s “Little Boy”, would take place. Peter was in a constant frisson of fear and anxiety. There would be other major trials of nuclear devices at Maralinga. Some would result in mushroom clouds reaching heights of 47,000 feet and radioactive fallout blown by wind would be detected for thousands of miles. He was powerless in the face of unforeseeable consequences, certain not to be benign.
The Roaring Sound of Distant Thunder approached.
Chapter 24 A Double Malt Vanilla by Ross Hayes
Terry’s plan for her and Katie to switch clothes had gone well – except for one major consideration.
Terry (dressed as Katie) had made enquiries about 111 Doncaster Avenue at the real estate agent and it had seemed natural that she would want to know about her potential neighbours. As for the violin case, it had been a stroke of genius.
Early the next week, Terry felt she needed to report to Detective-Sargent John Collier and, at the nearest phone box, had arranged a meeting with him at the same milk bar.
As they settled into their plush red vinyl seats and placed their orders, Terry leaned forward and began to tell Collier what she knew.
“Well, we did as you suggested and went to Randwick Race Course and, sure enough, there he was.”
“Colin?” checked Collier.
“Yes, and he invited us to the Members Lounge – very swish. He was very excited before Race 5 started but when his horse lost, he went red in the face, swore and ripped his betting ticket.”
“Sounds like a normal punter” said Collier.
“Strangely, when he swore it was a word I’d never heard before” said Terry and Collier braced himself for an awkward explanation. “What did he say?”
“Something like ‘Guvner’, I think” said Terry as a relieved Collier pencilled it into his notebook – “I’ll check it” he said.
“But, there’s more” Terry said excitedly, “I managed to pick up the bits – he stood to win £5,000 - £100 on a 50/1 called Hercule. Who bets that much?” she asked without expecting a reply.
“Yes” said Collier, “he must have been very confident.”
“Well, he was very upset. But still, ever the gentleman, he did offer us a lift home.”
“Interesting” was all that Collier could muster.
“What’s more interesting is he asked if we would mind stopping off so he could pick up a package.”
“So where did he stop?” enquired Collier with increasing interest.
“113 Doncaster Avenue”
“Yes, quite close to the race course” confirmed Terry, “he went in for a minute and came out with a brown paper package.”
Collier raised his eyes as he sipped on his double malt vanilla milk shake as he savoured the malty Horlicks hit.
“I’ll check out who owns it tomorrow” said Collier as he made another note in his book.
“No need” said Terry with a sparkle in her eye, “it’s owned by Alexei Kurakin.”
“Let’s just say, I have my sources” said Terry not wanting to implicate Duncan.
“And who’s this Alexei character?”
“Well, according to Katie, who’s a student at the Conservatorium of Music – he’s the Assistant Director.” This stopped Collier sucking on his straw and started his mind whirling.
“But, there’s more” said Terry enjoying the reaction she was getting from Collier. She outlined their plan of subterfuge and revealed what she had learnt about 113 when enquiring about leasing 111.
“The real estate agent said he didn’t know much about 113 but he had heard repetitive mechanical noises – much like a printing press.” Katie went on. “Interestingly, because I was carrying a violin case, the real estate agent mentioned that his daughter was studying viola at the Con and she told me she had seen the Assistant Director going into 113 on one occasion.”
“Thank you so much Terry, you are a mine of information” said John Collier as he loudly sucked the last skerrick of his double malt vanilla milk shake and excused himself saying “I have a lot of work to do. By the way, where’s Katie?” Terry shrugged her shoulders saying “Should I be worried about her?” and Collier ominously said “I just hope she was not too public in her movements wearing your clothes.”
After leaving the Lands Title Office on the Friday morning and seeing Terry onto a La Perouse tram on her way to Kensington, Katie looked at the bright blue sky and the brilliant Sydney sunshine filtering through the trees of Hyde Park with the sparkling water of the Archibald Fountain in the background and she thought about a ferry trip on Sydney Harbour resolving, on a whim, to take the first ferry to leave Circular Quay after she arrived. As it turns out, it was Luna Park.
“Oh well, why not a bit of fun” she thought. She’d heard so much about the new ride, the Wild Mouse Roller Coaster – this was her opportunity. On her arrival at Milsons Point she headed through the funny face and straight to the Roller Coaster, paid her money and strapped herself into the red mouse Number 2. With the instruction of “sit back” in her head she started to climb - way above Lavender Bay with the feeling she was going to launch into the water before taking a sharp right back towards the other rides, then another sharp right before swooping down amidst the wooden structure – mind blowing – the wind in her hair, the backdrop of the harbour – this was quintessential Sydney. If only she had noticed the man in the trench coat with his hat pulled over his eyes.
Chapter 25 Tunnel Vision by Susan Kontic
Even on the busiest days at Luna Park, the carpentry and repair team observed smoko with almost religious zeal. Today Trev and Lenny were sprawled on the awning of the workshop a little earlier than usual. Steam still spiralled from the tea in their enamel cups, and they lazily surveyed the few pleasure-seekers below. With a panoramic view of the Midway and beyond, they pursued their sport of ‘spot the best-looking sheilas’. Some days visitors simply poured through The Face, but not today, at least not yet, but before he’d even reached the awning, Lenny had noticed a lass so attractive he’d added her to the top 10 list he carried in his head. She was alone, which seemed unusual, and had headed straight for the Wild Mouse roller-coaster. Now Lenny was waiting to catch another glimpse of her when the ride ended.
Brian invariably stayed a few extra minutes at his bench trying to impress the foreman and when he arrived today he was grinning from ear to ear. “Oi, did you blokes cop a gander at that mug in the trench coat and hat down there? Looks like he’s an extra in some flamin’ spy movie.” Lenny and Trev looked in the direction Brian pointed and, sure enough, a man fitting that description perfectly was leaning against a post watching the Wild Mouse disgorge its passengers. There were only a handful and it was obvious which one had attracted the attention of the moon-struck Lenny. “Strewth,” he yelled, “he was waiting for her, now he’s following her. Look, she stopped to read the sign and he ducked behind that bin. Something’s on the ‘off’ here boys. Let’s follow them and see what’s his game.”
Brian hesitated a moment, “Er, we’ll be late back to work.”
“And we might be bloody heroes,” Lenny shot back at him as they made for the stairs. “This geezer is definitely up to something. Go back if you want, but me and Trev are going to make sure this lady stays safe – right mate?”
“Too bloody right,” called Trev, already on his way. Brian shrugged and followed – one in, all in.
On the near-empty Midway they had Mr Trench-coat in their sights, and he was now just a few steps behind the lady. “Strewth, he’s grabbed her by the arm, she looks surprised. Wish I knew what he was saying.” Trev kept up a running commentary. “She looks angry doesn’t she, she’s arguing, shaking her head, trying to push him away – good on her, she stamped on his foot. Haha, kicked him in the shin she has. Hell’s bells, he’s grabbed her now and he’s dragging her towards the rock face.”
Brian spoke up, “There’s an old bomb shelter and a tunnel in that cliff face. Do you think he knows about that? Come on, we’ve got to stop him, we’ll never find them if they get into the tunnel.”
With Lenny leading the way, the three men charged towards their quarry, yelling loudly as they went. Alerted by the noise, people peered out from some of the amusements, and a startled Mr Trench-coat turned to see what the commotion was. Seeing three wild men racing towards him, he reached into a pocket then raised his right arm and fired the pistol he’d just retrieved. Seconds later, Trev was lying on the ground with blood pouring from his shoulder and yelling “don’t let the bastard get away” before fading into unconsciousness.
Katie had never been so afraid in her life. She had no idea who this madman was, but now she knew he had a gun and wouldn’t hesitate to use it. His arm was around her neck and he was half-dragging her into an opening in the cliff face. She was terrified. She dropped her scarf, then her handbag and when she lost one shoe, she kicked off the other a little further along. As he dragged her further into the darkness, she did a quick inventory of her pockets: train ticket, gloves, nail file, lipstick. Nothing she could use against a pistol.
The light from the entrance had disappeared and it was pitch black inside the tunnel. When her arm rubbed along a damp stone wall Katie guessed they’d turned a curve. No, she decided, they’d turned into a narrower branch tunnel, and she was trying not to think about what her bare feet were squelching through. She could make out voices faintly calling in the distance and that gave her hope, until she remembered the gun.
As her panic subsided Katie began to reason more clearly. “This wasn’t random, he must have followed me to Luna Park; he hasn’t harmed me, he must want something, what do I have that he wants? It must be connected to Terry.”
Their pace had been slowing for some minutes and he’d loosened his hold on her, for which Katie was grateful. She noticed he was stumbling and his breathing had become so laboured he could barely breathe.
“You’re having an asthma attack, aren’t you?” Katie said. He let go of her and leaned back against the wall, gasping for breath. “Can I help you?” He shook his head as he slipped slowly down the wall, and before she fled back the way they’d come Katie saw him pull a small silver tube from his pocket.
“Woman abducted, man shot at Luna Park: Heroes give chase.” The front-page headline on the late edition of The Sydney Sun stopped Detective-Sergeant John Collier in his tracks and he forked out 3d to read the story. He knew the afternoon edition was hastily put together and information was often scarce, but surely he would have heard through official channels about an abduction and a shooting. He quickly scanned the story, then hurried back to his office and dialled Terry’s number. She answered straight away and before she could say two words Collier blurted out,
“Terry, thank God it’s you. Have you read this evening’s paper?”
“You just rang me so of course it’s me,” she replied.
“The front page of The Sun has a story about a shooting and a woman being abducted at Luna Park. The coat the woman was wearing had a label that said “Teresa Bateman”. A man was found in the old bomb shelter close to death from an asthma attack and it’s unclear if they’re all connected. Have you lost a coat?”
Chapter 26 Loose ends by Stephen Roberts
The man in the tunnel sat staring wild-eyed and was breathing raggedly. He was barely aware as the first policeman arrived on the scene.
The young police constable was prepared to try and arrest a reported thug with a gun. He had not expected a powerless, crumpled heap seemingly close to death and he was uncertain what he should do next. He hesitated and was jostled aside by a police sergeant.
“Son, are you going to arrest him or stand there gawping” yelled the sergeant. The words were barely out before he was pushed aside by two ambulance men. One kneeled beside the thug and checked for vital signs and then yelled to his colleague, “Get the stretcher from the van and bring back the oxygen tank and mask too. Quick about it”.
He barely had the command out before the police sergeant yelled “Listen mate, I don’t care how sick he is we are arresting this joker and taking him back with us to North Sydney lock-up, you can tag along with us if you like”.
The ambulance man had started pounding the thug’s chest and shouted back. “No way mate unless you want a dead body in your lock-up. We’ll take him to Sydney hospital and if you want to make yourself useful get back to your car and clear the road ahead of us. This guy is touch and go to make it to the hospital”.
The incident at Luna Park had drawn an inquisitive crowd together outside the gates. Tucked in their midst was a man with an ugly scar on his face. Sergey Ivanov had been despatched to tail his colleague and make sure that his colleague succeeded where he had failed at the Oak Milk Bar. Ivanov could see the girl in the distance being interviewed by a policeman. His colleague had failed. There was no way he could complete the job allocated to his colleague with so many police on the scene.
Now he could see a stretcher being carried to the ambulance parked at the gate. He recognised his colleague on the stretcher. Still alive, but only just.
He heard the police sergeant yelling at the police constable to “get in the car, we need to clear the way ahead of the ambulance to Sydney Hospital”.
Ivanov tried to withdraw from the crowd as inconspicuously as possible. His car was parked two streets away. He had lost a minute or two getting to it. Now he fired it into life and headed towards the Harbour Bridge. He needed to get back to Kensington for further instructions in light of what he had to report.
Ivanov stood in the cigarette smoke haze. It was 45 minutes since the ambulance had left the gates of Luna Park.
“So, Comrade, do you think he has died?” the chain-smoking man behind the desk inquired in a tone of voice that Ivanov felt was dangerously quiet. Any minute he will explode, Ivanov thought, and I will be consigned to Siberia or worse.
“I do not know, comrade, he was still alive on the stretcher” Ivanov replied in a voice that he hoped did not display the terror he felt inside.
The explosion never came. Instead, the chain-smoking man offered Ivanov one final chance of redemption but with the unmistakable tail-piece that if he failed again “you will wish that you had been sent to the camps in Siberia”.
“Comrade Ivanov you and your incompetent colleague have left loose ends that must be tidied. The girl does not know what she knows but it is only a matter of time before she works it out. Our incompetent colleague should not talk, but who knows under pressure he may. There is only one way to make sure he never talks”.
“They must both be eliminated and soon. I leave you to work out the how and to cover up after.”
“Do not fail this time. I leave it to your imagination what will happen if you do. If you succeed you will be rewarded with a vacation in the countryside”. The chain-smoking man thought it best not to let on that ‘countryside’ was a euphemism for the desert 300 kilometres from Adelaide.
When Ivanov emerged into the sunlight, he felt like a man who had miraculously escaped death. He would not waste the reprieve. Easiest target first, Ivanov thought, as he looked for a bus heading into the city. How hard could it be to finish off a man already half-dead in a hospital bed?
Chapter 27 White Tulips by Ian Ferrie
Ivanov carefully carried the large bunch of white tulips wrapped in black tissue paper into Sydney Hospital smiling to himself as to the irony of taking funeral flowers to a man who is not yet dead. He stopped at the front desk and asked the young receptionist:
“I am a close friend of Igor Smirnov. Could you please tell me which ward he is in?
The receptionist looked up her records which were in a large folder in alphabetical order and told him “Bed 2, Ward 4 and Floor Number 3”, but said that there was a police guard on that patient and that he would have to get permission off the police guard to see his friend.
“Thank you, Miss” said Ivanov as he turned quickly and headed for the lift thinking to himself that this was too easy. The lift doors were already open so he entered the empty lift and pressed 3. Within a minute he arrived at the third floor and the doors opened directly opposite Ward 4 but a police officer was standing guarding the door and was looking directly at him. Ivanov suddenly felt self-conscious and guilty and hoped that the police officer would not notice. He decided to turn left down the corridor and pretend to be visiting another patient and as he walked slowly along he spotted a door marked “Staff Only” so he blithely opened the door and entered. It was the staff lunchroom with a sink, a refrigerator, a small stove and about 10 chairs around a long table. Draped over one of the chairs was a white doctor’s coat and a stethoscope on the table in front. Ivanov quickly put the coat on and draped the stethoscope around his neck leaving the white tulips in their place.
He went back into the corridor and as he walked past the emergency fire exit stairs he noticed a small glass panel on the wall which said “In case of fire, break glass and press red button”, so he did. The fire alarm immediately went off with an ear-piercing loud bell which caused a certain amount of panic as all the visitors and staff came running into the corridor looking for the way out with some of them falling over each other. The police officer tried to keep control and started to give directions to the fire exit and left his post. Ivanov walked quickly along past the mayhem and ducked into Ward 4 and went to Bed 2 which had a curtain around it. He pulled the curtain aside, went in and closed the curtain behind him. Smirnov was still unconscious with an intravenous tube connected to his arm, a bandage around his head and he was wearing an oxygen mask. Ivanov removed the oxygen mask, placed his hands around Smirnov’s neck, squeezed hard and held it there for more than three minutes until the breathing stopped, which seemed to take forever. After deciding that the deed had been done, and that Smirnov had shuffled off this mortal coil, Ivanov turned around, partly opened the curtain to see whether anyone was around, and then departed walking quickly down the corridor past the police officer who was still distracted by the confusion.
Still in a state of panic people were filing down the fire-stairs so Ivanov joined the queue and followed the mob. The old lady in front suddenly fell over and Ivanov who was being pushed from behind, fell over the woman and down the concrete stairs doing damage to his left kneecap and elbow. He picked himself up and, limping badly and holding his sore elbow, proceeded down the stairs and out into the street to the nearest tram-stop. After gingerly boarding a tram to Kensington, he sat on the hard timber seat in the toast-rack and inspected his now bleeding knee. He was suffering extreme pain but bit his lip and decided to tough it out. When the tram, travelling along Anzac Parade, arrived at a stop near Robertson Road, Centennial Park, he disembarked and slowly, with much pain, limped the 500 yards to the house and garages next to St.Vladimir’s Russian Orthodox Church. Letting himself into a side door he went into his bedroom and collapsed, groaning, onto the bed with blood now pouring out just below his left knee. He felt that he was going to pass out with the pain and loss of blood but he struggled and wrapped a singlet around the wound to stem the flow of blood and then fell into a deep sleep.
The next day the Sydney Morning Herald had the headlines “Murderer on the Loose” with an article about a murder which had taken place in Sydney Hospital the previous day even though the victim was supposedly under police guard. The full story described how a doctor’s gown and stethoscope had been stolen, the fire alarm had been set off, panic had taken place, people were injured in the mayhem, and an unusual large bunch of white tulips in black tissue paper had been found.
Chapter 28 Dark Shadows by Helen Grimmett
Detective Sgt John Collier, happily confident that Terry Bateman was safe, picked up his phone and rang the North Sydney Police Station. He asked if he could speak to the officer in charge of the Luna Park and Sydney Hospital incident, which was now part of the same investigation.
“Inspector Douglas Wilson speaking, how can I help you?” Collier introduced himself,
“Inspector, I’m wondering if you could spare me a few moments today to talk about the incident that took place yesterday at the Sydney hospital. I have some information that will be of interest to you. I’d rather not talk on the phone, can I call in on you this afternoon, say about 3pm?”
Inspector Wilson eagerly agreed to meet with Collier. The meeting went well. Collier explained the sensitivity of the situation and how he had been warned that he was to steer clear of any investigations that fell under the jurisdiction of ASIO and the Commonwealth Police. This revelation immediately grabbed Inspector Wilson’s keen interest. Collier was eager to learn if any prints were found on the abandoned stethoscope at the hospital. If prints were recovered that could be matched to those on the Thermos flask, they could link the murder to Sergey Ivanov. Collier then produced the Identikit picture of Ivanov.
“He’s a person of interest in another murder case. I suggest that you take this picture and show it to the staff at the hospital, someone may remember him, it’s hard to forget the distinctive scar that embellishes his ugly mug!” Wilson nodded in agreement.
“Leave it with me,” said Wilson, “I know how to circumnavigate the roadblocks of officialdom in cases like this.” Collier felt well pleased, and his sixth sense re-assured him that he would get to the bottom of the audacious act of thuggery committed in broad daylight at Sydney Hospital.
Sergey Ivanov woke up writhing in pain. He removed the blood-stained singlet from his leg. His knee looked gnarled and swollen and a mass of sticky congealed blood oozed out of his wound like redcurrant jelly. He could hardly bend his knee and it was obvious to him that he needed some medical attention. He sat quietly pondering his sorry situation and slowly devised a course of action. Uppermost in his mind was the fraught nature of his predicament. He knew he had to eradicate the “girl”, but he was hardly fit enough to do the job. He gingerly bathed his injury and tore up a bed sheet, carefully using the torn strips to tightly bandage his knee and leg. He managed to hobble to the housekeeper’s cupboard in the main hall of the house and furtively remove one the brooms. He wrapped a towel around the broom head and nestled it into his right armpit. This served as a makeshift crutch, and he was able to shuffle along a little less painfully.
Sergey Ivanov was not the real name of this Russian thug who had eliminated his incompetent associate. He had several aliases. Today he was going to use the alias “Zlatko Yanevski”, a fictitious Bulgarian national. He carefully applied spirit gum to his cheeks and chin and delicately applied some dark facial hair, endeavouring to match his appearance, as close as he could manage, to the photograph on the counterfeit Bulgarian passport he was intending to use. He now had a beard which completely covered the ugly scar on his face. He donned some dark glasses and a broad brimmed hat, and his disguise was complete.
Father Ivan Zykov always arrived at the church next door early in the morning. He had a reputation for helping some of the murkier characters in the local community, but the police always appeared to turn a blind eye. It was not unusual for several bottles of the best Russian Vodka to mysteriously appear in the back of the local squad cars. Sergey dressed himself, packed some clothes in a small bag and, careful not to stray from the cover of morning shadows, lumbered into the church. Zykov was alone. As soon as Zykov saw the bearded shuffling invalid he walked hastily towards him. An animated dialogue took place between them and Zykov left the church to make a phone call.
“I am taking you to a small private hospital in Woollahra”, said Zykov when he returned. “No questions will be asked. You will need to lie low for a while. I have fixed everything.” Sergey Invanov was helped into the back seat of Zykov’s shiny black Holden FX sedan, and they headed off to Woollahra.
Katie Fitzgerald was interviewed by the North Sydney police about the Luna Park incident, but she had played dumb about the reasons for her attack, explaining that the coat she was wearing was borrowed from a friend. By changing places with Terry, she had, effectively, duped the Russians but it reinforced to her just how much Terry was their intended target. Katie and Terry had stirred up some silt in the dirty pond of espionage and had no intention of confessing this information to the police.
Katie’s close call at Luna Park was related in depth to Terry Bateman and then to her own brother Peter Fitzgerald, who was still in Woomera.
“I’m coming to Sydney for a few days,” said Peter when Katie telephoned him. “My state of mind is extremely unsettled; nobody here gives a damn about the rights and welfare of the local indigenous population. I need to take a break from the agitation of it all, but more than that, I want to know more about what you and Terry have been up to.” Katie was able to convince Terry to move in with her at Paddington for a few days so that when Peter arrived, they would have an opportunity to discuss the recent events, near and far, that had cast dark shadows over each of their lives.
Chapter 29 ASIO pounces; One Tree exploded by David Ross
Tom Shepherdson, ASIO agent, was at Sydney Hospital to interrogate Smirnov, because when Claudette confessed, she gave up Smirnov and Ivanov with photo images from her secret files. Tom had located Smirnov and followed him to Luna Park. In the debacle which occurred, he chose to keep a low profile and followed Smirnov’s ambulance to Sydney Hospital. He grinned at the thought of his earlier occupation as a solicitor, now being an ambulance chaser.
On his way to Smirnov’s room, Tom recognised Ivanov in a Doctor’s coat rush out of Smirnov’s unguarded room, dropping his stethoscope and clipboard in his rush. Tom immediately checked Smirnov’s pulse and found he was dead. “One down, one to go” Tom mused as he set off in pursuit of Ivanov, caught up with him when Ivanov fell down the stairs, but decided to follow him for further intelligence about Ivanov’s leaders.
Tom followed him discreetly on the tram to the house on Robertson Road, called for back-up and a warrant to enter the premises and arrest Ivanov, neither of which could be obtained until the morning. Regulations required at least 2 agents to make a difficult arrest. He had a 1955 FJ Holden brought out by a mechanic from the ASIO garage so he could wait in it overnight.
At 6 am he was joined by Agent Sam Lang as he kept the house under observation after a sleepless night. “Rip van Winkle ready for duty Sam” grimaced Tom. “You always pick the luxury jobs” smirked Sam. At 6.30, a bearded man in dark clothing, sunglasses and a broadbrimmed hat emerged from the house and hobbled to the Russian Orthodox Church next door. Tom muttered to Sam “Gawd, he looks like Bluebeard. It’s got to be Ivanov from the shuffle and makeshift crutch he’s using. He’s going into the Church? That’s an interesting first for him I bet. Ivanov is desperate, not religious. We’ve had Father Zykov under observation for some time on suspicion he is a go-between for Russian spies.”
Soon a priest in Orthodox vestments hurried out of the Church. “Blimey. But for the robes, he looks like Jacques Tati in Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday!” Zykof went to a nearby public phone, emerged minutes later and returned to the Church. The priest and the quarry soon left the Church and drove off in a small car.
The ASIO men followed them at a distance to Wolper Jewish Hospital in Woollahra. The agents followed and apprehended both men at the Reception desk. Shepherdson said “You are under arrest Sergey Ivanov for the murder of Igor Smirnov. You will be taken to a prison hospital under guard. You will be interrogated and further charges will follow. You’ll get a better deal here in Australia than you would back in the USSR.”
Ivanov began to shake uncontrollably. “Hah! Zey vill kill me here if zey can. Zose were the orduz for Smirnov’s failure.”
“You, Father Ivan Zykov, are under arrest for harbouring Sergey Ivanov, a spy for a foreign nation and a murderer on the run. Further charges may follow after investigations.”
The two arrested men were placed in the Holden, hooded and handcuffed, to ASIO HQ where Ivanov, terrified of the chain-smoker’s death threat for failure, confessed all he knew to be kept “safe” in gaol. Told he would get 20 years prison at least, hoping for credit on sentence, he also gave chapter and verse of how he and Smirnov had murdered Don Anderson. He was told Anderson had stumbled on their Rous River weapons and training camp, a remote and unpredictable location where spies were “conditioned” to Australian dialect, use of arms, knowledge of geography and the purposes of Russian espionage. Terry was targeted because of her association with Anderson, in case she had learned from him of his discovery.
Detective Sgt John Collier learned of the arrest of Ivanov and confessed murder of Don Anderson. Collier called Terry to tell her the news, remarking “It does not mean the threat to you is over. ASIO is keeping it all under wraps until they capture the rest of the spy cohort. Ivanov has not given them up yet. Some other goon may take Ivanov’s place. Maybe even that Colin Davenport if he is mixed up in it.”
Peter Fitzgerald had returned to Woomera because the explosion of Red Beard code named One Tree was finally due on 27 September 1956 after 2 postponements. He needed to ensure all native tribes, particularly the Anangu Pitjantjatjara people, were well clear of the radiation fallout. Earlier test explosions had led to incidents of radiation exposure. One family was found camping next to a crater left by a test detonation He had only one native patrol officer, Walter MacDougall, required to cover 100s of 1,000s of square kilometres by car.
Peter’s pleas for additional patrol officers were met with a Department of Supply response, “Your memorandum discloses a lamentable lack of balance in outlook, in that you are apparently placing the affairs of a handful of natives above those of the British Commonwealth of Nations”
Scientists, officials and military personnel from UK, USA, Canada and Australia stood on the observation tower to observe the detonation. Because Australian politicians had not had enough notice, there were vacancies on the observation ramp allowing Peter a place on it. At 10 seconds before explosion, the observers were told to turn away and shield their eyes, Seconds after the explosion, Peter turned to see a massive mushroom cloud, rising over 37,000 feet with a sound like distant deafening thunder. A secondary cloud rose to 23,000 feet. Peter silently prayed there were no wandering aborigines in the radiation exposure zone.
Chapter 30 One Slip of the Tongue by Ross Hayes
The crows were murderous that day. Their long languorous “aaark” had been replaced by something more urgent and there were so many of them surrounding the pimple of a rock protruding from the worn, flat countryside – a lasting memory of a past geological history which surpassed even that of the indigenous population.
Old as it was, the local aborigines knew, from time immemorial, the significance of this protrusion with its proliferation of trees – different trees - not like the surrounding mulga - more tree-like. Even the grass was different – it was more prolific and covered the ground evenly – except for the very top which was exposed to the elements. Here was a large boulder with its dome sticking out like Friar Tuck’s head. On that dome were two parallel ruts, a metre apart, leading up one side of the boulder to the very top.
It was said that these ruts were caused by the heels of the dead bodies being dragged up the boulder and then to the after-world.
It was also said that the signposting of imminent death was the sound of the crow – the urgent sound of the crow.
So, it was clear to Bobby Brown, even though he was just a small boy, that death was in the air that day and he just felt in his bones that the loud bang had something to do with it.
Detective Sgt John Collier looked once again at his suspects board: the photos; the names; the links and cross-links; and the evidence notes pinned at various points. Now, most of the photos had red texta crosses on them – meaning they were dead or no longer of interest.
As he sipped his fourth Golden Roast of the day – thick and sticky with two spoons of coffee and six spoons of sugar – heaped spoons, he drew on a Craven A allowing the smoke to infiltrate his lungs before he exhaled minus the detritus. Another sip, another draw, another exhale and his eyes narrowed on the photo of Colin Davenport. With a movement of excitement, he reached for his notebook.
“What was that word Terry had said that Colin Davenport uttered when he’d lost his money on a certainty at Randwick?” Detective Sgt John Collier said to himself. He remembered jotting it down in his notebook.
“Ah, here it is, ‘Guvner’.”
He’d sent the two girls to Randwick knowing that they’d meet up with Colin and knowing that those with something to hide would reveal it at moments of stress.
“Why didn’t I follow this up earlier?” he said castigating himself.
“If we think he’s a Russian undercover, perhaps this is the revelation”, he mused.
Stubbing out his cigarette and taking another sip of coffee, he reached for the phone and dialled the number of his friend, Viktor – a White Russian who had come to Australia after escaping Russia through Harbin in Northern China, then Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Viktor was a builder; he’d had a very hard life and was relishing his new-found freedom in Sydney. But old habits die hard, and Viktor still subscribed to the restorative powers of vodka – unfortunately, he would often over-subscribe.
Collier had learnt from Viktor that many of his White Russian compatriots had been victimised by ASIO when they imported their favourite vodka from Russia. To get the goons off their backs they all turned to a local vodka made by the Curtis Family. They had bought the business in 1953 which was marketed under the Peter Smirnoff brand in Sydney. It duplicated the Russian recipe, using filtered grain spirit, compounded with sugar and fruits such as cherry and apple. Eventually, Viktor and his compatriots had convinced themselves that this was good vodka but in the back of their minds they knew that they were really fooling themselves.
Viktor was on his fourth restorative when Collier rang. After explaining what he wanted, Viktor said: “Of course, what is the word my friend?” Collier put on his best impression of a Russian and said “Guvner” to which Viktor laughed heartily.
“What you just said was “shit” – excrement or faeces to be more specific. As in English, it’s an exclamation of disappointment. You spell it G, A, V, N, O or in Cyrillic…..”. Collier cut him short, he’d heard enough. “One slip of the tongue is all it takes - I’m going after him” he resolved as he thanked Viktor and put down the phone.
Chapter 31 The Invisible Man by Susan Kontic
Detective Sgt John Collier was well aware of the importance of nailing this case. He’d never come close to an investigation this big in Maitland, and a bloke from the bush had to show the city-slickers he knew what he was doing. He knew he was good, he had the knack and now he was working it, the case was everything for him.
He had plenty to worry about at the moment, but he was relieved to know that the safety of Terry and Katie wasn’t on the list. When Peter Fitzgerald returned to Woomera Terry stayed on in Katie’s flat and the police had arranged for a uniformed policewoman to be stationed in the entry foyer. Katie and Terry had been cautioned about compromising their safety and had reluctantly agreed not to leave the building unless it was urgent, and only then with the officer accompanying them.
For two full days, thoughts of Colin Davenport had occupied what seemed like the detective’s every waking minute. He’d gone over every report that related even marginally to Davenport and his associates. He’d co-opted a sergeant to do the leg-work and door-knocking, and he had two constables checking the man’s background back to the day of his birth – and good luck with that, lads. He was still waiting to hear from Botany Cemetery about the gravestone, and he’d send the sergeant over there tomorrow if the information didn’t arrive in the morning’s post. Even Collier’s sleep had been burdened by fuzzy dreams of a racehorse named Hercule, blurred photos and shadowy lanes against a rhythmic cer-lack, cer-lack soundtrack.
A look at his watch told him it was almost 3pm. His ashtray overflowed with cigarette butts and the empty coffee jar had been consigned to the bin hours ago. Two foolscap folders showed the workings of his mind: conjecture after conjecture scribbled on pages, crossed out, altered, asterisked in various colours, circled and joined by arrows. It was a process few of his colleagues ever understood but at which he excelled and, though he’d never have let on, it owed a lot to Agatha Christie’s great detective Hercule Poirot.
At ten past three, with a desperate need for fresh air, he stood and stretched then pulled on his jacket. No-one ever expected police to call in for a chat this late in the day, so a surprise visit to Mr Davenport might be in order. A low-key, friendly conversation to get the measure of the man without giving anything away but let him know they were taking an interest in him.
There were few people in the lobby when Collier arrived so he took his time looking it over. He found it rather cold and intimidating but imagined it would be different with the buzz of people coming and going in the mornings and afternoons. Walking a little way along the hall, he noticed a man seated on a stool and realised he didn’t have the place to himself after all. He knew right away who it was and walked over to introduce himself.
“Mr Haroldson?” he asked.
“Indeed it is, Detective Collier,” was the response.
“You know who I am?”
“It’s my business to know who everyone is, but I’m a little surprised to see you here.”
“I thought I was alone,” replied Collier. “You’re like the invisible man, you know.”
“Oh no, most people know I’m here,” replied Haroldson. “But if we’re talking about invisible men, that fellow heading towards the door would fit the bill.”
Collier hadn’t noticed the man although he must have crossed the hall just a few yards away. “A public servant nipping off a bit early eh?” he joked.
“Mr Colin Davenport. Always coming and going.”
With a quick “thank you” to Haroldson, Collier hurried to the door, damning his bad luck when there was no sign of his quarry on the street. With no doorways on the street, no shops he could have popped into, the fellow seemed to have simply disappeared, unless of course there’d been a car waiting.
Not for the first time, Collier wondered if there might be someone at the station who was passing on information. It was a matter of protocol that officers sign out each time they left, giving details of where they were going and who they were seeing so it wouldn’t be hard for anyone to take a quick look. He might have to set a little trap and see what happened. His surprise visit hadn’t turned out as clever as he’d expected and, in fact, had not only wasted too much time but had most likely also alerted his quarry.
“Hang the expense,” he told himself as he hailed a passing taxi to get back to the office as quickly as possible. He was relishing the thought of a mug of sweet, strong coffee and a quiet smoke while he planned his next move, until he remembered there was no coffee.
As he quickly signed in, the duty officer beckoned him over. “You’ve got a Senator Bateman waiting in your office, detective,” he said with a hammed-up wink.
Collier’s heart sank, that’s all he needed. “How long has he been there, sergeant?” he tried to sound cheerful.
“Only a few minutes. Constable Penny nicked up and emptied your ashtray before we let him in.”
Bateman had made himself at home, sitting cross-legged in Collier’s chair leafing through an out-of-date sports magazine.
“Ah, Collier, about time. I’m on a flying visit to Sydney and went to visit my daughter this afternoon but there was no sign of her. Do you know where she might be?”
The detective started to explain that Terry was staying with Katie and that they had a policewoman watching over them, but Bateman broke in impatiently, waving his hand and saying he knew all that and it was Katie’s flat he’d called at but there was no-one there, and no policewoman either. “So where the hell are they?” he demanded.
John Collier took a deep breath, this wasn’t making sense at all. But before he could reply, a young constable popped his head around the door.
“’Scuse me sir, but the sarge said it was important. Wanted you to know there’s a fire been called in at a building your team’s been watching – 113 Doncaster Avenue.”