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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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?”
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!!”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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”.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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?”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
The fire had completely destroyed the building and contents of 113 Doncaster Avenue and Detective Sergeant Collier and Senator Bateman stood on the road and looked at the smouldering debris. Collier shook his head as he realised that there was no surviving evidence of illegal activity even though the twisted, buckled and melted remains of the printing presses were still visible. Without saying a word Bateman solemnly looked at Collier as they both climbed back into the police car and drove off in the direction of Paddington.
When they arrived outside Katie’s small terrace house Collier parked the car and they both walked to the front door and knocked loudly. The door was opened by a policewoman followed by Terry who said “Dad. What a surprise. What are you doing here?”
Tears of joy and relief rolled down Bateman’s cheeks as he rushed to hug his daughter. “We thought we had lost you. Where have you been?” he blurted out.
Terry hugged her father and still somewhat bewildered replied “We ran out of food so we went shopping with Constable Perkins at our side. Sorry if we frightened you but we did not know that you were coming to visit otherwise we would have been home to greet you.”
At that point Katie poked her head around the doorway and saw John Collier and her heart skipped a beat. “Please come in and we will make you a cup of tea” Katie said with a big welcoming smile aimed directly at John.
As they all sat around the small circular table in the middle of the tiny living/dining room they all laughed and joked with great glee. Tea was served by Katie who could not help noticing that John was looking at her with love in his eyes. The feeling was mutual and Katie was looking forward to talking with him when they could be alone. Katie thought that he was so good looking, strong, tall, and charming and she wanted to get to know him better.
Collier was still on duty and had to get back to work and urgently find the elusive Davenport so he politely excused himself and departed leaving Bateman to spend some time with his daughter.
Meanwhile, in her Glebe safe-house, Claudette was sitting by herself mulling over what might have been. She knew that she had probably blown it with Peter Fitzgerald in Woomera but she kept on having dreams that Peter would understand and forgive her for her indiscretions and that they may get together sometime in the future. She had been blackmailed by the Russians and had no choice but to follow their orders. Is that forgivable or not? She had given ASIO valuable information about Russian infiltration but there was one name that she had not passed on because she was not completely sure. She had written a letter to Peter a week ago saying that if he came to Sydney she would love to see him and that there was some information that she would like to give him, and only him because of the delicacy of the matter.
As it turned out Peter was indeed due to attend a high-level security meeting in Sydney the following week and replied saying that he would be staying at the Hotel Australia in Castlereagh Street and could meet her there on the following Monday. He was curious as to what Claudette’s information could be and he still had a lingering feeling of regret that things had not gone well in Woomera. He had never met a woman like Claudette who was attractive, mysterious, possibly dangerous, but who made him tingle every time he thought of her.
The Monday came around quickly and Claudette put on her best dress and shoes and caught the tram from Glebe Point Road to Wynyard. She enjoyed the tram ride and hoped that trams would never stop running in Sydney. As she walked up Martin Place to Castlereagh Street to the Hotel Australia her heart started to pound with excitement. She arrived at the huge shiny bronze and glass front doors which were immediately opened by two neatly uniformed doormen who ushered her in to the impressive foyer. She enquired at the Reception Desk whether there were any messages for her and the receptionist looked in the pigeon hole filing system, found an envelope addressed to her and handed it over. The message simply said “Room 312”, so she went to the lifts and caught a lift to the third floor. She walked quickly along the corridor and when she found Room 312 she felt a combination of nervousness and excitement. She knocked gently on the door which opened almost immediately and there was Peter. Spontaneously they hugged and Claudette knew with great relief that she had been forgiven and she started to cry. The tears poured down her crimson cheeks wetting Peter’s white shirt and he was visibly affected with conflicted emotion but enjoyed the feeling of her shapely body pressed firmly against his.
Katie Fitzgerald, it could be said, of late, had not been concentrating on her studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Madame Guinot, her tutor, was concerned because Katie had the makings of an excellent musician. Madame determined to speak to Katie and asked her to come to her private study. This apparently well-intentioned interrogation by her tutor slightly unsettled Katie; and although she did admit to Madam Guinot that she had other issues on her mind, she did not elaborate on what those issues were.
“My dear Katie, you are without doubt the best student I have had in many years, it would be disappointing if you were to lose your focus at this stage of your studies. Take a few days off, then come back fresh and enthusiastic. I believe you have what it takes to succeed; and I have you in mind for a piano solo at the end of term concert. Do you like Grieg? The concert theme will be “Love told through Music’, and I thought you could play Grieg’s “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen”. It is a difficult piece but if you start working on it now, I think you could do it. Katie was taken aback, “Thank you Madame Guinot for being so understanding; yes, I will take a short break and return to you refreshed and eager.” Madame smiled warmly, “Perhaps you have fallen in love? I hope so, now you will know how to play from the heart.” Katie blushed and left the room.
Madame Juliet Guinot was a forty-something Parisian widow, a fine figure of a woman with a distinctly French flavour to her manners and her sense of fashion. Katie had always felt that there was an air of mystery about Madame Guinot. “Was Madame fishing for information?”, Katie thought to herself as she walked to the bus stop. Katie did not know it, but she had been “duped” by Madame Guinot, who was working on her own agenda. Madame had tempted Katie with the suggestion that she might be able to play Grieg’s “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen” at the end of year concert. Madame knew that Katie would take the bait and accept the challenge. The dedication and hard work that Katie would have to muster to play such a piece would surely prevent her from meddling in things she did not understand. Madame liked Katie but was fearful that her star student was getting herself into a situation that she did not really understand; a situation that could possibly compromise Madame’s own importance and safety in the tangled web of conspiracy being woven by the Russian bomb watchers.
For John Collier the trail leading to Colin Davenport had grown a little cold. “He is a slippery eel!”, thought Collier to himself. “The same thing goes for that leaping toad Kurakin. I would really love to nail him too. As he stubbed out his last “Craven A” cigarette, his thoughts turned to Katie. “Such a sweet smile, an angel face, and look at me, drugged up with caffeine and nicotine trying to win a trick in a dirty war of secrets, lies and ruthless thugs. What on earth could entice such a pretty young woman to be interested in the likes of me?”
As Katie caught the bus back to Paddington her mind was in a happy but nervous state of confusion. “Me, chosen to play Grieg at the concert. Goodness!” Her heart was thumping. As she arrived home and turned the key in her front door, she heard the phone ringing. It was John Collier, he wanted to meet her at “Pinocchio’s Posto”, the new wine bar in Paddington, just a short distance from her house. Katie agreed to meet him and made haste to change into some fresh clothes. Her mind began to wander yet again. “John Collier is handsome, but six sugars in every cup of coffee that he drinks have caused him to develop a little bit of a belly paunch. He is very fond of his “smokes” too. It’s not as if he’s the sort of man I would normally be attracted to; for one thing he is a few years older than me. However, there is something in his countenance, his manners, and his general disposition that I really like. It could be rather fun getting to know him better. Funny thing though, I thought he was keen on Terry!”
At 5pm Collier arrived at the wine bar and ushered Katie to a table at the rear of the premises overlooking a small, terraced garden. There were candles on the tables, soft music playing in the background and the level of lighting created a pleasant and intimate setting. Collier ordered a bottle of Valpolicella Classico impressing Katie with his panache in ordering from the lista dei vini in this Italianate backdrop. Katie was eager to open the conversation by telling her companion about her tête-à-tête with Madame Guinot. Collier listened intently, mesmerised by the candlelight reflected in her beautiful eyes. Katie suddenly averted her gaze away from Collier as she saw a familiar figure walking towards their table. Katie quickly ducked under the table out of sight, pretending to retrieve her handkerchief. After a few seconds Katie re-appeared and drew Collier closer to her. “John, no mistaking it, that was Madame Guinot from the Conservatorium, and the man with her, wearing the black hat and dark glasses, is Alexei Kurakin. Isn’t he one of the men you are looking for?”
Madame Guinot and Alexai Kurakin, deep in conversation, made their way past Katie and John on the other side of the restaurant entering a room at the rear of Pinocchio’s Posto. The door closed behind them.
Katie emerged from below the table and searched John’s eyes for guidance. “We must go now before I am recognised with you.” he commanded. Would you like me to take you to the flicks? I’ve been told there is a great Swedish film at an arthouse cinema in Bligh Street called “One Summer of Happiness”. We could use a bit of happiness with all the drama going on.
“Oooh yes” Katie warmly agreed and they quickly paid the bill and caught a taxi to the Theatre. Arriving at 7.00 pm, they bought tickets, for the 8 pm session “Let’s go over to the Wentworth Hotel, as we missed dinner at Pinocchio’s.
After ordering main courses, Katie spoke animatedly about her music studies, the pieces she loved to play, the feelings they aroused. Her broad smile, her flashing eyes, dimpled cheeks and merry laughter had John mesmerised. She spoke of Peter and her family and her years growing up in Brisbane before she moved to Sydney to enter the Con’. During the meal she asked “You have been very quiet. Is there something on your mind?”
John caught her gaze, paused and took a deep breath, “Truth to tell Katie, I have been absorbed in your loveliness, your bright conversation, your animated personality, thinking how is it that I could be so lucky to be in such heavenly company. Since my wife left me 10 years ago for another man, and I divorced her for adultery, I have had little social contact with women. I have no kids or close family. You bring sunshine into my life and I am praying there are no clouds about to shut it off. I’m a 33 year old copper dedicated to the job. It has relieved some of the pain of being abandoned by the woman I loved and thought she loved me. You are 23. Am I not too old for you?”
Katie reached over and took his hand. “John, our age difference is unimportant to me. You are such a good, strong, brave and resolute man. I feel so safe with you. Keep me as your sunshine.”
John reached out and squeezed both Katie’s hands as dinner came to the table. He suppressed an urge to race to her side and embrace her in a bear hug. “Later” he thought.
After dinner, at the flicks, the film turned out to be erotic, almost pornographic by the standards of the day. The blonde, beautiful and voluptuous female lead and her boyfriend stripped naked and ran, boobs a’bobbin’, down the beach, plunging into the water and stood embracing passionately before making love on the sand. Only the sad death of the beauty put a dampener on it. John was afire. He desperately wanted Katie’s loving embrace. Outside the theatre, Katie gave him a smouldering look and said “Take me home and love me” John took her in his arms, gave her a bear hug and whispered “Your wish is my command”. They coupled all through the night.
In his Kings Cross office cubicle the next day, John Collier’s reverie about the joyful wonders of being in love, was interrupted by his ringing telephone. “Tom Shepherdson, John. ASIO. Can we meet and talk?”
In the same booth where Collier had some weeks ago taken Terry Bateman for a quiet meeting, he sat with Shepherdson and ordered a double malt vanilla milk shake. “A milk shake?” asked Shepherdson scornfully. “Anything harder?”
“Not here; not on duty, speaking of which, what brings you”.
Shepherdson began “My Director knows you have been engaging in this business involving the murder of Don Anderson and threats on the life of Terry Bateman and Katie Fitzgerald, despite that your Commander forbad you to do so. I’m not here to penalise you. The Director is impressed with your persistence and tenacity, which gave us good leads to the Russian perpetrators. With other confessions we squeezed out, we have disrupted a slab of the Russian spy ring. There are more. We believe their MO is not in the shadows. They are hiding in plain sight. Davenport is one. You are already up to speed on a lot of it. The Director wants to second you to ASIO to work with me. You will rank equal with me. My pay scale is 200 pounds a week more than a NSW detective sergeant’s. You will retain your seniority in NSW and the experience will most likely mark you for promotion to Detective Inspector in NSW, unless you want to stay in ASIO. What do you say?”
“Give me 24 hours. I need to discuss it with an important person in my life. But I can tell you now, I know of two people whom I believe are Russian spies hiding in plain sight”. He then related what he knew of Madame Guinot and Alexai Kurakin, which Shepherdson gladly noted, saying “We had Kurakin under observation, but did not know about Madame.
That night with Katie, John talked it over. In the end, Katie concluded “John, I can see you want this ASIO job for us. Whatever you decide is right for me. I can’t think of a better man to protect the interests of our country. The job has dangers as does your present job, but you are built for it. Just take good care that you keep coming back for your sunshine.”
Detective Sergeant John Collier skipped off the tram and walked confidently towards the ASIO office in the Sydney CBD. He flashed his Police ID at Reception and the young lady said “Ah yes, the Director is expecting you” and she pressed a button allowing Collier’s access. “Turn left and then it’s the first office on the right.”
The Director, James Jones, rose from his chair when he heard Collier’s knock and walked towards the door and warmly shook his hand. “Welcome aboard John” he said as he gestured towards the visitor’s seat.
James picked up a foolscap folder, opened it, and took out a sheet.
“As Shepherdson has indicated, we’re very pleased with your work on rooting out this Russian spy cell. By operating under our auspices, you’ll have much more freedom in your M.O.
Now, for your first assignment, I want you head down to Melbourne and track the movements of this young fellow, Phillip Adams”, said Jones as he pushed a picture across the desk. “He works in advertising but has recently joined the Communist Party. Here’s your train ticket, your train leaves Central at 6-50 pm.”
John Collier looked at the picture almost in disbelief.
“Hang on,” said Collier a bit flummoxed by this petty assignment which would take him away from Katie, “you mean to say you had me recruited from my role as a Detective Sergeant of the NSW Police to tail some pimple-faced teenager in Melbourne?”
Jones looked up over his glasses at Collier weighing up the response. Rather than being insistent, he pulled the picture back towards him. “Okay,” he said, “if Melbourne is not to your liking, have a go at this one” as pushed another picture across the desk. “We need to find some dirt on him – he lives in Oatley – here’s a full dossier on him.”
Collier expressed his appreciation without saying anything about his relationship with Katie but, of course, Jones knew everything – well almost everything.
“See the Receptionist on your way out and she will organise your unmarked ASIO car,” said Jones as he rose from his seat and wished Collier well on his first assignment.
Collier drove down the Princes Highway and turned off at Forest Road heading for Oatley. He stopped off at the Hurstville Milk Bar and over his favourite double malt vanilla milk-shake, he read the dossier from front to back. “So, he’s a church-goer and he often attends a regular afternoon meeting” Collier mused to himself. He looked at his watch and came to the conclusion that if he hopped to it, he’d be able to see the target as he leaves his meeting.
Parking his car in Rosa Street, Collier walked slowly towards Frederick Street and as he heard voices of people leaving the church, he ducked into the bushes near the church entrance.
“I made a deal with him” a man told two ladies conspiratorially as they stood near the bushes outside the church. Collier looked carefully at the man speaking – “Yes, that’s him” he said to himself. The two ladies leaned forward with their ears almost quivering. “The deal was, go into the seminary and I will say nothing – that’s what I told my son.”
They turned to look at each other and both simultaneously mouthed a mortified: “No”.
“What else could I do?” he asked in response to their exchanged glance. “What can a father do when confronted by his son’s latest indiscretion?”
“Well, you could…..” said one of the ladies, but the man would have none of her answer to his rhetorical question.
“You can’t just stand by and let things happen – there comes a time when a man has to intervene” he announced.
Collier thought “Bingo, the boss wanted dirt and here it comes.”
The ladies again looked at each other with the very same thought in the back of their heads: a husband caring enough to actually make a positive contribution to their children’s upbringing. – weird! This was the 1950s after all – Australia had moved on from the Recession when men were moping around the home with no job to go to and an itch to feel useful. That itch was occasionally scratched as idle husbands threw a suggestion or two about the children. More often than not, the scratching didn’t assuage the itch – it just caused a sobbing, throbbing flow of blood and a stare from the wife which quite emphatically said “keep out of my kitchen – child rearing is my domain and you will be best served by keeping out of it.”
In the 1950s both sexes knew their place and dared not tread where angels feared. So, for the two ladies to hear that a man had dared cross the line was outrageous.
The man continued: “It was the right decision in my mind – he needed to be locked up somewhere – a young Sydney lad wanting to play aerial ping-pong……disgusting!”
John Collier was bewildered and bemused. He’d heard enough and he wanted to be on his way as far from Oatley as possible. The vicar had assembled a group of youngsters nearby for a photograph and just as Collier parted the bushes to make his getaway, the flash went off and he was lit up like a startled rabbit in the glare of headlights staring round-eyed at the two women in conversation with the father of the libidinous youth standing in speechless amazement. Collier took to his heels under an onslaught of umbrellas and handbags, and as he turned the corner to reach his car he could still hear the shouts of “pervert, peeping tom” and the shorter lady’s wistful lament that “things like this never happen in Oatley”.
Safely in his car with the motor running, Collier checked for injuries and noted his right eye was starting to swell. “That will be a shiner tomorrow,” he thought. “Crikey, what am I doing here? Is this really what ASIO is all about? Oh, lord, how do I write up this report?”
Heading back to the city, he stopped at the Penshurst Hotel for a strong nervine – a milkshake wouldn’t do the trick this time. He still couldn’t make sense of his first assignment and could only shake his head and assume it was a joke played on the new boy. He’d write up his report completely straight, but one more trick like that and he’d be out of ASIO faster than he was in. He was feeling better with every mile he put between him and Oatley.
Peter Fitzgerald was still in Sydney after attending a high-level security meeting the week before and he was keen to catch up with as many colleagues as possible before returning to South Australia.
He was still mulling over the information Claudette had passed on to him, and although he was convinced she was sincere in believing it had all been authentic, a few things had niggled and he wanted to keep it close to his chest until he could verify it. He also hoped to see Claudette socially while he was in Sydney, but he’d take that slowly too.
With the boss in town, it seemed a perfect time for Colin Davenport to take some annual leave and after a comprehensive briefing he advised Peter that he was off to Queensland for a week.
Colin had become a little over-sure of himself, expecting that money would always be supplied to pay his gambling debts. But even as he was planning his holiday to the various racecourses around Brisbane, his benefactors had decided he’d become a liability and were considering ways to end their association with him. The fire and the destruction of the printing press, made the situation more critical.
On the afternoon of his briefing with Peter, Colin tidied his desk, had a chat with Mrs Benson and left her with a long list of things for the secretarial staff to do while he was away. At 4.30pm on the dot he closed his door and walked downstairs to join the other guilty-looking staff sneaking away early. On his way out, he glanced across and saw Harold Haroldson in his usual spot, watching the comings and goings, making notes in his little book. He pursed his lips in disapproval ignoring Haroldson’s wink and slight dip of the head.
Davenport knew the three or four places around town where he’d probably find Kurakin or Madame Guinot, and he’d need to find them to be sure he’d have enough cash for some big bets while he was away. He had not seen the two burly men in nondescript suits who fell into step behind him, but Haroldson had noted their arrival around 3pm. “Well, well, well, what’s all this about?” he wondered as he scribbled the details in his notebook and followed along behind.
The ‘heavies’, as Harold rightly guessed them to be, had brazenly parked their grey FE Holden close to the main entrance in a space reserved for visiting MPs. The driver turned on the motor and slowly proceeded up the road, keeping an eye on Davenport as he made his way to the staff car park. He smiled with satisfaction as his quarry unlocked the door of an Austin A40. There was no traffic behind, so the driver slowed the Holden to a standstill and waved the Austin in ahead then followed it first into Elizabeth Street, then into Market Street.
The Holden was now barely 12 inches behind the Austin with no intention of slowing, and an anxious Davenport had sped up, though with no hope of outrunning the Holden. A quick right into York Street, and both cars streaked down it at 40 miles an hour, other drivers furiously sounding their horns as they moved out of the way. As they approached King Street, Davenport waited till the very last second to swing left with traffic behind screeching to a halt and horns sounding angrily. Still the Holden followed as Davenport accelerated, then turned left into Sussex Street on two wheels, speeding back towards Market Street, hoping for a clear run across the Pyrmont Bridge and a hiding place among the warren of lanes around the wharves.
With the Holden still in hot pursuit, at times mounting the footpath and scattering pedestrians, Davenport blindly turned right onto the bridge approach then hit the accelerator. Too late he realised the split bridge was opening to allow the entrance of a ship. He hit the brakes, sending the Austin into a spin, then flying through the guardrail upside-down and bouncing along the wharf-front on its roof. By the time it came to rest, wheels still spinning, a crowd of onlookers had gathered but the Holden was nowhere to be seen.
James Jones peered over his glasses at the two sheepish men standing before him. They were both twice his size and could flatten him in an instant if they had a mind too, but they wouldn’t. Thugs they might be, but they were ASIO thugs through and through and they would do literally anything the organisation told them to do.
Just now they were accepting meekly a thorough dressing down from their boss.
“You were supposed to follow Davenport, not leave him for dead in a wrecked car on a wharf at Darling Harbour” Jones yelled.
“Now we’ll have a sensationalised story in the papers tomorrow and the local police poking their noses in. Not just any police, but the ruddy traffic division and you two idiots have no idea how difficult to deal with they are”.
“I may just let you two hand yourselves in to traffic division and fess up to driving Davenport off the road” fumed Jones.
Both men shifted uneasily from foot to foot and Jones let them suffer for fully two minutes in an uneasy silence before he continued.
In a less threatening tone that alarmed the two men more than when he had been dressing them down,
“Lucky for you two that I have suffered worse fools than you pair and there is one that you two are going to help me with. I want him following so many leads that he won’t know whether he is coming or going. I want him doubting whether he is Arthur or Martha by the time we finish with him.”
At that point he handed the men a photograph of John Collier.
“You may have caught a glimpse of him this morning in the office. He is one of us, but not one of our finest. He needs to be kept occupied on anything and everything and well away from important projects he could wreck”.
The two men looked totally confused. “Good” thought Jones. “Confusion is good. It leaves me a clear path to get on with what I need to do”. Jones dismissed the two men with their photograph of John Collier and a small dossier of ruses and red herrings to litter the path before John Collier. His parting words to them were “and don’t you dare force this one off Pyrmont Bridge or you won’t just be strung out to dry at traffic division, you will be posted to traffic division”.
Once the two men had gone, Jones crossed the floor of his office to the massive grey filing cabinet by the wall. Everyone in ASIO knew about Jones’ filing cabinet. It added to his legendary reputation in the organisation and was said to contain the most detailed information anywhere about Russian spies and their local associates operating in Australia and beyond. Only Jones had the codes and keys to open the filing cabinet. It was unorthodox but Jones had insisted on this exceptional security when he assumed his post. His political masters had not objected, they knew they had a master spy and he was their master spy.
Jones checked through the frosted glass separating his office from the corridor just to make sure nobody was lurking around outside. Once he was satisfied he was not being observed, he opened the filing cabinet. Four draws with at least 80 dividers in each. Within each divider detailed information on at least five individuals. Nearly 2,000 individual names and details in the filing cabinet and Jones would occasionally feed the myth circulating among his colleagues of the size of the contact base and their importance in the Russian spying hierarchy.
Only Jones knew that almost all the names in the filing cabinet were odd balls and misfits, real people and perpetually the subject of suspicious gossip in their various communities. Most of them had Russian links but that was as close as they got to being Russian spies or even associates of spies.
Every now and then Jones would set his hounds hunting a name or two from the filing cabinet. It kept ASIO busy and it kept the operatives perpetually guessing who were real Russian spies. It also diverted them from looking closer to home at the true double spy master in their midst.
Jones had just locked the cabinet when there was a knock on his office door. Collier entered and slapped down his hastily written report on his Oatley adventure. Collier was becoming less convinced about his decision to take up the ASIO posting and there was something not quite right about his new boss.
John Collier sensed that not only was James Jones gay, which was obvious from his theatrical dramatic gay mannerisms, but he was devious and highly suspect in other ways. What was Jones up to? Collier’s thoughts were interrupted by Jones who produced an impressive high-tech camera and exclaimed:
“Here is our latest spy camera with telephoto lens. You are to go to a smash repair workshop at 54 Skidmore Street, Marrickville and take surveillance photographs of a certain Russian panel-beater by the name of Boris Molotov. He has been importing car parts from Europe and we suspect that he is making assault weapons of some sort. We need evidence and photographs to prove our case, do you understand?”
Collier understood that he had been rudely dismissed so he nodded his head, spun around and walked quickly out of the overly large office and back to his modest desk in the corner of the general office aware that he was being scrutinised by this small Hitler-like figure.
With suspicions that he was being set-up for another fruitless investigation Collier thought that he may as well get on with the job. At least he could get an ASIO car and try out his new toy. He had never seen such a sophisticated camera before and was keen to give it a try. After signing the car requisition form he went down to the basement carpark and found his allotted vehicle – an old black FJ Holden. As he drove out onto the street he noticed that a newish grey FE Holden, driven by a burly chap with a similar burly passenger, was following him out. He drove through Newtown and then down the Princes Highway to Marrickville and was sure that he saw a glimpse of the grey Holden following from a distance. “Just what’s going on” he thought to himself. “Is this part of a set-up by that bastard Jones, and, if so, why?”
Arriving at 54 Skidmore Street, Marrickville, Collier parked the car on the other side of the street so he could use his telephoto camera to get a number of photos. Luckily the panel-beater was out the front of the small workshop giving a quote to a woman with a damaged side to her green Ford Prefect. As the panel-beater walked around inspecting the damaged car Collier was able to get many shots of the man with the workshop in the background. Then, taking the long lens off and replacing it with a short lens, he got out of his vehicle, put the camera under his coat and walked across the road and into the workshop while the panel-beater was attending to the quotation out the front. Inside there were two cars being worked on by two young men who looked like they were apprentices. Collier discretely took several photos of the interior of the workshop including a large envelope with a red cross on the front sitting on a workbench, but there did not appear to be any suspicious objects of interest. On the way out he said to the young men “What’s the name of the boss?” and the nearest one said “Boris Molotov. He’s out the front.” Collier then walked out the workshop and back across the road, noticing that the grey FE Holden was parked about half-a-block away. Collier got into his car and drove off, heading back to the office in the city. It was now late afternoon and the traffic was building up towards peak hour. It did not take long for the grey FE Holden to be caught up in the traffic and was no longer anywhere to be seen, left far behind.
Collier was almost back to the office and slowed to allow a shiny new dark blue FE Holden to exit the carpark when he recognised the driver to be non-other than James Jones. Instead of driving into the carpark, Collier started to follow the FE which turned into Elizabeth Street and then into Liverpool Street leading to Oxford Street. Keeping a discrete distance Collier’s heart was starting to pound with a strange feeling of excitement, fear, anticipation and curiosity. The slow peak-hour pursuit continued onwards to a familiar suburb and street and eventually a two-storey house at 27 Robertson Road, Centennial Park, two houses along from the Russian Orthodox Church. Jones drove his car into the driveway, got out and went to the front door. Collier parked his car, replaced the short lens of his camera with the long telephoto lens and started taking photos when the front door of the house opened and a tall, big man greeted Jones with a bear hug and kiss and they both went inside holding hands.
Detective Sgt John Collier collected his thoughts as he walked away from the house that his boss James Jones had just entered. The manner of Jones’ greeting to the occupant who appeared at the front door left no room, in his mind, for ambiguity. The two men appeared to be in a relationship; not that Collier gave a damn. He was not judgemental, but he was a little surprised. A prominent figure in ASIO, one such as Jones, must surely be aware of the risks; he could be a target for blackmail and threats, worse still, emotional manipulation by those who sought to conspire with the covert Russian network. Collier headed back to ASIO Headquarters, his mind on Jones and then on Katie.
Since the Luna Park incident Katie was preoccupied with the looming prospect of a challenging public performance at the Conservatorium.
“I have to knuckle down to some serious study”, she thought to herself. As Katie sat at her piano working through the finger drills from Charles-Louis Hannon’s famous volume ‘Hanon, The Virtuoso Pianist’, she recalled the words of Madame Guinot, “Teach your fingers to dance! Your fingers need to be supple; you must practice every day.” Katie gave a sigh, “Oh boy, I have such a long way to go with this!” Katie practiced for several hours and, on taking a break, she looked out of her lounge room window. It was a warm and pleasant day and Katie thought she would take herself off to Bondi Beach for a swim. She decided to telephone Terry to ask her to join her; Terry accepted at once and they arranged to meet in front of the pavilion.
Terry and Katie greeted each other warmly. Katie began to giggle,
“Guess what I brought with me Terry, something very daring.”
“Well Katie,” said Terry, “don’t keep me in suspense, it sounds intriguing and I’m just dying to know what you have in that beach bag of yours.”
“You’ll find out when we get to the beach”, exclaimed Katie. The ladies settled themselves in a quiet spot on the Bondi sands. Out of her beach bag Katie produced a colourful beach towel and a and red and white spotted bikini.
“What do you think of this Terry?”, asked Katie.
Terry broke into hysterical laughter. Katie looked puzzled, did Terry not approve of her new bikini? Terry then produced a bikini of her own, only hers was blue with white spots.
“Well,”, said Katie, “we really are so similar you and I, always keen to keep up with the latest fashion!” Before taking a swim, they decided to enjoy the sun on their bare skin wearing their new bikinis.
As they sat talking away a tall young man, blonde and tanned, walked past, giving them both an admiring glance. He walked on a few paces and then suddenly turned around.
“Hey Terry, haven’t seen you for ages.” Terry recognised him, it dawned on her, it was Shane, minus the long curly blonde locks he once had, his hair had been restyled and he looked rather handsome.
“Of course.” said Terry, giving him a warm hug, and then introducing him to Katie.
“When you ladies have enjoyed your swim would you like to join me for a couple of drinks at ‘The Shark’s Tooth’ at the far end of the beach?” The two ladies looked at each other and nodded in agreement, “Yes we’d love to join you.”
The ‘Shark’s Tooth’ was a low key ‘surfie’ style establishment; decorated with photos of surfing legends of bygone days. The ladies opted for a cool white wine and Shane sipped on a cold schooner of beer as he began to tell them of his plans to obtain a degree in “military science” and follow in the footsteps of his father.
“Dad’s pretty high ranking”, he said, “Major-General McBride, and he loves serving his country and wants me to have a similar career path, so I hope to graduate eventually from surfer to soldier.”
Shane was enjoying himself and admiring the two attractive ladies; he did not want the afternoon to end. He suggested that they go back to the terrace house he shared with Colin Davenport, where he would cook up his specialty dish ‘Spaghetti Anna Maria’, named after his late mother.
“Colin’s away on leave,” he said, “I love to cook, especially when I have such lovely company.”
If Colin Davenport was away on leave, there was no chance of Katie and Terry coming face to face with him, so they eagerly agreed. It was not the temptation of the Spaghetti Anna Maria drawing them to this invitation but the potential of an opportunity to “snoop” around the house, especially Colin Davenport’s own room. Terry had the advantage of knowing the layout of the house. Katie had learned a little about Colin from John Collier, but they were both unaware of the recent car chase involving the unfortunate Colin.
The meal was splendid, and the ladies thanked Shane, congratulating him on the excellence of his culinary skills. Katie suggested that Terry spend the night with her at Paddington and Terry agreed. On the way home Terry confessed to Katie that on the pretence of visiting the powder room she had snuck into Colin’s bedroom. Underneath a blanket in the wardrobe, she had uncovered a trunk, the sort that one takes on a sea voyage. The trunk was padlocked, no way of looking inside. However, Terry recalled that she had never returned her front door key to Colin when she left the terrace house to move to the student accommodation at the university. Katie’s eyes lit up.
“Now, that is something I have to tell John.”, she said.
Around 1.00 a.m. Shane heard a knock on the front door of the terrace house. He tentatively pulled the door open to find a bruised, battered, and bloodied Colin Davenport slumped on the front door mat. “Help me, Shane.”, and then Davenport passed out.
Peter Fitzgerald and Ernest Forbes strode purposefully out of the shed which served as terminal at the Woomera airstrip where a RAAF DC 3 had just landed. As they approached the “Dak”, RAAF groundsmen rolled the landing stairs up to its opened door and Tom Shepherdson and Sam Lang, ASIO Agents, began to disembark. At the foot of the stairs, Forbes laconically remarked “I’m Forbes. He’s Fitzgerald” Shepherdson responded in like manner, “Shepherdson. He’s Lang”
“Good” rejoined Forbes. “First let’s get you some lunch after your long trip from Canberra, then we go where we can talk privately about your mission here. We are ultra cautious here after recent bugging experiences”. They ate lunch at the civilian mess and returned to the Jeep. “To the ledge” ordered Forbes. Peter drove off towards the rock ledge where he and Forbes has previously held sensitive discussions.
Shepherdson opened the dialogue. “Lang and I have been seconded to the Ministry of Supply. PM Menzies in charge of ASIO, is alarmed at intelligence that the Russians have infiltrated ASIO at the highest levels, their primary purpose being to gather intelligence about the Anglo-Australian nuclear experiments. We are seconded to Supply to disguise our mission. We recently seconded NSW Detective Sergeant John Collier to ASIO because he had knowledge of that infiltration.
He is acquainted with Peter’s sister Katie and Senator Bateman’s daughter Terry. Terry and Katie were recently invited by Colin Davenport’s housemate Shane McBride to the Surry Hills terrace where your co-worker Davenport also lives. Terry did some spying of her own. She told Collier what she discovered in Davenport’s bedroom and gave him the front door key from the time of her former temporary residence.”
“While Davenport was in hospital with serious injuries suffered in a car smash, with McBride visiting him, Collier went in, picked the lock of the chest in the bedroom and found a trove of intelligence, some of which implicates James Jones, the Sydney director of ASIO. Collier had made photographs of the important papers and left them as he found them. Davenport was arrested, and placed under ASIO guard at the hospital. Under a warrant, the Surry Hills terrace was searched and the chest seized.”
“Jones is under surveillance. So is a probable ring-leader observed by Collier. The Davenport treasure chest includes a list of all foreign agents and copies of microfilm he had supplied to his masters, all carefully kept. He may have had in mind a bargaining chip in case his treachery was discovered. What concerns us now is that there are 3 persons of interest marked W/M, we assume Woomera/Maralinga, who are persons associated with the Anglo-Australian mission here. Two are with Smythe-Porter’s lot and one is ours, an Army corporal clerk. We will escort them for interrogation here, probable arrest and return with us to Canberra for criminal charges.”
“We thought we had extirpated the cell when Dubois confessed” muttered Forbes “but we are glad for the extra clearance. The Reds have been persistent.”
“Dubois – that reminds me Peter” Shepherdson interrupted, “she is still under observation in her safe house and your association with her is under notice. She has been a spy for a hostile country, whatever her excuses. She can still be prosecuted accordingly. To keep your status as a Commonwealth Public Servant with access to top secret information, you must cease to associate with her.
Forbes looked at Peter. “Do so. You are too good to throw away your career.” Looking at Shepherdson, “I will go with you to see the Brigadier to round up his traitors and you Peter will go with Lang to arrest our own.”
In Sydney, James Jones was nervous. Two of his better agents had been seconded to Canberra without so much as an “if you please” from the Department of Supply. Why? Also, he was unnerved by those two idiots, called T-Dum and T-Dee by their contemptuous office peers, who were bungling in a way he did not intend. He had a vague feeling he was under scrutiny, but could not identify by whom, how or why.
He picked up his phone and after a few moments, crooned “My darling. May we have a few moments together in half an hour’. He put down the phone put on his coat and left. Collier walked quickly to his own car parked in Goulburn Street, waiting for Jones to appear from the car park. At a safe distance, Collier followed him to Macquarie Street where Jones parked and crossed the road to the Conservatorium of Music. Collier parked 200 yards behind Jones and followed at a discreet distance. Passing the Con’s café, Collier saw Jones at a table in hushed anxious pleading conversation with the tall bear-hugging man from 27 Robertson Street whom Katie had identified at Pinocchio’s Posto as Alexei Kurakin, the Acting Director of the Conservatorium. Kurakin was chain smoking while consoling Jones with his arm over his shoulder, tenderly running his fingers through his hair. Collier returned to the office to report on his surveillance of Jones.
The next morning the Sydney Morning Herald had splashed on the front page:
“ASIO SYDNEY BOSS WASHED UP AT THE GAP.”
Sam Lang had heard all this many times over, and his eye roamed to the walls of this cave called The Ledge. All around him were the most remarkable paintings etched into the siliceous tapestry of time. The ghostly figures with the close-together black eyes and the auras around their heads were particularly spooky and began to freak him out. How was he going to sleep tonight?
“What do you reckon Sam?” said Shepherdson.
“I reckon at least a thousand years old,” said Lang, “and there are some amazing creatures depicted here.’
“No, no, you pea brain. Are you happy to work with Fitzgerald?” said Shepherdson with exasperation. He knew that Sam Lang was a bit of a whimsical character until the chips were down – then he became a cold-hearted killer – one to have on your side at all costs. That’s why he, Shepherdson, had been assigned with Lang – to keep his mind on the task. He wondered whether Fitzgerald was up to it.
Now that Katie was on more than speaking terms with the redoubtable John Collier, they had no real need to huddle in milk bars to exchange information and Katie needed very little incentive to get in touch with him. A phone call to his home and the suggestion of a night out at Romano’s Restaurant brought a ready acceptance from Collier – he didn’t even have to check his bank account – although he should have done so.
Collier picked Katie up from her place in grand style a 1948 Dodge taxicab but only after Bea Miles had been disgorged from the taxicab before Collier got in.
When the taxicab pulled up outside the new Prudential Insurance Building in Martin Place, next door to the Prince Edward Theatre in Castlereagh Street a discreet doorman ushered the couple to the basement below and the plush luxury of Romano’s replete with a welcome from the man himself, Mr. Romano with his slicked black hair, aquiline nose, pencil-thin moustache, and dressed in white tie and tails. He showed them to their table and suggested a bottle of Barossa Pearl to start the evening.
Being the man-about-town that he was, Collier knew that it was “infra dig” to sniff the cork – especially for Barossa Pearl because the stopper was plastic. However, he did know quite a bit about it: its light, delicate, and fruity flavour and its clean, lingering finish, but deferred from boring Katy with details such as the shape of the bottle being modelled on the Perrier sparkling water bottle or that the winemaker deliberately added Muscatel and Frontignan juice rather than sugar to promote the secondary fermentation – the process that produces the bubbles. In fact that’s where the wine’s extra fruitiness came from. Without knowing all this, Katy immediately showed her enjoyment of the wine as she bubbled over with enthusiasm to tell her story about the trunk and the fact that she had a key to Colin Davenport’s flat.
The story was interrupted discreetly by the waiter dressed in black pants and a white jacket.
“Have you had time to peruse the menu, Sir?” he enquired,
“Ah, no – perhaps five more minutes?”
They set aside the trunk story and studied the menus. Being conscious of the expense involved, Katie said in low tones: “My menu doesn’t have any prices”.
“Don’t worry my dear, mine does and let me tell you, you are worth every pretty penny.”
When the waiter returned, he suggested the specialty of the house – Steak Diane.
“Chef Clerici uses the very best steak cooked in butter, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and parsley – seasoned with salt and pepper.”
“Any vegetables?” enquired Katie.
“Of course Mademoiselle. String beans dipped in flour and deep fried in duck fat along with the finest French Fries.”
“We’ll have two of those please,” said Collier after exchanging glances with Katie.
“And how would you like your steaks, Sir?”
“A point” said Collier and the waiter nodded appreciatively.
When they were alone again Katie said: “Did you hear about the body at the Gap?”
Collier gave a barely perceptible nod – as though he didn’t want to take this matter much further, but Katie was gesturing to the waiter for a wine top up.
“What do you know? How the hell did they find the body – no one goes looking for anything at the bottom of the Gap. It must have been a tip-off,” said Katie excitedly.
Katie continued: “Such a high flyer and… what a way to go!”
Collier was a bit guarded – it was, after all, his boss they were talking about although Katie didn’t know this. As if he suddenly realised what a sordid business he was involved with he blurted out: “Well, at least it wasn’t the opened bottle of Cobalt 60 under the desk that was left for the scientist in Melbourne.”
Terry was in no particular hurry as she walked along Market Street heading for St James station. The weekly tutorial session at the city library in the Queen Victoria Building had finished and the group had gone their separate ways. She’d come to love ascidians, the little sea squirts that formed an evolutionary link between invertebrates and vertebrates. Professor Bennett was certain they were important in maintaining the ecology of the seashores and Terry was hoping to get some practical experience on Queensland seashores very soon. But for now, her research work on ascidians had moved out of the exciting stage and into a humdrum repetitive phase.
As she reached the David Jones store she slowed a little to take in the preview of new-season fashions displayed in the windows then straggled along to the corner of Elizabeth Street where she joined the knot of pedestrians waiting to scurry across to the station entrance. At the newsstand she paid two shillings for a copy of Movie Stars Parade magazine – quite expensive since it came from the USA. But Debbie Reynolds smiled out from the cover in full colour with a headline promising to reveal the secrets of her marriage to Eddie Fisher in the main article. Who could resist? Terry never gave it a thought; she’d welcome anything that brightened her mood.
In fact, Terry was feeling at a loose end and wasn’t sure what to do about it. When Katie had some spare time away from the Conservatorium she was either out with John or waiting around for him to call. Terry sighed. “I did rather fancy him myself, but it would never have worked. Well, good luck to her, I guess. I didn’t see it coming.” Another sigh, as she admitted to herself that it was really the excitement of her amateur sleuthing she missed and maybe she did resent it a little that she was out of the loop now the professionals had taken charge.
Terry arrived home determined to shake off her dispirited gloom and decided a few friendly phone calls would work a treat. A laugh with her mum would cheer her up, and she owed Peter a call. Looking at her watch and calculating the time difference in South Australia, she decided to call Peter first for a quick chat before she cooked a meal. The phone rang for quite a while, then just as she was about to hang up, Peter’s voice came on the line. Terry thought she detected a touch of relief in his voice, but she could have been mistaken. As usual, he was guarded in what he said about work and the situation at Woomera, but Terry felt there was more to his it than that.
“Is everything alright Peter?” she asked. “You seem to have something on your mind. Have I just caught you at the wrong time or is there a problem?”
Terry waited so long for an answer that she wondered if there was a break in the phone line. His response, when it came, did nothing to make her feel better. “Look Terry, I’m really pleased to hear your voice, believe me. In fact, it’s the best thing I’ve heard all day. Sometimes I need a reminder that away from Woomera the world still functions normally, and decent human beings happily go about their business.” He paused briefly, but Terry wasn’t sure what to say to fill the silence. “Look,” he continued in a slightly livelier tone, “would you mind doing something for me?”
“Of course, Peter,” she replied. “Anything I possibly can, just tell me what it is.”
“Thanks, Terry. I hope I’m not putting you at risk. Do you remember a certain mademoiselle I pointed out to you and Katie one afternoon when we were out walking in Sydney?”
“Oh, yes, of course, it was a Sunday afternoon, really warm and we were in …”
“Exactly! Say no more,” Peter cut in. “I’d really appreciate it if you could let her know we haven’t had the worst of the hot weather yet, and I strongly suggest she moves somewhere cooler.”
Terry had plenty of questions but kept them to herself. They chatted on for another 10 minutes about families and movies and the Melbourne Olympic Games, though neither could remember what they’d said.
Peter’s hand was shaking as he hung up the phone. “What have I done?” he whispered. A sense of foreboding had come over him when he’d been introduced to Lang and Shepherdson, and it was steadily growing.
Terry was drained when the call ended. Peter sounded so depressed and not at all like the capable manager his friends and colleagues knew him to be. But at the back of her mind, a little thought reminded her that she was no longer at a loose end, now she had an urgent and important mission to undertake.
Next morning, Terry left earlier than usual to make a quick detour to Glebe on the way to the university. She had no trouble finding the street again and was confident she would recognise the house where Peter had waved to the young woman standing on the steps. What a pity Katie wasn’t with her she thought, and then a flash of premonition: I shouldn’t have come alone.
Alexei Kurakin chewed his pencil and then drew another line between the names on the piece of paper. Several of the names had more than one pencilled line joining them to two or more other names. Some of the names had pencilled crosses through them. As Kurakin examined his handiwork on the sheet of paper, his left arm hung below the desk and his hand absent-mindedly stroked a large marmalade coloured cat. The cat writhed beneath his touch and purred contentedly.
Kurakin liked cats. They were enigmatic creatures that pleased themselves. They were hard to read and, in an instant, could turn from friendly, purring fluff-balls to spitting, hissing tooth and claw armoured banshees. If Kurakin had his way the people who worked for him would all be like cats at their best.
The problem he faced now was that too many of his people had been nothing like cats at their best. They had been obvious and clumsy and too many had been found out. If they had been like cats at all it was like cats when they fight. Hissing, spitting, yowling with lumps of fur and skin flying and ending in retreat by both parties to fret and lick their wounds.
As he chewed on his pencil Kurakin thought that the sheet of paper in front of him represented the remnants of a cat fight rather than the intricate web of subterfuge he had planned to both rob and delay the Anglo/ Australian atomic weapon program. He was now forced into the game of knocking out those who either knew too much or those who hadn’t quite worked out they knew too much.
He stared briefly at the pencil lines linking Peter Fitzgerald, Katie Fitzgerald and Terry Bateman. None of them had crosses through them but the time had come when crosses were needed desperately.
Kurakin’s gaze turned to another name on the sheet of paper, Juliet Guinot. She was a true cat. One worthy of respect and it was time to set her loose on one of the potential crosses. Kurakin drew a thick black line from Guinot’s name to Terry Bateman where he finished with a thick cross through the name. He smiled and stroked the purring cat more vigorously.
Terry sensed again that she was not alone as she stood near the house in Glebe. There were people around going about their day-to-day business. They were not causing her sense of unease. Then out the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of the one person who was out of place in this working-class suburb. The lady down on the next corner trying to look inconspicuous stood out. She was tall and slender but it was her clothes that made her stand out. They shouted continental, sophisticated European rather than David Jones, Sydney.
The sun was behind the lady and Terry had to squint to see her more clearly. There was something familiar about her. Terry wracked her brain and then it came to her. Katie’s music tutor. What was her name? Then it came to her. Madame Guinot. Terry had only met her once at the Conservatorium of Music with Katie, but once was enough with someone of such distinctive and different appearance.
Terry relaxed and her sense of foreboding fell away. She almost forgot why she had come to Glebe in the first place. She was keen to reintroduce herself to Madame Guinot. There were too few opportunities in Sydney to meet sophisticated Continental women and she would not let this opportunity pass. It never occurred to her to question why Madame Guinot would be in such an unlikely location at exactly the same time as she was.
“Madame Guinot” Terry shouted in friendly fashion.
Madame Guinot looked startled for a moment and almost seemed about to turn and move away. Then she stopped, turned again and moved towards Terry with a broad smile on her face.
In thirty elegant paces she stood facing Terry. “Miss Bateman isn’t it”?
“Yes, I’m Katie’s friend, but please call me Terry.”
Madame Guinot gave a beaming smile. “Ah yes a friend of Katie’s. Do you have time to talk, Terry? I would love to make your acquaintance. There is small café just two streets down and around the corner”.
Terry never stopped to think how would an obviously sophisticated woman such as Madam Guinot know about a café in Glebe? She was about to find out.
As they settled into comfy chairs in the secluded Glebe café down a side street off Glebe Point Road, Terry still had a strange sense of foreboding but tried to dismiss this feeling and enjoy the company of such a sophisticated woman who slightly intimidated her. They ordered their coffee with Terry selecting a white coffee while Madam Guinot chose a small black. It did not take long for the waitress to bring their coffees and just as Terry was about to drink hers Madam Guinot’s velvet purse fell off her lap onto the floor. Terry bent over to pick it up but out of the corner of her eye she thought that she saw Madam Guinot pour something into Terry’s coffee. “Surely”, she thought, “it must have been my imagination”, but it stayed in her mind.
Terry’s brain went into overdrive trying to be polite to this unusual woman while working out what to do.
“Would you like a slice of cake or a small biscuit to go with your coffee, Madam Guinot?” asked Terry. “What about that delicious looking strawberry cake on the counter?”
As Madam Guinot looked around to inspect the cake Terry quickly poured her coffee into the pot-plant next to her and then raised the cup to her lips to pretend that she was drinking the coffee. They decided not to order any cake and chatted for a while until Terry suddenly held her head with both hands and said: “I’m sorry Madam Guinot, but I am not feeling well so I think I will go home.” Madam Guinot appeared to be sympathetic and helped Terry stand up and walked her to the door saying: “Will be ok or would you like me to accompany you home?”
Terry replied “I think I will be alright and will manage but thank you for the offer. It has been so nice to meet you. Goodbye”.
Terry walked up the side street back to Glebe Point Road and spotted a public phone on the other side of the road. Looking behind her to make sure that she was not being followed she crossed over and went into the phone box. Keeping an eye on the side street Terry phoned John Collier and told him the whole story. He was immediately worried about Terry’s safety and said that he would arrange via his police contacts to get a scientific officer to immediately go the café and confiscate the pot-plant for analysis.
At that moment Terry saw Madame Guinot come out of side street into Glebe Point Road just as a tram pulled up at the stop. Guinot boarded the tram which was heading into the City and the tram disappeared into the distance.
Nervously Terry emerged from the phone box looking around her and suspicious of every person she saw. She walked up Glebe Point Road desperately trying to remember the address of the safe-house when she spotted someone familiar coming out of the Post Office on the corner of St Johns Road and walking directly towards her. It was unmistakably Claudette Dubois wearing an elegant white trench coat and dark glasses. As they came closer Claudette recognised Terry and in a surprised voice said
“Terry, what on earth are you doing here?” to which Terry replied “Looking for you Claudette with a message from Peter. He said that we haven’t had the worst of the hot weather yet, and he strongly suggests that you move on to somewhere cooler.”
“Thank you Terry for that. I had a feeling that my safe house was no longer safe so I will move tonight to my uncle’s house in Newtown although that has a reputation of being a violent area full of criminals, rats and cockroaches. As I cannot contact him please tell Peter that I care deeply for him and that one day we will get together again.”
As they bid adieu, Terry could not help thinking that she was now the go-between and as she also cared deeply for Peter she felt a little jealous of Claudette’s budding romantic relationship. Terry knew that this relationship was forbidden love and was probably impossible to continue, but never-the-less it all felt uncomfortable to her. Although she and Peter were just good friends she valued that they had known each other for almost their entire lives, were very compatible and she did have a special love for him. Terry thought that she had never found anyone else of serious romantic interest and that she would be more than satisfied to marry Peter, have his children and live happily together for the rest of their lives.
Alexei Kurakin stroked his large marmalade coloured cat, chewed on his pencil and looked across his desk at the nervous-looking Juliet Guinot and asked
“Well, have you done the dastardly deed, Madam Guinot?”
“Oh yes sir. She will no longer be a problem and her funeral will not be far away. Some people just can’t hold their cyanide” Guinot sniggered.
“I do hope that you are right, Madam, as I do not take kindly to incompetence and as you well know the consequences for failure are dire. Do I make myself clear?”
Madam Guinot was only too aware of the consequences and stood up, bowed, turned around and departed, hoping to read about Terry’s death in the newspapers the following day.
After Antoine and Edwin had retired to bed for the night, Claudette sat in the lounge room with Philippe talking about their past and her movements since they parted. They had met as teenagers in the French Resistance working as desperate saboteurs against the German occupiers.
In 1946, after she had become pregnant with Antoine, they married and settled into a small apartment in Montmartre near Place du Tertre. Philippe had a job as a garbage collector and Claudette waited tables at a nearby restaurant. It was the best they could do with no other skills but sabotage. They both went to night College to better themselves. There they fell into the communist milieu which was gaining traction in Paris among anti-German sympathisers. Claudette came to the attention of a Stalinist KGB cadre which offered her and her parents emigration to Australia after training in KGB arts in Moscow, then a job in a strategically placed part of the Australian Public Service as their operative.
Claudette was euphoric at the opportunity. Philippe was less so and there was dissension between them as he could not see himself raising Antoine alone. The KGB insisted she could not take Antoine. Finally, in 1949, she left for Moscow with her parents, urging Philippe how important it was to advance their political philosophy and the Party, promising she would come back to see him and Antoine within three years.
After training for a year in Moscow, she and her parents were sent to India in 1950 to establish residence there to make it easier for them to emigrate (from a Commonwealth country) to Australia in 1951. Its government would even pay their fares to boost immigration at that time! They settled in accommodation at Herne Bay. Because Claudette had worked assiduously on languages in Paris and Moscow, she had become fluent in English, Russian and Hindi as well as her native French. It made her a desirable acquisition for ASIO. KGB contacts within soon found her a strategic position. Later the KGB offered her parents a return to Moscow with a pension and an apartment, which they readily took, despite Claudette’s unease and muted opposition. She had a fair idea of the sinister strategy behind it.
She related how she had been brought undone by a trap at Woomera which caught her underlings who promptly gave her away as a KGB spy. She used the repatriation of her parents to Russia to good effect in convincing the authorities her parents were at risk of a Stalinesque “disappearance” and she could be of more use by still maintaining her connection to the upper echelons of the KGB in Australia. She gave a quirky smile as she told this to Philippe. “They are so gullible here. I told my leader here, a man called Alexai Kurakin, I was better off in the ASIO safe house, because I was still free enough to operate and had kept a connection to a man at Woomera with high security clearance who has romantic ideas about me. As I was trained to do, playing both ends against the middle”
Philippe, who had listened intently, spoke. “You have been gone for 7 years. I have progressed into the Gendarmerie where I am a prosecutor, procureur le ministere publique. I have a nice home now for us. Come back to France with us. We are only here for that purpose. I no longer support communism. It is a philosophy which will only drag down the people of my country, as General de Gaulle personally convinced me, so I have severed all ties. You will be safe there. You are not safe here. I have your French passport in your married surname Astier with a different birth date. I will have it and your photograph updated at the French Consul. Come home with me.”
Claudette burst into tears and cathartic sobs, throwing herself into his arms. “Oh Philippe! I am so relieved to be coming home to you and Antoine. I had blocked the possibility from my mind. My training has steeled me against sense of danger and emotional attachment, but as soon as I saw you and Antoine, I knew I wanted to return to you both as soon as possible.”
“Then it is agreed. We fly out on Air France this Friday. Lay low here. Do nothing to excite the attention of ASIO or Kurakin. I will go tomorrow to the consul and with my status, I will get urgency. Now let us retire and rekindle our love”. After the lovemaking, Claudette remembered how rudimentary his foreplay and prolongation skills previously were. He had certainly learned a lot about congress in her absent years. It was another thing to look forward to.
While Philippe was out at the Consul’s office, she wrote a letter to Terry thanking her for the warning Peter gave and asking her to explain to him she was returning to France to live with relatives, to leave her Australian past behind her completely. There was no need to tell Peter the whole truth. It embarrassed her and would only hurt him more. She arranged for Uncle Edwin to deliver it personally to Terry’s digs at the University.
There was a knock upon Terry Bateman’s door at her room in Sydney University Village on Missenden Road Newtown. Cautiously she peered through the peephole and saw to her surprise it was Duncan Richie the law student who had helped Katie and her at the Land Titles Office. She opened the door enough to talk.
“Hullo Terry. Remember me from the LTO at the RGs” he said, slipping into vernacular. I came across Katie a few days ago in the State Library. She told me she has a steady boyfriend. I asked if I could have your phone number but she gave me your room details. I thought you might like to step out for coffee up on King Street. They have this new Italian coffee called Espresso.”
Terry thought momentarily “I’d love to Duncan, but I have some work to do later. Would you like to come in and I’ll make us some Missenden Road Nescaffeo Expressly Instant Coffee?” Duncan laughed, came in and sat down. Terry went to make instant coffee and brought back 2 steaming mugs with a small jug of milk, sugar cubes and a plate of iced Vo-Vos.
“Thank you. That is faster and more attractive service than we would have had in King Street. I’m looking at the photos on your wall. That lady water skiing. Isn’t that Valerie Thorsen, the champion water-skier?” Terry replied “Yes. She’s my mother. How do you know her? Duncan rejoined “I water-ski on the Hawkesbury River and contest championship events. She is a legend at those. In the Winter I play 1st grade Rugby for Sydney U.”
Just then there was a knock on the door. An elderly man said as Terry examined him though the peephole “I have a message from Claudette for Terry”. She opened the door and from behind the elderly man Madame Guinot who had been hiding in the corridor, rushed at Terry with a long knife aimed at her heart. Terry screamed and backed away as Duncan bounded from his seat and rushed at the malicious intruder.
Even though Sydney University had not won the Shute Shield that year with Gordon squeaking home 13-11 against St.George; they did win it the year before. Duncan Richie was an integral part of that premiership-winning team – he was an agile breakaway on the verge of NSW selection. His broad-shouldered frame and speed off the mark made him the terror of all fly halves in the competition. He just had a knack of dumping them just at the moment they received the ball from the scrum. None-the-less, a fly half with an inflated pigskin in hand, was a different matter than Madame Guinot with terror in her heart and an eight-inch flashing blade in her hand.
With muscle memory kicking in, Duncan hit her with his shoulder, just under her rib cage and he was shocked when he heard the distinct crack of bone on impact. Her shriek of pain almost drowned out the clatter of the knife on the tiled floor as Uncle Edwin, who had also appeared at the front door, quickly kicked the knife away from the howling Madame Guinot.
With Duncan and Uncle Edwin wrestling Madame Guinot to the ground, Terry raced inside to dial 000 and within 15 minutes a cavalcade of Police and ASIO vehicles had the place surrounded. Having subdued the writhing Madame Guinot, Duncan quickly bound her hands with one of Terry’s stockings. Madame Guinot was thus easily led away gnashing her teeth – partly in pain and partly knowing what lay ahead. Her repeated failure meant her future was dim, no matter into whose hands she fell.
Under questioning at the Sydney ASIO Headquarters, Madame Guinot soon realised that her best chance of survival lay with coming clean about her activities and face a lengthy stay at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Having spilled her guts, ASIO moved on Alexei Kurakin but to save further embarrassment to the Con, they waited until he was due to arrive at his home but by then Alexei was already on a fishing trawler and about to jump onto a pitching Russian submarine, 12 Nautical Miles to the East of Sydney Heads. He boarded the sub with a suitcase and a cage containing a large marmalade coloured cat. At last, the 1954 Royal Commission on Espionage was correct – there was no Russian spy activity in Australia.
The first planned atomic explosion was to be a test of the newly-developed war head, Red Beard, and was to be a low-level ignition to be displayed to the politicians and journalists on 12 September 1956, but it was delayed due to inclement weather.
The headlines all echoed the disappointment of the journalists in the capital city papers: “Cattle Die as Result of Test Postponement”. The journalists had all been invited to witness the initial explosion, codenamed “One Tree” and they had congregated, along with the politicians, at Maralinga. With the postponement due to inclement weather, the politicians happily boarded their DC3 and headed back to Canberra mollified by cold beer and Scotch Whisky. But the journalists needed to stick it out in the hot camp. They were lucky to get an orange juice although the well-prepared hacks had pocket flasks of rum to “juice up” the OJ. After ringing through their respective newsrooms, “empty handed” according to their editors, the stories about the cattle dying of Redwater Fever started to roll out – allegedly happening because the ship was delayed due to the planned atomic test. They added further bile to the stories by pointing out the cost of the test delay – figures like ten thousand pounds were bandied about with each paper outbidding each other depending on their preponderance for the truth and how hot under the collar their editors were with their hacks not producing the big story.
The test was postponed to 23 September 1956 – two months before the Melbourne Olympic Games.
At a press conference called to brief the journalists in the Maralinga media hut, a hardened journo from the Melbourne Age turned to his neighbour and said: “Just what we need a presser. Can’t we just get to the big bang?”
“Mate” said the Science reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald, “this is important stuff – it’s not just about the fireworks.”
They sat back and listened, some with feigned interest, to the technical bod who was trotting out all sorts of complex material replete with an overhead projector.
“Here’s where the ignition will take place” said the tech bod while indicating a cross on a map of the desert and most of the room suppressed a yawn.
He pulled the transparency off the projector and slapped down another – upside down – apologising as he turned it over.
“This” said the tech bod “is the nitty-gritty. We’re using the Red Beard device” he explained while poking a dark finger on the screen.
He went on: “It will explode, causing this air column to compress and it will be this extreme compression which will initiate the atomic bomb explosion. Any questions?”
“Yeah, where can we get a beer at this god-forsaken place?” said the Age reporter and there was a grumble of agreement.
The technical bod seemed unphased. “I’ll take that as a comment about the weather. Which brings me to my next point: unfortunately, due to the weather, the test will need to be postponed indefinitely.” Now, he had their attention.
“What do you mean ‘due to the weather’? Have a look outside mate – the sun is shining, there’s hardly a cloud in the sky. Does this mean there’s been a technical problem?” said the reporter from the Courier Mail warily.
“No, No” said the tech bod, “it’s the weather in the upper atmosphere. It’s blowing a gale up there and from the North West.”
“So?” piped up one of the more cynical.
“So, any fallout would drop on Canberra and Sydney – we can’t have that.”
By the time the press conference ended, Peter was ready for a cold beer. It was only good manners and a sense of doing the right thing that had kept him in his seat. He’d intended to stay just long enough for a quick word with most of the journalists, then introduce the speakers, listen for a few minutes and quietly slip away. But the experts had mumbled and bumbled, and umm’d and ah’d, and the journalists struggled to grasp the simple points let alone the complexities. Even after all the minor trials they’d reported on over the last few years, some didn’t understand the importance of what was taking place here. He felt duty bound to suffer the full discourse, then wished he hadn’t made the effort.
As he walked back to the admin building, he found it hard to shake the feeling of dejection that seemed to come over him often these days. Concern for Claudette’s safety hung heavily over him; he’d never met anyone quite like her. But late at night, alone in bed and totally honest with himself, he could admit it was more a bewitchment than a ‘to death do us part’. He was in pretty deep, and sensed he might be too committed to pull back. But then did he want to, at least yet? There’d been no news from either Claudette or Terry, and he’d persuaded himself he’d have heard if things had gone wrong. Perhaps their next meeting would resolve his feelings, and hopefully that would be soon.
And it didn’t help that Shepherdson and Lang were still hanging around, popping up every day or so with a cheerful hello, ready with a wave every time he walked across the compound, making him nervous. He felt like a fly being drawn into their spider’s web, a fish being reeled in slowly and gently.
Still, there was a bright spot – with the postponement of the test he’d have the chance to get back to Sydney for a while and clear up the mess left by the Colin Davenport disaster. Mrs Benson was making it clear that the temporary replacement was out of his depth and it was Peter’s responsibility to do something about it. “I’d be glad to,” he wanted to shout, “just give me the chance to roll back the clock to those days when everything was neatly in place.”
His mood brightened considerably when he got back to his desk and found he’d missed two phone calls from Terry. He immediately picked up the phone and dialled her number, suddenly eager to hear her cheerful voice, then felt a jolt of surprise at his disappointment when the call rang out unanswered.
“I need a cold beer,” he decided, a vision of the big cooler in the mess hall appearing before him, packed with bottles of dinner ale nestled in dry ice. What were the chances of grabbing a bottle and taking a wander down to the ledge? He checked his watch and sighed. “Work first, and a beer as the carrot to getting on with it,” he told himself resignedly. Two hours later there were still things to be done but he’d got through enough to feel he deserved a nice cold beer, and that was the only thing he wanted to concentrate on. Paperwork was sorted in neat piles across his desk and he was just reaching for the folder to file the first batch when the phone rang. He was tempted to let it ring, then thought better of it and was delighted to hear Terry’s voice at the other end.
“It’s good to hear from you, Terry. I’m sorry I missed your earlier calls, I did try to phone you a couple of hours ago,” Peter replied. “I’ve been anxious to hear from you. Did things go well with our friend?”
“It’s a bit of a long story, too much for a phone conversation, but she is safe, and that’s the main thing isn’t it?” Terry’s vague response wasn’t the unequivocal account he’d been waiting for.
“I’ll be in Sydney this week, so perhaps we can meet and you can fill me in.” Peter knew better than to press for details over the phone.
“Well, I’m not at home, Peter, I’m at Dolphin’s Reach and having a wonderful time,” she explained. “I’ve been summoned to a meeting with the board of the Northern Rivers Fisheries and I’m taking my time getting there.”
“Well, you certainly sound in good spirits. It’s an awfully long drive for a woman. But I thought you never wanted to go back to work there,” Peter laughed. Terry’s light-hearted tone was contagious.
“I’ll have you know that the drive is the same distance for a man as it is for a woman, so don’t try to patronise me, young man. Besides, I’ve got my friend Darrin with me. He’s a great water-skier and a huge fan of Mum. Northern Fisheries don’t want me back, they’ve found a wonder-boy to replace me and want me to quietly disappear into the sunset.”
“That doesn’t sound like your style to me. Are you going to do as they want?”
“Not likely! When I told Dad, he put on his best senatorial voice and told them they must honour my 12-month contract and pay me a lump sum for the remainder of the year, though he wasn’t quite that polite. They didn’t even realise my Dad was Senator Bateman.”
Peter was laughing loudly as he imagined the scene. “They’d have had no chance up against Cecil Bateman, I almost feel sorry for them. But what will you do now?”
Terry had her answer ready, the same one she’d offered her mother and father and anyone else who asked, “I’ve got some plans – in fact, I’m enjoying the independence of making adult decisions. I’m moving down to Bundeena for three months to help out on an ecological survey, no wages but board and keep. And I’ll also be studying botanical drawing with a very unusual woman at Mainbar. I’d still like to work on the Barrier Reef eventually, so who knows?”
Peter was surprised at how quickly things had moved, Terry sounded so confident and in control. He had a lot more questions, but his door had been slowly opened to reveal Shepherdson and Lang.
“Sorry Terry, I have to cut our conversation short, there’s an urgent matter I need to take care of.”
They said quick goodbyes, promising to meet in Sydney.
Peter replaced the receiver and regarded his visitors, one hand outstretched questioningly, to which Shepherdson responded, “let’s take a walk”.
“Only if we can go via the mess hall. You wouldn’t believe how much I need a cold beer.”
Shepherdson lifted his hands to show an icy-cold bottle in each of them, dewy beads of water running slowly down the outside. He jerked his head in a signal to come, then Peter sighed, stood up and followed him.
Shepherdson guided Peter past the main buildings and a short distance along the main drive.
“Where are we off to?” Peter asked suspiciously.
Shepherdson stopped walking and seemed to check that there was nobody nearby. He gulped a little of his beer.
“There have been developments in Sydney, Peter, unfortunate, dangerous developments and they seem to involve you”.
Shepherdson continued, “When was the last time you had contact with either Terry Bateman or Claudette Dubois?”
Peter was too taken aback by the question to answer directly. Why on earth would Shepherdson be interested in his personal relationships? He needed a gulp of his beer before answering, took too big a swig and started to cough and splutter.
As the coughing fit subsided, anger filled its place.
Peter exploded “What the hell are my personal relationships to do with you?!!!”
“Calm down old boy” Shepherdson shot back “I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you’re not helping”.
Benefit of the doubt for what? Peter could not see why he needed the benefit of the doubt. But that last uneasy phone call with Terry Bateman was starting to ring alarm bells.
Shepherdson continued, “You must have heard that Terry was dismissed from her position at the fisheries and that Claudette has fled the country”.
Terry had mentioned her dismissal in their phone call but the news about Claudette was a complete surprise. Worried curiosity quelled Peter’s anger briefly and encouraged him to try and prod Shepherdson for more information.
“Terry did phone me and told me she had lost her position. She said there was more she could tell me when we next catch-up in Sydney but what’s that got to do with Claudette?”
Shepherdson continued “Terry mentioned nothing about a letter from Claudette asking Terry to convey to you why there could be no lasting relationship between Claudette and you?”
“Come on Peter, think man. I am just the start of your troubles. I have just got in ahead of what is going to be a big ugly official investigation that will be all over your personal relationships. Perhaps we can head this off still. But you have got to come clean”.
“Come clean about what exactly? I have no idea what I am supposed to have done?” Peter yelled back although the revelation about a letter worried him deeply.
“Peter don’t come the innocent. You have been involved with a Russian spy – not a double agent – a bona fide, card-carrying soviet spy. Don’t try and tell me you didn’t know what Claudette Dubois was up to? Well now she’s fled to France together with her equally shady husband and her young kid”.
First the inexplicable letter and now this truly shocking news.
“She’s married?” Peter stammered.
Shepherdson looked at Peter quizzically. “You really did not know? How could you have been so stupid?”
In other circumstances Peter would have landed a swift punch on Shepherdson. But he was starting to realise that he had been stupid. How could he have let Claudette take him in the way she had? What secrets had he let slip inadvertently? And Oh God what had been the collateral damage to Terry.
“Was that why Terry lost her job, because of my friendship with her?”
“Not her friendship with you” Shepherdson continued, “it was the letter addressed to her from Claudette. That pinged Terry as the go-between delivering messages from a soviet spy to a traitor”.
“Nothing can be done about Dubois, she’s fled the coup. So too has her chief. Other bit players have been rounded up leaving only the rats and mice in this sordid tale. Terry Bateman and you? Are you rats or innocents?” Shepherdson asked with a wry smile. “Frankly, I don’t know what you both are? I am not even sure why I am tipping you off about what is coming your way. You have a chance to come clean, whatever clean is?”
“So glad we had this little chat. Clears the air. If you are not finishing that beer, I’ll take it off your hands”.
For the second time Peter dearly wanted to punch Shepherdson’s lights out.
Peter sat miserably alone in his empty office wondering if his career was over. There was no rational explanation that he could give that would convince the authorities that he was not a spy. The exotic relationship that had developed between him and Claudette was never going to work and he should have been more alert to the fact that he had allowed himself to be seduced by an impossible fantasy. Just as he was groaning to himself the phone rang and it was a familiar voice.
“Hello Peter. It’s Terry. I’m just ringing to see how you are, and to tell you some good news – Katie and John are getting engaged and they have invited us to dinner at Beppi’s on Friday night. My new friend Duncan has turned out to be a dud – he does not like Italian food, hates wine, and only wants to talk about himself and football. All my flings turn to dust.”
That made Peter laugh out loud and the conversation went on for almost an hour with Peter realising that Terry was the only person he knew who could listen and completely understand his concerns and predicament. Peter had known Terry all his life and she was more than just a friend. She was his confidant who could be trusted with his inner-most thoughts. There was no romance between them although Peter had a brotherly love for her. Peter also thought that Terry was very beautiful but he had never become sexually attracted to any girl except for Claudette. What was wrong with him? What he did know was that he missed Terry greatly and would like to sweep her up in his arms and give her a big hug and kiss and he started to long for the time that that could happen. It was Monday and Terry was on her way back to Sydney from the Northern Rivers and Peter was due to fly to Sydney on Thursday to attend various meetings and so dinner on Friday at Beppi’s was something to look forward to.
The next day Peter was called into the Director’s office where he was confronted by Brigadier Smythe-Porter (Senior British Head of Operation Buffalo), Ernest Forbes (Peter’s Director), and Tom Shepherdson and Sam Lang (ASIO agents). This was an interrogation into everything that Peter had to do with Claudette and what he had divulged to her. The personal aspects were embarrassing but no sensitive information had been leaked and Peter was not privy to technical secrets of the atomic tests anyway, so that was not in question. Peter was surprised that Shepherdson seemed to be supporting him and slanting the events in his favour. At the end of a long and intense session the conclusion by the Brigadier was that Peter had been foolish but not dishonest or treacherous. He ordered Peter to be more careful in the future with any staff or other contacts and to ensure that utmost security controls were in place and maintained.
Peter, feeling totally humiliated, went back to his office and tried to resume work. After a few minutes he decided to go for a drive in one of the available jeeps to get some fresh air and clear his head. He drove out to the edge of the no-go zone and happened to see something that sent a chill up his spine. Just where there was supposed to be no people due to safety concerns he spotted a smouldering campfire. How could this be? All people, including nomadic wanderers, were prohibited from this area. He jumped out of the jeep and walked over to inspect the site and found remnants of many burnt rabbit bones – obviously someone had been having a cooked meal but there was no sight of anyone. He was just returning to the jeep when suddenly he felt something wriggle beneath his left foot and then an intense stabbing pain in his right leg. He had just been bitten by a copperhead venomous snake and the excruciating pain was so intense that he started to feel light-headed and slumped to his knees before passing out.
It was about midnight when Peter started to regain consciousness and through his blurry vision he could make out several dark figures hovering around him and treating his leg with the sap from desert flowers. His mouth was moist with a strange but pleasant taste and he thought that he must have been given a drink of some magical potion. There was a large campfire near him keeping him warm from the cold night air although he was still shivering and sweating at the same time. As his eyes adjusted to the moonless night he saw six or seven figures fade away into the distance and he struggled to regain his feet and drag himself back to the jeep. Although he felt groggy he managed to start the motor and turn the steering-wheel back in the direction of the military base.
The next day after sleeping for ten hours straight Peter woke up feeling a lot better, went to his office and wrote a long, detailed report stating there were still nomadic people wandering in the no-go zone and recommended that helicopters be used to sweep the area for safety. He realised that his report would be considered a nuisance and would not be what the top brass wanted to hear. As expected, no reply to the report was received and Peter felt that he was now unpopular and unwanted so going to Sydney for the meetings would be a welcome relief.
The flight to Adelaide the next morning was bumpy in the stormy weather, but Peter was not concerned as he was filled with anticipation in being able to see Terry again. After a short time at Adelaide Airport he flew with Ansett Airways to Sydney, again in turbulent conditions with the plane being tossed around in all directions. Peter was relieved when he was finally back on the ground at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport walking through the terminal to the taxi rank to catch a taxi to his office in the City.
Peter attended meetings Thursday afternoon and Friday which were long, boring, and so badly presented he wondered why none of the speakers had been trained in public speaking to make their speeches interesting, informative, well-structured and memorable. The final meeting which was to discuss security issues and public relations was supposed to finish at 5.00pm but went overtime by more than an hour leaving Peter with little time to get back to his room in the Hotel Australia to have a shower and get ready to go out to dinner.
Now feeling refreshed and having put on his best suit and tie, Peter walked diagonally across Hyde Park to Beppi’s in Yurong Street with a spring in his step, and his heart raced when he could see Terry, Katie and John arriving at the same time.
Beppi Polese’s wife, Norma, warmly welcomed the two couples to the restaurant and showed them to their table. They were offered an aperitivo to enjoy as their hungry eyes scanned the menu. They chose the Campari Spritz. John Collier felt a little ill-at-ease; he was not accustomed to fine Italian cucina but Katie, who was looking decidedly radiant next to her new fiancé, guided him gently through the menu. Peter was a little stunned at the change in Collier’s appearance; he had managed to shed his beer paunch and gone was the five o’clock shadow that had adorned his square jaw. Absent were the cigarettes and the nicotine-stained fingers and no sign of the unkempt hair, which was now cut in a shorter, more flattering style. His clothes were smart and elegant. All in all, his presentation was much improved, and Peter put this down to Katie’s refined tastes having rubbed off on him. In short, their match was gaining Peter’s approval. Terry was attractively dressed; she exuded an air of sophistication that Peter had never noticed before and although this conjured up lingering memories of Claudette, he pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind. Here was an opportunity for him to make a new start, to forget the past and push on with the future, whatever that future might be.
As the party tucked into the delicious antipasto platter the conversation centred on catching up on each other’s news. Katie’s end of year concert was in the final stages of rehearsal and her recital piece Grieg’s “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen” was being tutored to perfection by Madam Guinot’s replacement, Herr Friedrich Lehmann, from the Royal Bavarian Music School. Katie proudly issued an invitation for all to attend. “It will steady my nerves”, she declared.
Collier revealed that he had applied for a fast-track promotion to Chief Inspector in the Homicide Division, in the hope that he could return to doing what he loved best, solving murders. Terry’s plans were already known to them all. Peter was a little reticent to talk about himself and remained rather silent. At the conclusion of their magnificent meal a bottle of chilled Prosecco arrived at the table. Four crystal glasses were filled with the bubbling gold and were clinked in unison to toast the engagement of Katie and John, and a restaurant full of smiling patrons joined in with the congratulations.
As Katie and John left in a taxi Peter asked Terry if she would like to walk with him for a little while before winding up the evening. Terry agreed. Judging by Peter’s mood, Terry harboured a notion that he had something on his mind. He seemed eager to impart his concerns to her. He explained that his melancholy state had everything to do with the events at Woomera. He spoke of his worries for the welfare of the Tjarutjia indigenous people who lived off the land around Woomera and that it was something he could not shut out of his conscience.
“There must be a way to get the government to act, there’s so much at stake here; if we allow these tests to go ahead without exercising our duty of care then we are guilty of being inhumane. The aftermath of the tests will affect everyone and everything; all God’s living creations will feel its pervasion into the local environment. My chief concerns are for the local people; it is likely they have never read the Gospel according to Luke, but they were my good Samaritans when the copperhead snake bit me and they saved my life; I owe it to them to try and save theirs.” Tears welled up in Peter’s eyes and Terry felt that he was balancing on an emotional tightrope. Terry was hitherto unaware of Peter’s close encounter with death. She took his hand and squeezed it warmly.
“We have to do something Peter, I will speak to my father about the British riding roughshod over the safety of these tests. We cannot let them get away with this.”
“You’re right,” said Peter. “Now I had better put you in a taxi young lady, and I will walk back to the Hotel. If you are not busy tomorrow, shall we get together? I thought we could take a ferry ride to Manly; it would be nice to breathe the fresh sea air, such a contrast to the hot dust of Woomera!”
“I’d love to Peter; can I meet you at the Quay around 11.30? I need some time in the morning to speak to my father. Have a good night’s sleep and try to keep your chin up!” With that Terry climbed into the taxi and Peter watched it meditatively until it was out of sight.
Terry tossed and turned in her bed that night. Peter’s story of the copperhead snake had shaken her; she had come close to losing her dearest friend. The thought sent shudders down her spine, but at the same time she began to feel the familiar warmth of a tiny flame that had once flickered inside her when she was a girl.
The following morning Terry jumped out of bed early, determined to ring her father before he left home to play his regular game of golf at the Royal Sydney. Senator Bateman was surprised but delighted to hear from his beloved daughter. Terry poured out her heart to him; she left no stone unturned in her emotionally charged argument to convince him that something unprincipled was about to happen in the South Australian desert, something that could one day come back to “bite Australia on its butt”.
“My dear Terry, calm down!” he exclaimed. “Rumours of this nature have already reached me; but your information, from a vastly more reliable source, I am much more inclined to believe. This is a delicate situation and I doubt if I can investigate it personally; you know that I am up against the leviathans who control the government machine. However, you can rest assured that I will of course, do whatever I can. I am dismayed at the deplorable facts that you have laid before me, but it does confirm what I have suspected for some time now. You and your friend are completely justified in having concerns in this grave matter. I am proud of you Terry.”
“Thanks for listening, I love you! Enjoy your golf. Hope to hear from you soon, goodbye Daddy.” As Terry hung up the telephone, she reflected on the phone conversation. Her father, she knew, would act on her disclosure; discreetly, deftly and without delay but there was no escaping the fact that, realistically, he was just another pawn on the chessboard.
The sun in February 1996 was shining on the placid waters of the Parramatta River as the hosts and friends sat in the large lounge room of the waterfront home in Putney. The huge picture window overlooked the busy activity of yachts heading home, running with the stiff North easterly breeze. A ferry, motor cruisers and jet skis were plying the broad expanse and local yacht club Moths, Lasers and Manly Juniors were on the last laps of the Saturday races.
John Collier and Katie Fitzgerald as hosts were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in their home with their long-time married friends, Peter Fitzgerald and Terry Bateman and the recently widowed Valerie Thorsen, Terry’s mother. All three women had retained their maiden names for professional reasons.
Katie was now an international celebrity as a concert pianist and Terry had risen to Principal Scientist of the Scientific Observer Program under the NSW Fisheries Act.
Peter had become a senior adviser to the Australian Treasurer, stationed in Sydney.
John was now NSW Assistant Commissioner overseeing Major Crime.
At 85 years of age, Valerie still cut a fit and trim figure but had left water-skiing behind these past five years, though she still looked wistfully out the window at the sparkling river scene of recreational users. Cecil had peacefully passed away in his sleep twelve months before and her softly lined features betrayed some of the grief at the loss of her lifelong partner. Their short separation some time ago, due to his constant absence in public service, had ended with a mutually treasured reconciliation.
The late teenage and early adulthood children of the two couples were a part of the River recreation in front of them.
As John passed around the drinks and canapes, conversation turned to Cecil and his work. Peter recalled “It was about three months after Terry emotionally harangued Cecil to do something about the negligent, even indifferent attitude to the lives of the itinerant aboriginal tribes in the South Australian desert areas surrounding Woomera and Maralinga.”
“I remember the tall, bulky figure of Ernest Forbes beside me, reclining, indeed sprawled, in a large, cushioned chair facing an opulent large mahogany desk. I vividly remember it was intricately carved along its upper edges and on the visible parts of its legs. The four panels facing Forbes and I were also carved with exquisite dioramas representing episodes in the life of Australia – the raising of the British flag at Port Jackson in 1788, a pastoral scene of sheep and cattle being herded by horsemen and dogs, the Australian crest with emu and kangaroo, and finally, a whaling scene.”
“I was sitting bolt upright wondering in trepidation why I had been brought to the office of Cecil, former Senator and newly appointed ASIO Director. He had resigned from the Senate to take the vacancy left by the watery death of James Jones.”
“His sudden death had sparked a minute search of all his papers, cyphers, and personal belongings, conclusively showing him to be the puppet of the Russian spy-master Alexei Kurakin. The search exposed how much intelligence he had handed over. The Russian Embassy had closed after the earlier Petrov affair, and there was no value in another Royal Commission which would only expose the ineptitude of the Organisation.”
“Prime Minister Menzies was appalled that the Organisation could have been so exposed to ridicule. He ordered all discovered information to be sealed from disclosure as Top Secret. Knowledge of it would compromise Australia’s intelligence partners’ willingness to share sensitive information, but even then, some leaked out and cost us dearly.”
“Menzies wanted a man he could trust to take the Director role, to put the cleaners through the Organisation and stabilise it. He knew Cecil was the right man – for his exploits as a decorated hero in World War 2, his outspoken support for worthy causes, his popularity in the electorate, his shoot-from-the-hip straight talking and his integrity. As a military reservist still carrying his rank of Colonel, he received the designated 2-star Major General rank as Director.”
“I remember Cecil walking in, apologising for keeping us waiting, saying he had just been in a meeting of the Defence Strategic Policy and Intelligence Group, called DefSPIG to which all intelligence organisations reported or liaised.”
“He told Forbes and I the Group been discussing the situation in Woomera and Maralinga with regard to indigenous Australians exposed to radiation sickness after the explosions and that he had shown them the report I produced shortly after I went there. I remember him saying ‘Shamefully, it was pigeon-holed.’”
“He said Ernest’s reputation preceded him; that he had authority to promote Ernest to DefSPIG Director Woomera with responsibility as the top man for Australia in Woomera, including the preservation and protection of the indigenes.”
“Then came the moment I has dreaded. He told me he had seen the report on my association with the exposed Russian spy Claudette Dubois who had fled the country. He said he didn’t know how I got into that mess, but he did want to know if I was over it.”
“Here Peter reached out his hand and held Terry’s tightly. “I don’t know what would have become of me if this magnificent woman had not persevered with me, knowing all along we were destined for each other.”
“I remember returning Cecil’s steely gaze, saying, ‘Director, I was foolish. Too much time in the desert perhaps. I am over it and wiser for it. If you have a task for me, I am up for it’. ”
“Cecil said he was glad to have my unqualified assurance and my recommendations were being examined to be implemented so far as found practical. I went back to Woomera and raised merry hell about indifference to the indigenous people. When Brigadier Smyth-Porter complained bitterly about my ‘pretentious interference with the important work of the planned explosions for mere savages sake’, Cecil backed me every step of the way and the Brig had to back off.”
“Thanks to Cecil, I was able to improve protection of the Maralinga Anangu Pitjantjatjara and Tjarutja people from the dangers and exposures they could have been subjected to, in the three remaining years of my service there. I appointed three native patrol officers, making Walter MacDougall foreman, each with a 4WD to patrol the whole field of risk, to alert the native peoples in their own dialects about the dangers. Many of them went walkabout to West Australia and Northern Territory. In the end, once the scales had dropped from my eyes and I realised Terry was still impatiently waiting for me, I needed no persuasion to quit the desert and relocate to Sydney.”
John recharged their glasses and, as tears rolled down the cheeks of the three women, Peter proposed “To Cecil Bateman, an extraordinary human being.”
“Well, Peter, you probably feel relieved to have got that monologue off your chest,” said Terry with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek. Then, turning to the rest: “He’s never been so voluble. Since he joined that Rostrum Club, it’s hard to keep him quiet.”
“So, when’s your next concert Katie?” asked Peter. “Next Saturday” said Katie, “I’m playing Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 at the Opera House.”
They uttered a collective “wow” and then Katie’s brow frowned a little and she said “I don’t think I told you about this” and they all leaned forward, “the last time I played this work was last year in Moscow. It’s so different over there – they really take their music seriously. I couldn’t believe it when I arrived at the Concert Hall there were flower sellers outside and I was later to learn that members of the audience would present them to the soloist after their performance. I could never work out whether it was genuine appreciation or whether they were just keen to get in the spotlight for just a brief second or two.” Katie went on: “The weirdest thing was after the concert at a reception, I was introduced to the newly appointed head of the Moscow Conservatory of Music. It was Alexei Kurakin!” They all looked at each other in disbelief and Katie continued: “There was a hint of recognition in his eyes and I thought it best to not say anything. But I tell you, it was such a creepy feeling.”
They all needed another drink after that story and John Collier opened a bottle of the new-fangled Sauvignon Blanc that Peter Fitzgerald had brought along. “It’s from the Marlborough Region at the top of the South Island in New Zealand,” explained Peter but the reaction was mixed – ranging from “refreshing” to “austere” to “cat’s piss”.
“I think it’s an acquired taste,” said John diplomatically, “it will go well with the Crab Crepes, our entree,” and they were all ushered to the table and began to eat.
“This is delicious Katie. Where did you get the recipe?” said Terry as she took another taste of the wine adding: ‘and yes, the wine certainly goes well with it.”
“Well, I have to confess, Terry it’s on Page 66 of the Women’s Weekly Dinner Party Cookbook No.2. And, if you look here,” she said holding up the book, “you’ll see that we’ll have Pork Fillets with Mustard Sauce with Vegetable Melange and Fresh Grape Jelly to finish.”
“Sounds yum “said Valerie Thorsen, “and is it fresh crab?”
“Well,” said Katie, “John did give me two spectacular mud crabs he caught off our wharf but a quick call to our Fishery Scientist,” nodding towards Terry “reminded me of all the heavy metals we would be consuming so I stuck with the recipe and used freshly-opened canned crab.”
“Talking of what comes out of the harbour,” said John, “did you see that that guy who rode the surfboard on the prow of the American Destroyer is now taking his seat in the NSW Legislative Council? You remember, his name was Cohen, Ian Cohen. He was protesting against the USS Oldendorf entering our harbour armed with nuclear weapons.”
“There’s a man after my own heart,” said Valery, “but I would never have said that in front of Cecil – he was so conservative. From riding on a surfboard at the front of a ship to an MLC – an amazing transformation.”
“Yes, well he is a Green member so it will be interesting to see what he achieves,” said Peter – part in explanation and part in speculation. “You know,” he continued, “it’s amazing to think that we were at the forefront of nuclear weapon testing back in the 50s and now we’ve “welcomed” ships carrying nuclear warheads.”
It was getting dark and the children had arrived back from their sailing adventures full of chatter, argument and hunger. Katie had anticipated this and on a separate table she laid out a feast of chicken nuggets and chips sloshed down with ice cream and Creaming Soda.
Having polished off the Sauvignon Blanc, John brought out a Clare Valley Shiraz with a few years on it. “Leasingham Bin 61 Shiraz, it should go perfectly with the Pork,” he announced while twisting the Stelvin cap and slurping it into the empty glasses with all the aplomb of a fine-dining sommelier.
As the main course was presented, Peter proposed a toast: “To 30 years of marital bliss – happy anniversary!”
Black clouds were billowing over the Sydney Olympic construction site to the south-west – their darkness etching against the fading light. A typical Sydney Summer Storm was brewing with periodic flashes accompanying distant grumbling thunder.
The succulent pork went down as easily as the red but because of the storm there was still a look of fatalistic expectation on their faces. A blitz of lightning lit the dining room with an incandescent whiteness and almost immediately followed by a loud clap of thunder and the lights went out.
They sat almost in shock.
“It’s been a wild ride,” said Katie with undue calmness and, even though they couldn’t see it, they all nodded in unison.