Authors: Joy Dettman
Sarah Carter, mother of twelve-year-old Marni, is raising her daughter alone in a small granny flat in suburban Melbourne. A serial killer, dubbed ‘The Freeway Killer’, is headline news and when Marni’s classmate is abducted from the mall where Sarah and Marni shop, their city no longer feels safe.
Detective Ross Hunter’s investigation into the abduction leads him to dead ends – until an unrelated incident sends him to the door of Freddy Adam-Jones, an unscrupulous barrister, who is guarding a secret that could ruin his life.
When an unexpected windfall changes the lives of Sarah and Marni, their sudden wealth opens doors long closed, and threatens to cast light on history better left buried.
What might Sarah’s past reveal? What is her connection to Freddy? And can Detective Ross Hunter discover the link in time to save a young girl’s life?
For those who allowed me to interrogate them,
Pete, Shani, Don, Rob, Donna and Karli ...
nce upon a time there was a big bad wolf, quite charming and disarming.
Born of a dog and a holy hog, he had appetites alarming.
A mutant seed, he feeds his greed.
Christmas barely behind him with its tinsel and baubles, Easter seven weeks away, but hot cross buns already on sale at the supermarket, twelve for the price of six. They were not the hot cross buns of his boyhood, fresh from the baker’s oven, but an improved twenty-first-century variety, vacuum sealed, guaranteed to remain mould free for a month, or six, or maybe twelve.
He picked up a packaged dozen, seeking a use-by date. It was there, or the best-before date was there, in print he needed to squint to see. He smiled, tossed the buns back to the display table and continued on to the checkout.
He’d queued at an ATM today, then queued at the post office to pay a bill. Now he queued at the checkout, just another obedient sheep, waiting to be counted.
‘Baaa,’ he mouthed to big brother’s hidden camera. They were everywhere, watching every move. No man, woman or child would pass through this place today and not be trapped on security video. The assistant bagging, then waiting patiently for an elderly customer to swipe her card, to enter her PIN, knew big brother was watching – or her boss. A picture of patience – and what was the difference between one sheep and the next?
‘Have a good day,’ she said as she turned to the next sheep in the run.
The woman ahead shuffled forward to begin the unloading of her trolley; the woman queuing behind him, over-eager to get ahead, nudged him with hers. He didn’t move, or not until there was space on the conveyer belt to place his supermarket-supplied basket down then take his time unloading it.
He hoped to annoy the sheep counter by offering two green environmentally friendly shopping bags. They preferred to use plastic, but she filled his bags, asked if he had a rewards card.
‘My reward will come in heaven,’ he said, and handed her a fifty.
There may come a day when cash was no longer acceptable, but perhaps not in his lifetime.
The sheep counter handed him both receipt and change, an annoyance to him each time they did that, so he held up the traffic until he’d sorted one from the other, until he’d put his change into his wallet.
‘Have a good day,’ she said.
‘And you,’ he said, then, taking up his purchases, he left the store.
The tinkling music of an infants’ carousel drew him. He stood watching it turn in its slow circles, three infants riding on colourful fibreglass mounts.
And he saw her, his chubby-limbed Angie, a pink plastic bow in her pale white hair.
The carousel turned, but he stood on until she again came into view. Her features were not Angie’s, only her hair and baby-fat limbs, her little white sandals. He smiled and wiggled his fingers in a wave, then stepped nearer, stepped close enough for her helpless circling to offer him the scent of her baby sweetness.
She didn’t return his smile or his wave, but clenched her fat little thighs, her eyes searching for Mummy.
Mummy was leaning on the handles of an empty stroller, which would not be empty long. She was young, her belly fruitful.
Again the infant came into view, again he wiggled his fingers, and this time was rewarded with a full-bodied wail which moved fruitful Mummy to her offspring’s side to seek the source of her fear.
The very young were on familiar terms with terror. Still so close to their time in that place before the light, they remembered old Lupine’s hot breath on their naked skin, remembered the sound of his teeth snap-snapping at their pretty pink heels. Babies had no cause to fear him. He may be waiting out there somewhere in her future, but she was safe today.
He smiled when Mummy turned his way. Seeing no threat to her young, she returned his smile, but he’d dallied long enough for the shopping bags to grow heavy and, swapping them from his left hand to his right, he walked towards the escalator.
And he saw her, as she might be today, a long-legged gazelle of a girl, clad in her high school uniform, schoolbag over her shoulder. That sexless uniform failing to camouflage her perfection, she stole his breath.
He moved so she might pass close by, and when she did, a slight swing of his shopping bag nudged her, just enough to make her turn her face. He wanted to see her face.
‘Sorry,’ she said, and she was Angie, but gone fast, up the escalator, unaware that his eyes followed each swing of her skirt, each sway of her long clean hair. Watched her until she became lost in the morass of sweating humanity, until a piercing infant scream claimed his attention, and his was not the only head to turn.
Only chubby rider with her pink plastic bow, fighting fruitful Mummy’s attempt to buckle her into the stroller, fighting so hard she lost her pink bow, which skidded across the polished tiled floor to his feet. Embarrassed Mummy didn’t see where it fell. Eager to place distance between her screamer and the disapproving stares, she walked away from the bow. He retrieved it. A pretty thing with silver and gold sparkles trapped within the pink plastic. Made in China, no doubt. Everything else was.
The falderal in his hand, his grip on it strong enough for the points of its bow to punish his palm, he stood again to watch the carousel turn, its repetitious melody now urging on two male bronco-busting infants, obvious brothers, ugly little toads. He had no interest in infants of his own sex, so he went on his way, that plastic bow a promise in his hand.
ive days a week Sarah Carter boarded the 7.40 train at Blackburn Station, opened her current library book and read her way into the city. Not today. An oversized male boarded at Box Hill and sat beside her. She used up little space. He required a larger share of that seat, and his newspaper required more, so she closed her book and read his newspaper, a
, its middle pages jammed this morning with messages of undying love from
Only storybook love was undying. In life, it died, or the people you loved died. She read one message where Cupid shot an arrow from
She worked with a Robert Webb but he was a Bob, not a Rob, and her office manager, who’d developed the recent habit of placing his hand on her shoulder when he wanted her attention – a light-fingered, timid touch, which reminded her of a huge hairy huntsman spider she’d brushed from her shoulder one day in the tent. Still cringed when she recalled that tent, and the creeping touch of the huntsman spider.
Some names slid easily from the tongue.
did. Other names twisted the tongue.
used to, though not any more. Never thought of her now. Never said her name.
And they were almost there. She pushed her library book into a too-large tapestry shoulder bag that needed a new zip – or she needed a new bag. Maybe she’d shout herself one if she got the job.
She deserved it. She’d worked for David Crow for twelve years and had barely missed a day. Five days a week she climbed those stairs at Museum Station, walked that same block to the same office building in Melbourne’s sun and wind and rain, and she knew every crack in the pavement and knew it would be shimmering with heat when she walked it in reverse tonight to catch the train home. Channel Seven’s weather girl had promised Melbourne a day in the mid-forties, and another total fire ban.
Sarah had been six years old the day she’d followed her mother’s pointing finger to where the mists of distance had melded Melbourne’s tall buildings into a singular mystical grey castle shimmering in the clouds, then Daddy had turned the old green wagon’s back on that castle because Gran and Gramp’s farm was the other way. They were going to live there. They were going to stay in Gramp and Gran’s house forever, and live on honey.
Seven when she’d sighted that grey castle again, this time through the rear windscreen of a different car. A sad sighting, that one. It meant no more farm, no more honey and baby cows with their pretty white faces, no more Gran and Gramp and warm cardigans Gran made from the sheep’s woolly coats.
Hadn’t seen her grandparents or the farm again, or not until she was eighteen, when she’d bought herself a one-way bus ticket across the Nullarbor to that mystical castle in the sky, and got lost in its crowd. Not so mystical that day. Melbourne had been shimmering, but with heat.
Her office building was cool, and a lift was waiting. She ran to catch it, to squeeze in with ten more, and ride it up to the fourteenth floor, her fingers crossed, hoping that today would be the day she received her summons to David Crow’s office.
The payroll officer’s job had to be hers. She’d been acting payroll officer since Annette had to leave in a hurry. Wanted that title,
Mrs Carter, Payroll/Accounts Officer.
Wanted Annette’s cubbyhole office, with its window and needed the extra money that went with the job.
David Crow’s office had three windows. It was empty at nine o’clock that Thursday morning. He was battling the traffic on Monash Freeway with more on his mind than traffic. He’d got himself into a situation he had to get out of, and the only way out of it would raise greater problems than it fixed.