"Good news, I've got the photo clear and large, now we might get somewhere". Ben greeted Milly as she came through the door.
"Well good. There's been a bit of excitement here too".
"Oh no, now what?"
" Aside from the fact that Briggs - Mervyn, has been questioning everyone in this case over the last couple of days, Alan is sure it's the same tank".
"What's he questioning them about?"
"The tyre slashing, the grave digging, he wants to know where everyone was".
"Damn I knew he'd get onto this. He's not going to sit back and see his young brother being intimidated. Damn. So Allan got up here, did you see him?"
"Yes he came by the Taylors, as you asked".
"Do you think he's reliable or will he just say this to help the Days"?
Milly shrugged "I don't really know Boss".
"But he says it the same tank, well there you are . I'm thinking of going over to Pemberdale this afternoon I figure it's time we brought in the cavalry".
"What if they are on-side with the local Station?"
"I've thought of that, I'll have to sum it up, see if I can read the waves as I talk to him. Meanwhile I want you take this photo and see if Mrs Dawson, Mrs Day or Taylor any of the locals who may know this man". He passed her a brown envelope.
She took it " so it's not Briggs?"
"No it's not".
"I'll put this info. on the volunteers on your desk, you might like to go through that when you get back". The girl tossed a few pages of foolscap onto the small table and turned to go.
They left the unit together.
Lindsay Kellow was in his early thirties he had moved to Colbreeth over a year ago. His young wife disliked the country town immensely. This created an ongoing conflict in the house. The job with the CSPS was part time which he took because he couldn't at the time find another and he had thought it would be good experience and would go well in his records with the Department. He hadn't bargained for the problems with Glenda or realized the two children would be in the middle of the almost daily brawls they were having.
At first he was not aware of Abbey but she was a perceptive girl and she was conscious of his moods as they worked side by side on occasions. He began to talk to her and spent more time in her company over ensuing weeks.
She seemed to understand and sympathise with his dilemma
They sometimes went for a drive to one of the smaller towns nearby or to the river for a picnic, on some occasions they took the dogs in the back of his dual cab ute.
This morning as Lindsay faced the mirror and shaved around the narrow moustache, his fairish -brown hair, yet uncombed stood on end untidily, his hazel eyes were red rimmed and anxious.
He could hear Glenda yelling at the kids yet again and sighed with despair. What the hell do I do - he asked himself inaudibly.
It was Lindsay's face who looked up at Milly now. she had seen him frequently over recent weeks, as she came and went to the office, checked the roster board or made her end of day reports.
She hadn't bothered to open the envelope on the way in the morning but had thrown it carelessly onto the passenger seat of her little car. Now about to go home for the evening she remembered it and told herself she had better see some people.
She gasped and stared unbelievingly at the face. It was no longer blurry and indistinct, the mans face was clearly defined now, still smiling and looking at Abbey fondly.
Perhaps the photo meant nothing, perhaps he wasn't the invisible boy friend perhaps it was just a photo, two people who worked together. But a little voice told her that she was avoiding the issue, the implications were startling.
Where was Ben? She'd have to go find him at once, she looked at her watch. He had gone to Pemberdale today was he back ?
She drove to the motel on the off chance, his car was out of the Port. She reversed and almost backed into him.
"Bloody hell girl look where your going. Are you all right?"
They were both out of the cars, she was pale and had left the motor on and the door open .
"Can we go inside?"
"Yes come in, turn the car off girl and shut the door".
He turned the key in the lock and went in holding door open. He noted she had something in her hand.
She sat down hastily she was still white. "What is it?"
She held out the photo "You found him?"
"He's -he's- I've been working with him. He's a murderer Ben and I've been working with him". She stuttered.
Ben made her a strong drink, placing the photo down.
"We have established Briggs killed her Milly. So our photo subject is involved in the CSPS is he, What does he do?"
"He's running it " .
"Well not really, Mrs Dawson is senior but he's the Assistant Co-ordinator or whatever, I'm not sure of his title".
"We-l-l. So that's why he didn't come forward."
"Ben I've seen him almost every day since I've been there, I would never have known it was him from the original photo. Are you sure this is the same man?"
"Of course. It just had to be enhanced and processed in the correct way and enlarged, th...." He stopped and standing still a moment in thought. "Does this Kellow have any hobbies?"
" I don't know Ben. Why?"
"I don't suppose he's into amateur photography, he doesn't develop his own film by any chance does he?"
"I don't know".
"I'll have to find out. It's as well your cover held Mil". He said looking at her. "You can say that again". Some colour had returned to her cheeks "What's his name ?"
"Lindsay Mellow, remember we talked about him briefly the other evening".
"Well if he's the missing boy friend he could be able to help us" .
"And he could have killed her".
Ben shook his head but said "Have you got an address? I'd better go and see him?".
"It's among that file I gave you the other night, but do you think that's a good idea?"
"I can find out when he saw Abbey. He may have been with her later than Simone saw her. At least that would help a bit with the time factor, if he saw her Sunday then we know she didn't die until the Monday or later.
"He's married remember".
"Yes I'll be the essence of tact don't worry. You'd better get home too, your car is blocking the driveway out there".
"So is yours". She countered with a weak smile.
"H-e-mm, well I'm going out again in a minute". He grinned at her and flicked through the pile of papers.
"See you later then". She said at the door.
"You feel all right now?" He turned to face her.
"Yes. I got a shock that's all".
"What colour is white!" He grinned and winked at her as she went out.
* * * * * * *
Lindsay Kellow was working the following day so Ben had to ask him to go outside. He did not want to embarrass the man in his place of work. He was sure he saw Mrs Dawson's ears switch 'on' as he said a few words to Kellow.
The young man stamped reluctantly along the passage and into the car park
"Do you want to sit in my car?"
"Here'll do". He frowned.
"Right". Ben took out the photo and held for him to see. He paled and looked at the older man in trepidation
"I wondered if you could tell me when you saw her last. We still don't know when she died, if you saw her after Simone Flinders did that would help us".
" What makes you think I saw her at all?"
"She had a friend Lindsay, that's common knowledge, this photo of the two of you tells me it was you. I know you're married so I thought here would be better that at home. We need to trace her movements after Saturday afternoon, did you see her that evening?"
"No I didn't and anyway why is all this coming up again now?"
"The Day family are not happy with the way the Police handled the investigation. I am ..."
"Yes yes, you've told me who you are".
" Could you tell me where you were that night?"
"It's weeks ago "
"I know but if you had something on that evening, a function, visitors at your home or something perhaps you'd have the date marked on your calendar, or in your day book at work. "Why should I have to tell you where I was anyway?"
"It would establish you didn't see her that night, we could eliminate you from the inquiry - so to speak". Ben didn't want to force the issue at this stage.
"You can take my word for it . That should do you".
"Perhaps it would have but I find it strange that you didn't come forward at the time. It's just a matter of trying to get a clear picture. How long had you been dating her?"
Ben shot out the last question sharply and waited. "We weren't actually dating".
"But you were seeing a lot of each other?"
"Some, we had been seeing a bit of each other". He bent his head and scrapped his shoe in the gravel.
Then looking up he said " She had another guy".
"She did?" Ben raised an eyebrow and gazed at Kellow.
"Yes he was, they were, oh never mind". He looked away.
"I don't suppose you know this other persons name Lindsay?".
"He drives an old sedan, he was up there on, well, one night that weekend. Anyway she wasn't playing square with me. I dropped her".
"I see, and this other fellow did you ever see him?"
"At a distance, he was always hanging about. Always ringing her asking her to go and see him, always making out he was depressed and suicidal. It's a pity he hadn't -- look I've got to go Dawson will be hopping mad".
"Yes, right you go then, thanks for helping".
Ben left there with his brow creased into a deep frown. How did he know who was at the cottage that weekend?
"You've never seen him up here then Maggie, she hasn't brought him around for tea or anything?"
"Of course not Ben, if she was seeing him she wouldn't bring me into it. She'd know I'd never approve of such a friendship.
I don't approve of young people going out with someone who is already married to someone else. It was never done in decent circles in my day, it shouldn't be done now. If there was not such a loose moral code abounding there'd be less divorce cases in the courts".
"Er- yes I'm sure you're right, in one way , but there are circumstances Maggie. Sometimes it's better "
He stopped it would be pointless in beginning a discussion with her on this. Her eyes and demeanour told him that loudly and clearly
"Er- now as I said I've spoken to him and he says they were seeing each other, he claims that he put a stop to it. Maybe she did. Maybe they argued about that in fact".
"Ben are you now saying this Kellow man may have killed Abbey not Briggs?" Maggie stared at him.
"I will need to follow through a few things before I could answer that. I want to go back out to the cottage again have you put it on the Market yet?
"No Martin and I talked about it. It's just that we haven't got around to it yet. It seems such a final move somehow Ben".
She met his eyes and they clouded as she lost the last couple of words in a half sob.
"Yes I expect so, I'm sorry Maggie but I need to go up tomorrow if you could let me have the key again". He continued gently.
"What are you hoping to find ?"
"I can't fathom why she never had a diary of some sort, I thought all young girls kept a diary even if only for hairdressing appointments and lunch time shopping plans, things like that".
Maggie frowned at him "Wouldn't she have a day book or something at work or in her briefcase?"
"I cant find it. Mrs Dawson said there's no other things of hers there".
"What do you want the diary for?"
"To check if she was meeting this guy how often and if there was in fact someone else. Kellow says someone was always ringing her up asking her to go over, as he put it".
"I see". Maggie went to the window and gazed out.
Ben sensed she was on edge, arguing with herself about something. She turned to face him.
"If you read it here you may see it".
"I have no intention of letting it out of my sight".
"What are you saying, have you got her diary?"
I have Abbey's cheque books, bank statements, all her private papers. I did tell you that before Ben".
"You did, so you did. I never connected it, I never thought of you having the diary. Have you read it?"
"Of course not, it's private, I really should have burnt it".
"No, don't do that . But look here you had better read it first if you feel so strongly about this, because if I cite it, it may have to be taken in as official evidence. You check it out for me. Will you do that? --Maggie".
"Oh- very well. I wish I'd kept my mouth shut".
"And I'm glad you didn't. You are an old rogue you know that? I've been floundering around in the dark for weeks and you're sitting on vital information. How could you Maggie you want me to find her killer and you bury the ... oh I'm sorry".
The woman had turned from him, her shoulders were heaving. She pulled a tissue from a box on the window ledge and sniffed.
He stepped to her and put a hand on her shoulder.
"Take no notice of me. I'm just a sentimental old woman who ..."
"No no, it's not that, I'm glad you have the book, all these small things are important".
Ben sat up startled it was late he'd been asleep for hours or so he thought the hammer-like knocking on his door grew louder.
He got out of bed and staggered to the door "Who is it?" The hammering went on, he opened the door a few inches it was pushed back onto his face a dark coated figure barged through.
The man grabbed Ben by the neck, forcing him backwards into the wall. A coarse voice said "If you want to stay in one piece you get yourself out of this town. you are stirring up a no end of trouble for people here we don't want you in this town any longer". He gripped Bens hair and banged his head back onto the wall. " You were bringing cartloads of trouble if you go on the way you are you'll be sorry". Bens head was pulled and slammed again. Tell those Days you are out of here". Ben smelt alcohol as he struggled to free himself but was retrained forcibly. This time he was facing the wall, one arm was twisted behind his back. "Tell them to leave sleeping dogs lie." This time it was his forehead which received the thumping. "Tell them they will be the ones who are sorry. You hear me? Ben tried to nod . You'll be sorry too so take my word you get out of here pronto". The mans voice was more intense and threatening as the minute crept past. His hands were large and work worn. "Now listen Briggs". Ben gasped trying to get out of the vice-like hold. "It's not me who's done those things I've got nothing to do with any of it. I tell you". He was lifted and propelled across the room.
"It's time Mr Brady, it's time you went back to the city".
He was thrown onto the bed and by the time he regained his breath the door was slamming shut.
He sat panting, his chest heaving up and down rapidly. He held the back of his head it felt as though it had been hit with a sledge hammer. His forehead was bleeding. He stretched his hand to the telephone and then remembered who was in charge at the Police Station . He leaned back and gazed at the ceiling. 'Tomorrow I go to Pemberdale bugger this ' he announced to himself. He got off the bed and with an unsteady hand he poured himself a nip of brandy.
He didn't sleep for more than 10 minutes at once during the rest of the night.
The Pemberdale Police Station was an old building in the centre of town, the junior constable at the desk-counter informed Ben that Det Sgt Holdsworth was out but he could wait.
"How long would that be?"
"Another 5 maybe 10". The young man answered as he turned to pick up a ringing telephone.
Ben stepped back and sat down on the hard upright bench-seat. He listened to the buzz of activity in the station, phones ringing doors opening and closing, heavy footsteps, a laugh, an oath. He felt at ease, it was home away from home. He remembered his father. He used to take him on his shoulders into his office so many times. He remembered the days they called in to check something out, on their way to the beach for a swim or to go fishing. He'd be given pen and paper and sat in one corner for a while. He smiled now recalling the urgency that he felt to grow bigger so his father's cap would not fall down over his eyes. Then he'd be swooped up in loving arms and they'd go out to the car the siren echoing for a block or two.
It was so fast, so exciting for a wide eyed small boy. Then they'd be at the beach 'now you've got a couple of hours son so make the most of it'
And he did, building sand castles running in the waves, falling in the waves and getting sunburned . Then more often then not he'd fall asleep in the back seat of the car on the way home. His mother would have the evening meal ready but they ate in silence, his father listening to every word of the ABC news broadcast.
His pleasant day-dream was disturbed by steps resounding nearby.
"Det Sgt Holdsworth can see you now, follow me".
The slim young policewoman smiled and turned, marching smartly ahead of him.
Holdsworth was a red-head and he had an unruly beard to match, he was probably under 40.
"Goodday Brady" He extended a hand
Ben's was crunched a moment and released. "Sit. You from the city?"
"Yes. I've been engaged by a local family ie a Colbreeth family".
"Ah-h, What can I do for you, that's Briggs town?"
"I'm having some problems, Briggs being one of them".
"Oh, You have any papers?"
Ben took out his ID folder and passed it over "You been at this game a while I see".
"Yes, sometimes I wonder why I bother, it's so damn frustrating, everything is either confidential or classified.".
"Well we can't give information to all and sundry you know".
"Yes I do know, if I didn't I'd soon learn". Ben grinned.
"Right who's the family?"
"Day, Martin the son put me on, Maggie's the mother .The daughter died some weeks back, she was found in the Everard Lagoon".
"Ah-h yes I remember something coming through. Maggie Day eh?" Ben sensed he was being cagey and followed the lead.
"M-mm you know her?" Holdsworth leaned back and smiled "Yes, Victoria Margaret, but it was really Robert Joseph that we knew. More precisely my Dad knew but I remember going on fishing and shooting trips a few times when I was a teenager"
"Oh". "Yes he and Dad were, what we'd term, cronies".
"So you would have had a personal interest in the case then?" Ben threw the question flippantly and waited.
Holdsworth raised an eyebrow. "Death by drowning wasn't it? It was sad to hear".
"So you didn't know her".
"Not really , the families drifted apart some years ago. Probably after my folks died I suppose". He frowned. " I believe the case was never investigated properly".
The younger man sat forward. "Old Briggs pushed it all under the carpet".
"Hey wait a minute, that's pretty strong".
"I know". Ben met his eyes and waited.
"What makes you say this, is this what the family believe?"
"Have you got anything to substantiate this allegation Mr Brady?" He challenged scowling. Ben told him most of the facts he had gathered, omitting such things as graves being dug or tyres slashed.
"What about the Coronial inquiry?"
"It's not for some weeks yet".
"Are you, or the family, going to present this".
"I see . You're skiing on a very narrow edge here, you know that? " . His eyes clouding. "Yes I realize there are all sorts of repercussions, that's why I have put off coming across here".
Holdsworth sat in thought. He reached to a box on his desk and took out a cigarette, he offered one to Ben.
"I'm trying to give it away".
"Good for you, my grandfather smoked, he died at 88".
"Yes I've heard of those instances".
He clamped the cigarette between his lips and chomped on it. "Terrible habit, damn hard to break".
"I've tried nicotine patches you know".
"Not much. My wife tells me it's all in the mind, you want to give it up or you don't".
"She's probably pretty right too".
"So you reckon Briggs is protecting his brother?". His wide brow was creased ,his eyes narrowed.
"Yes I do"
"What if you're wrong, what if the brother's innocent?"
"Yes I've thought about that, but someone killed her".
"Well that remains to be seen. The city boys went back without finding reason to call in the homicide branch.
"Anyone can make a mistake overlook something".
"What if you put all this down on paper and give it to me." He looked directly at Ben.
'Here is where most PIs opt out. Most are a lot of hot air, they unearth all sorts incidents and coincidences and tie them up into a bundle of nothing, unable to prove one thing. Ask them to put their money where their mouth is and they're off like a greyhound out of a starting box'.
"And if I do?". Ben replied
"Er, I'll have to digest it and then decide". The police officer replied speculatively.
"So it might end up in your bottom drawer too?"
"Not if I think there's been a Police cover up, if you can prove who owns these clothes, where she was for the intervening days and why , where that tank came from, give me something beside theory Brady".
"Right. Give me a day or two, I haven't got a typist up here and you'd never read my long hand".
Holdsworth raised an eyebrow and stood up, 'Well well' he said to himself. The men shook hands and Ben departed.
* * * * * *
Ben's 'paper' contained a lot of --'it appears to me' and 'it's my theory' and 'could it be' and finished with 'if the Martin family are right if justice has not been done here will there be another victim found in the lagoon, a lake or the river in the next few weeks. If so whose fault will it be, on whose shoulders will hang the blame for a death or deaths which need not have occurred?'
He went out to make a copy of the original before putting it in the mail to Holdsworth.
His next task was to go through that diary.
Ben sat in the Days front room with the flower covered diary, a note pad and pencil.
Maggie was feigning to do some knitting and had tucked herself comfortably up in a chair where she could see him.
He wasn't sure whether she thought he'd tear pages out and smuggle them into a pocket or whether he would do some sleight of hand and take the diary altogether. He refrained from smiling as he began the job.
Every now and then she made him a cup of tea and place it beside him.
He grunted an acknowledgment and went on steadily.
Dates, times, names.
It seemed that Abbey didn't lead a very busy social life.
If she went out to dinners or functions she never recorded it.
Names were mostly only initials--M B. L K, C D, S.F. Martin was Marty, Maggie was Mum, Simone was Simmy, the dogs were Duchess and Duke .
The entries were mostly---
.... will be here at
Mrs D says
..MB is very down today
..LK is having a rotten time
..going to Mums for tea
..Marty will be up next weekend
None of it was helpful.
He had been hoping for more personal entries, such as, Joe Blob and I did or ......I'm meeting Joe Blob today for Jo Blob does something for me , my life is suddenly a wild and delirious merry go round... No such luck. If she was the sort of girl to write up her romances she certainly had not written any of it here. He closed the book and look up to his hostess Thank you Maggie. "So?" 'There's not a lot there, that weekend the only entry was a game of squash with Simmy". "That would be Simone "
"I'm sure it would".
Maggie came over and took the diary. She had a look at the week prior to her daughters death and she also found nothing of help.
Ben sat with Martin and Milly in a booth at the back of the Tavern. The bar was beginning to fill up with late Saturday afternoon patrons. A three piece band was setting up their gear in one corner.
"I'm afraid I was quite rude really I was furious she had this damn book all this time and here we are running around chasing our tails".
"Well for what it's worth I apologise for her but she's always been a very private person Ben. I remember one of her main concerns when we spoke about calling you in was that we'd "have some stranger prying into our affairs"- as she put it. It wasn't until I pointed out that our first priority was solving this mystery surrounding Abbeys death..."
"And you wouldn't have brought me in if she hadn't agreed?" Martin felt four curious eyes on him. He hesitated.
"Well as it happens I didn't have to make a decision on that did I?" he grinned and took a few mouthfuls of his drink.
" In one way I can understand".
"You're a girl".
"Yes ! "
"So have you been through the journal Ben?"
"Yes but there's...." He took a sip of his drink and grimaced.
"That's a bit swollen did you go to a Doctor?"
"I don't really know how my lip was injured it was my head that was banged against the wall".
"You must have bitten it".
"You certainly look as though you've been in the wars. who put the plaster on your forehead?"
"I did that myself, I'm not useless you know".
"What did Mother say?"
"She fussed about with Dettol and sponge as most mothers would". He grinned .
"Are you sure it was Malcolm Briggs?"
"Who else would it be?"
"What about this Kellow guy you've been telling me about?" Martin spun a coaster round on the table top his voice stiff and tense. "I can't see why".
"Didn't you go to see him this week?"
"Well he may have wanted to frighten you off".
"If that's so he must have something to hide". Milly remarked.
"I'd like to get my hands on him regardless".
"He wouldn't talk to you any more readily". Milly said putting small hand on his over the table.
The gesture did not go unnoticed by Ben
"I wasn't thinking if talking to him Mil".
"Now listen young man...."
"Yes yes, I know keep my nose clean, at least until after the Coroners inquiry, I will Ben I will".
"If Abbey was going out with him it would have been as much her decision as his, you've got to remember that".
Martin shook his head. his eyes were lowered to stare at the table.
Ben stayed a few minutes longer then excused himself.
Milly said "How was work?"
The young man looked up "It's OK. How is everything going up at the Taylors, they looking after you well ?" He smiled weakly.
"They're sweet I couldn't wish for a better real uncle and aunt".
"Ben said you were upset about this Kellow?"
"Yes I was flustered I thought for a few horrible moments he was the murderer".
"Ben still thinks it was Briggs".
"Oh I don't think he has a closed view, he's following through all avenues".
"You sound like a P.I already".
"Yes, what if you marry a guy who doesn't like you putting yourself into jeopardy?"
She laughed "Oh that's a long way off, I've got two years to do before I graduate Martin".
"M-mm. What are you doing this evening Milly?"
"Nothing". She smiled at the dark young man his round face was drawn and tired today.
"Did you want to come up to the house? I'd take you out to dinner but Mother has cooked, she always get food ready when I'm coming up" .
"She may not want a third person. Why don't we make it tomorrow". She watched him he hesitated but then said.
"No we'll go up now, if there's a problem we'll go out anyway but she's not like that".
"The circumstances are different, I remind her of the investigation, I remind her of sad things".
"How do you know that?"
She shrugged "I'm just guessing".
"I'm not sure you're right. Let's go up, we'll see how she's feeling". He stood up and across her jacket.
"Yes I'll need that. It's getting really cold up here now. What's the winter like?"
"Gloves, hat and boots".
"Lovely weather to stay indoors by a log fire".
"You don't like log fires?"
"I don't like cold weather".
"Oh". He held the door for her and they went to his car.
Ben wandered about the cottage picking up this or that, pulling out a drawer, opening a cabinet. He felt ill at ease, the home seemed to echo as he handled things he had mental images of the dead girl. He felt he knew her now whether from what Maggie and Martin had said or from the family photo parade Maggie had in prime position in her lounge room, he wasn't sure. Or was it simply that he had found out so much about this young person. She could have been his own daughter, no she couldn't. Pamela was not at all like Abbey, her attitude was way off centre to start with and her values were misplaced. He hadn't seen Pam for some time, they didn't really get along well. After Eileen's death they drifted apart, seeing less and less of each other. The man she chose to marry was the exact opposite of Ben so that too had its indirect effect on the relationship.
His mind returned to the present. He went out of the house and walked slowly down toward the garage and dog enclosure. There was a wind blowing up and rain clouds had begun to scud across the sky, there was no sun this morning, winter was pressing in.
He thought again about the dogs -- did she let them out before she was abducted, did they get out themselves somehow, or were they let out? He stopped and looked at their enclosure the gate was wide open, the wind now swaying it to and fro. He nodded.
He went into garage that too was empty now. Martin had taken her small car down to his mother's place for safe keeping.
He went out again and sat down on a square of bricks, he took out his note book to make a few notes.
A flock of cockatoos flew overhead, screeching and calling. Ben looked up, he loved these birds. He remembered his grandfather having a pet cockatoo, it always talked to him. then no one else loved him, if he was chastised or punished that old bird would always lean over chuckle at him. Then he'd sway and dance on his perch his bright yellow crest bobbing and dancing until Ben felt cheered.
The birds above flew on and out of his sight. He sighed and lowered his eyes.
A rattling sound replaced their calls ,the man looked to see what was causing the noise, there was of downpipe swaying and rocking in the rising wind. It was dangling from the garage roof just above him.
Ben stared at it. why was it there ? Where was it going? Why was it leading to nothing? He jumped up and looked at the square of bricks he'd been sitting on. Suddenly his minds eye saw the tank the one now at Michael Derwent's place. He pictured it here, it fitted, the right height the right size to stand on this square of bricks. He ran to his car. In his haste he flooded it and had to calm down to get it started. Then he sped down the track.
Doubts descended as he went. why hadn't anyone noticed it missing. Maggie or Martin would have known he must be wrong. He'd check with Maggie first.
He bounded into the house without waiting "Maggie, Maggie are you there?"
"Yes I'm here. What on earth is it Ben?" She looked him eyes wide.
He gasped out his story and she sat down her face ashen.
"You would have seen it missing wouldn't you? Martin would have known it wasn't there surely?"
"I don't know Ben, I didn't go out to the garage area, I only went out to the cottage once to get her papers. I don't know what Martin did. He was probably like me, too upset to go looking around".
"But didn't people search for her?"
"Yes but would they realize?"
"The Police would have but they didn't ...".'
"What a mess it can't be of course, there must be some other explanation. Can I ring Martin?" He went to the phone.
"Of course. Ah Ben can you, er put it - can you...."
"Yes I see what you mean, right, I'll ask in a different way OK?
Maggie was sitting on the edge of a chair twisting a tissue about in her fingers, her lips trembling.
"Look you sit there, I'll make you a cup of tea for a change". Ben said when he saw her state. "Then I'll ring him in a little while".
He put the kettle on and came back, he put an arm about her shoulders, she turned tear filled eyes to him.
"I thought the whole nightmare was bad enough, you know what this means Ben? "
He did but said instead "I'm sorry Maggie I shouldn't have barged in like that I should have made sure of the facts first".
"You have. It will be her tank Ben".
"How do you know that- for sure?"
The woman didn't answer but stared across the room seeing nothing. He got up and made some tea strong and black, the best he could offer for her renewed shock and trauma.
* * * * * *
"Yes who are you?"
"Ferguson, Dan Ferguson, you found a tap on that tank?"
"Yes, what's it to you?"
"I'd like tah see it, I put it on".
"Oh, you'd better come in then".
He was a short man dressed in overalls and a cap.
"You put the tap on Abbey's tank you say".
"Sure did, she wanted a water system for the dogs".
"So you did the plumbing?"
"If that's what you want tah call it mate".
"How did you know I was here?"
"We all know you're here".
"I see, and where do you fit into this picture, how do you know Abbey?"
"I work at D and D, she worked at D and D". He gazed at Ben as though he was stupid.
"Ah I see". Ben grunted. "Thanks for coming to see me .You want to look at the tank now?"
"I'll ring and see if Michael's home".
"She said she'd wait in for us".
" Right". Ben felt he had little to do with any of this but was glad of the sudden support. This scruffy little man might prove a big help. They left the motel and walked to Bens car.
"Are you sure Ben, a tap's a tap isn't it?" Milly frowned at her boss.
"Usually, but it seems this was a reject tap, he got it cheap for her, it was a second, a damaged fitting".
"I see and the tap on the tank you found is damaged?"
"Exactly the same defect, according to Ferguson".
"Well if he's into pipes and things who are we to argue with him. How's Mrs Day now?"
"She was sleeping when I left there this morning".
"You stayed over!" She turned to look at him.
"Yes". Ben kept his eyes on the road. Milly giggled.
"What's the matter with you?" He growled.
"What a bit of juicy gossip that will be for the tea parties over the next week or so". Her smile widened.
"Hell Milly the poor woman was distraught, she couldn't be left up there alone".
"Of course not".
He glared at her. The girl tittered but then in a business like tone she said "Now if the measurements we take out there are the same then we can assume that the tank came from there".
"Yes. But we still have to find out who took it out of the lagoon and why".
"Why not the person that put it in. Once he heard that the body was found? "
"Yes I suppose you're right".
"Briggs because he wanted no evidence to incriminate his brother".
"How could the tank do that, if he'd left it there".
"Evidence my girl, evidence. We're tying it into the death aren't we?"
"The only problem is that we're not tying it in to anyone".
"Someone with a truck?"
"Someone who is strong enough to move it or maybe it took two people".
"You never found any council fellow who could remember who brought it in or when?"
"If they know they're not saying".
"I suppose they'd take no notice anyway. Its all in a days dumping to them".
"Yeah. Milly can you take some time to go to the library?"
"Could you read some local papers for me? I've done quite a lot but I haven't found what I want".
" What do you want?"
"I want a little paragraph telling us there was a break in to the tip, that the gates were smashed or the lock broken off, something in that vein".
"At night you mean?"
"I see what you're getting at. OK I'll go in tomorrow. Here we are. Have you got the tape measure?
"Yes " .
Glenda Kellow had had enough, the move up from the city was bad, her girls friends rang regularly, which made it worse rather than better because they told her where they'd been to lunch, who went who they me there. They told her about the shows they were seeing and the new clothes they had bought. The first year was tolerable but recently Lindsay had been impossible. He was irritable and cranky everyday, he was edgy and non-communicative. She couldn't cope any longer.
Lindsay found the note on the dining room table when he came home from work---I'm fed up I'm taking the kids back to the city.
I'll find a flat and contact you----.
He sighed. Perhaps it's for the better. He looked around the house, the furniture was all in place. He walked to their room, a lot of empty space in the robe and some drawers, her cosmetics were almost all gone off the dressing table top. He went to the kids room. The two doonas lay folded neatly at the foot of each bed. He opened a drawer it was empty. He sighed again.
"Oh Glenda it started off so well, what happened to us?' He went through to the lounge room and sat down. He read the note again. It wasn't an angry note, just tired and the end of her tether. He should have tried harder. Maybe if she has a break, maybe she'll be back in a week or two.
Ben took a sip of his drink and looked around the bar. He hadn't seen Kellow in the bar at night before. The young fellow was certainly downing a few pots tonight. Ben frowned his mind ticking over wondering what was going on. He might pay a visit to Mrs Dawson tomorrow. He thought for a moment of going up to the bar and speaking with Kellow but changed his mind and went through to the Bistro.
It was Friday evening, Daine Forrest and her husband were seated with two people Ben didn't know. He gave them a nod and a grin and moved on. Further down he stopped a moment 'was that Milly and Martin' he was sure it was. They were sitting heads close at a small table on the far wall. 'Well well, I thought he came up Saturday mornings, well well'. He smiled and continued to the food bar. The bistro food was piping hot and tasty. Tonight he chose lemon fish and grilled sliced potato and helped himself to a couple of salads. The staff knew him now, the young man behind the Beign-Maree gave him a generous serve and a friendly grin and he spent a minute exchanging trivialities with the woman at the cash register.
A couple of nights later Ben did offer to buy Lindsay Kellow a drink. After an exchange of general topics for a while he turned the conversation to the subject on his mind.
"Lindsay you mentioned that the other guy was at Abbey's place that weekend, do you mind telling how you knew that?"
The younger mans eyes turned cool and he answered reluctantly "She works with me for Pete's sake, people talk at work I suppose she told me". He looked away.
"You said he drives an old sedan, have you any idea what make, what colour?"
Turning dull eyes to Ben he replied "Sort of dirty red, reddish brown".
"And the make? "
"Holden, he'd not have anything better than a Holden".
"So he's not, shall we say, he's not overly flush with the dollar?"
"If she didn't work he'd....Now wait a minute here Brady I'm not saying any more".
"Right, sure if that's how you feel. Have another beer". Lindsay nodded.
Was it because the man was on the books at CSPS that Kellow wouldn't divulge the name?. He has to be commended for that but on the other hand....
Ben stayed a short while longer and then said goodnight.
Claudia Dawson had told him the man's wife had left, he wondered why. When he got back to the motel he made a phone call to the city, he was going to need some more information on this Kellow.
As Ben waited for his colleague to answer he thought of Milly and Martin again. She'd not said a word to him about her dinner out, but then it was none of his business. He smiled 'I wonder how my fiery friend would handle this if it went any distance'.
He pictured Maggie a very jealous mother-in-law.
Claudia Dawson had been working in Welfare many years. She trained when it was a two year course at a Tertiary college.
She had occasionally gone back to do courses and weekend seminars to keep her Diploma current. For most of her career she had worked in the city, but when the country branch was opening she had, along with many others, put her name forward. It offered promotion, an increase in salary and it offered her a challenge.
Setting up the Service, opening the office, interviewing prospective volunteers etc was all something she'd never done. Fortunately everything had gone smoothly until now. Until one of her volunteers had drowned. Abbey was one of her best, bright cheerful and co-operative.
When young Lindsay Kellow was appointed 2 IC Claudia was glad of the back up. she found though that he didn't have the dedication even commitment she would have liked. She felt too that some of Lindsay's decisions concerning the advice and direction given were questionable. As she had final say in everything at this point she was able to temper that. she had seen the developing friendship between Abbey and he, indeed she had overheard parts of conversation. She knew he was playing the misunderstood husband.
She went so far as to very tactfully warn Abbey. She thought the girl had listened.
In any case it was not her concern she was here to help the 'patients'. She disliked this word, they were not patients, neither were they clients or customers. They were not residents or inmates either. They were dependents but that word could not be bandied about. She had coined her own word they were 'attendees'. She was here to help them not the volunteers or support staff.
Claudia had a small house close to the centre of the town. she had joined the local women's ACTIVE group soon after coming to the town, her social life was confined to this area. They would take regular hiking trips, go to a Gym, take a weekend bus package somewhere or meet at one of the hotels or restaurants for a lunch or dinner. Apart from these events Claudias life was her work. There was an occasional CSPS social function which she either Organised or attended.
She had been married once but he'd been irresponsible and overbearing so she told him he had to change-his ways or pack up. He packed up.
She never tried again. Now at 48 she had no intention of ever considering a long term relationship.
Now she looked at Lindsay across the space of the tiny office as he searched for a file in the cabinet. He was pale and tense, she had heard he had been drinking heavily too. she saw him herself recently while at one of the hotels with her friends. She was going to have to speak to him. Staff who were in this state were of no help to her 'attendees', they had enough garbage of their own to haul around.
As he turned from the filing cabinet she said. "Lindsay before you go this afternoon I want to see you for 5 minutes, just to have a chat.
His dull eyes met hers "Right Mrs D, I'll be in around 4".
"Are you all right".
"Yes I think so. you knew Glenda took off?"
"Yes you told me. you haven't heard from her?"
"Oh, she rang, we have to sort out kids and furniture and that sort of stuff".
He left with head bent before Claudia could say any more .
Ben helped Lindsay out of his car. He chided himself for taking advantage of a drunken man but eased his conscious by arguing he was too drunk to drive himself home safely anyway. He refused to remind himself that on this occasion he had been the main cause of that. It was vital he find out a few things was his justification.
The house was tidy but cold, they staggered in and under Lindsay's blurry guidance Ben got the heater going. He then made them both something to eat. He needed it even if the younger man didn't.
Most of their conversation during the evening had been inconsequential. Every now and then Lindsay would clam up retiring into a silent world of his own for minutes at a time.
Ben was convinced he knew more than he would admit about Abbeys drowning.
After they had eaten Ben took the offensive.
"Right Kellow now I believe you're withholding evidence and I want to know what it is. you know there's a penalty for concealing information relevant to a crime don't you?"
"There's a stiff penalty for murder too Benny, eh". He raised bleary eyes to met Bens.
"Yes there is".
"Like someone once said --innocent until proven guilty". His words were slurred and irregular.
"Yes but if you know who killed Abbey you're obliged to say so".
"She drowned , who says she was killed". He replied avoiding Bens eyes now
"Well not everyone thinks she drowned accidentally, you know".
"The Police say she drowned, old Briggs reckons it was suicide".
"Martin says no and he's her brother".
"Smart ass. she was always raving about the clever brother in the city".
"Was she? "Ben watched him closely "So you talked often did you?"
"Often, I thought she was a lovely girl. Then the little bint two timed me".
"Yes, I caught her .
"You mean you saw them together".
"Yeah. I waited all day for that little bint and she's up in the mountains with him, all bloody day I tell you". He was shouting now .
"And that made you angry?"
"It sure as hell did, it made me angry all right".
"What did you do?"
"I...".He stopped and glared at Ben "
"Well did you punch him up, warn him off, what?"
"Nay. He wouldn't understand, nay. Where's that bottle you bought Benny I need another drink".
"Sure. Lindsay I was thinking of going up to the mountains for a few days before I go back to the city. Are there any old miners shacks or cabins up there a fella could rent?"
"Yeah, there there's one or two".
"Could you take me up, show me?"
"Nay. I don't like cobwebs and ants you go an' see the Real Estate bloke down the main street, he'll fix yo' up. He's got a couple he Lets out, they belong to some city folk I reckon".
He was slipping further into an alcoholic stupor as the evening went on.
"Is that right? I might just do that".
It was not long before Ben was able to make his excuses and leave.
' up in the mountains all day' he had said. The sentence kept running around in Bens head as he went back to the motel.
Ben had just finished shaving, he had trousers on but no shirt when a knock on his front door echoed through the unit. "Hang on". He called, he grabbed a tee shirt and pulled it over his head as he approached the door. "Who is it?"
"Simone Flinders Mr Brady. Can I see you?
He opened the door, "Sorry young woman I thought the fellow who punched me up the other night might be back for a return bout". He grinned ruefully.
"Goodness who did that?"
"I've got my suspicions but I couldn't swear to it. you coming in? "
"No I'm on my way to work, I've got something to tell you".
"I remembered his name sounded like a breakfast cereal, Abbeys friend I mean." The girl looked up at him her eyes grave. "Theresa said I should tell you".
"Hm-m I see, was she seeing him that weekend?" "I think so, not that day though. She said she was going home to wash her hair, so she wouldn't have been seeing him that night".
"Because she was washing her hair?"
Ben shook his head. Young female logic eluded him. His face must have worn puzzlement for Simone went on.
"You don't see your beau with wet and dripping hair Mr Brady, you want to look your best". The small face wrinkled into a tolerant smile.
"So he was her beau?"
"Well I don't know really, I know she liked him, she said she heard the birds singing when he was around".
"I'm not sure what she meant Mr Brady".
"Aren't you Simone? Well my dear give it a year or two and you'll know all about it. Did you say a breakfast cereal?"
"Yes it always reminded me of breakfast, I don't know whether it was his first name or his surname though".
"Was it his name or a pet name she used for him?"
"Sorry Mr Brady I don't know that either".
"Well thanks anyway, if you think of anything else let me know".
"Sure. I'll be off then. See you".
She turned and walked up the driveway.
"Simone do you want a lift somewhere?" He called.
"No. I've got a ride thanks".
He watched. There was a white sedan parked in one of the front bays, a hand waved to him before the car was driven off.
His curiosity was aroused. A white sedan, someone who knew him? He frowned.
As he shut his door his mind turned to a red sedan, dirty red reddish-brown he had said. It had to be Briggs. So he was up there that weekend.
Now was about the time to confront Briggs. Even if the man denied it he might learn something by meeting him face to face. 'Get this work collated, photocopied and yet on out there Brady' he ordered himself.
It was only minutes later that there was another knock on his door--'hell it's busier than a bank on pension day'-- he pushed back his chair. He was always mildly surprised to have people come to the motel to see him. How they all knew exactly where he was he never knew.
The woman who stood at his door was obviously anxious her eyes swollen her face gaunt.
"I'm Doreen Briggs".
"Yes I've come to see you because I don't know who else I can go to". She sniffed.
"Er, yes well".
"I'm Malcolm's wife not Mervyns". "I see".
"May I come in, I don't want to be seen speaking with you". She looked around nervously.
Ben stepped back he understood that
"Sit down". She sat on the edge of a chair and her fingers intertwining one into the other. She was a mild mannered plain looking woman who could have been attractive in her younger years and with the help of little powder and paint. But she was edgy and tense right now. Her frame was so thin her clothes hung loose and baggy. Her blue eyes stared at him, apprehension obvious.
"I wondered if you could find out who's doing this perhaps then we could put a stop to it. I thought as you're working for the Days you may be able to do this for me on the side. I'm willing to pay".
She was desperate and he hadn't the heart to turn her away unheard.
"If you could find who doing this, if could you put a stop to it, it's going to break him, he's right on the edge again. It's happened before I can see it coming".
"I suppose you mean the tyre slashing and the grave digging?" He asked.
"Yes. He knows people hate him, most people hated them all then when they came home. Now they are accepted but it's too late for him. He'll never recover from the hurt ".
Ben sat down too. He ran one hand through his uncombed hair. "What is likely to happen if he breaks down?"
"He'll throw things, scream and yell and do an injury to himself. I've seen it all before, I don't think I could go through all that again". She sniffled.
"Tell me about this Doreen"
"What's to tell ?"
"How long have you been married to Malcolm?"
"Years, just after the war".
"No he can't, we can't".
"What about work, can't he get a job?"
"He used to work but then he got put off a few times, he gave up"
"And the CSPS, he was attending that?"
"Yes he was".
"When did he stop? "
"Some months ago. The girl who was counselling him died. He was terribly upset. Has been ever since somehow. He cries out at night and sits about the house moping. I don't know what's going on. Then this started, it's dreadful every time I go out to get the mail I shudder".
Ben was genuinely concerned for her he offered a cup of tea
"No I'd better not do that, it's risky enough just being here will you do this for me for us?"
"Doreen has Malcolm ever hit you, knocked you about?"
"Me, no he doesn't hit me".
"So you get on well?"
"As well as any I suppose, I get cross with him at times but we Married for better or worse so that's that isn't it. you didn't tell me if you'd help".
I don't know if I can because of working on the Day case you see".
"It's sort of an unwritten ethic, we can't take two cases where one might cross into the other". He put it as simply as he could hoping she'd understand but not too clearly.
"Why would that happen we've got nothing to do with that girl who drowned".
"Well only in that she was Malcolm's Counsellor, it's just a technical thing". He hedged.
"But off the record I'll see if I can do something about this OK? I don't want you paying me anything, I don't want it official". That damn committee he knew there'd be nasty consequences from that damn action group or whatever they had labelled themselves. These sorts of small town groups who try to take the law into their own hands were as old as the dark ages and as dangerous.
"Have you thought of going back to the CSPS". He asked
"I suppose we'll have to".
"Even if you go, if Malcolm won't."
"Yes I might do that but they can't do anything" She stood up and he opened the door. Ben stood frowning as she walked dejectedly down the driveway.
Ben caught the Real Estate man as he opened his doors. Stan Hopkins a middle aged man of stocky build nodded his head and led Ben into the office.
"I have three or four up there, I let them out periodically, it depends on when the owners are up here". He said in reply to Ben's enquiry.
"So no locals own the cabins you Lease out?"
"Have you got a map?"
"Sure have buddy, there's that big blue job on the wall, have a look at that or I can give you a fold-up to take with you. How long you want the cabin?"
"Not sure yet mate, I want to have a look at what you've got first " .
Ben took out his drivers Licence and a club membership card. "You trust me with the keys?"
The agent looked at both the IDs and then pointed to the wall.
"There's this and this one and this one right up where the river starts". He placed a finger on coloured dots on the map.
"I'd want you to have them back today". He said moving to a long wooden key rack on the other wall.
"Yep. That's no problem I should be back here by early afternoon".
"Right". Hopkins handed him the keys and a smaller map.
He left the office as the other staff were arriving, nodding a morning greeting as he went.
The road led up through steep and stony ranges. Most of the scarp was still virgin bush but there were small areas here and there that had been cleared, a small house stood on the side of a hill or tucked in a valley . A few cattle grazed on these clear glades or an orchard stood regimental and ordered , row by row and now the trees about to loose their summer leaves.
The morning sun splintered off the water as he caught glimpses of the river as it wound its way down to the rich grazing flats below.
The sealed road soon gave way to a winding gravel route and then narrowed even further as he reached the higher levels.
Ben consulted the map the first cabin should be round the next bend and close to the road.
It was. There was a wire fence and gate protecting the little house. Ben drew up and left the car on the side of the road.
The gate catch was stiff, the place was well painted and cared for . Even few cacti plants and geranium were struggling either side of the entrance door. The roof was beginning to show signs of rust.
As Ben opened the door a bird fluttered off a nearly tree, his wing-flap the only sound in the valley. It seemed to echo and re-echo.
The cabin was almost empty, only beds and mattresses, a few chairs, a table, and half a dozen cups and saucers in one cupboard. Brady looked carefully throughout and found nothing that gave any clue that anyone had been held there, but of course it was weeks ago now. It seemed however that there hadn't been anyone here for a long while, he felt it had a vacant 'air' about it. He closed the door and went out
The second cabin was obviously occupied, a 4 wheel drive and a boat were parked crosswise in front of it. Was it the owners?
The last cabin was certainly isolated, he had to take two off-roads to reach it and they really only tracks.
The timber walls were neglected and the roof was almost all rusting. No vehicle in sight this time and no fence around the place either.
He went in, the interior was dark and none too clean. There were dishes and pots and pans scattered about. Papers and magazines lay on the floor this had no covering and creaked under Bens steps, there was cold ash in the fireplace.
He found the track-suit in the make-shift bathroom. It may not be hers but it was small and could belong to a girl.
No one knew what Abbey had worn that evening before she put on the large clothes, but if she'd come home from work and had a shower it was likely that she would have slipped on a track suit. This garment did not match the other clothes hanging on wall pegs or in cabinets in the place.
If it was Abbeys Maggie may know or even Martin or Simone may have seen her wearing it.
If it was Abbeys it points no further than the fact that the girl was here.
Back at the Real Estate office however things started to fall into place.
This time Ben showed Hopkins his Licenced ID card.
The man was co-operative and agreeably turned up his books to find who had been leasing or renting the cabin over recent months.
Ben only nodded when he was informed it had been Leased to a Malcolm Edward Briggs for a period of six months.
Ben carried the track suit carefully, almost reluctantly, he knew she was going to break down. He would have given a lot to be able to avoid putting her through this. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
He heard her steps and waited literally holding his breath as she opened it.
His eyes conveyed his tension Maggie looked down at the garment he held. A light grey track suit with a vivid pink stripe he heard her sudden intake of breath, her eyes clouded.
"Oh no. Where was it?" She took it from him.
"In a cabin up in the mountains" He followed her into the front room.
"In a cabin, how did it get there? She sat down heavily on the couch.
I'm not sure yet, I'm guessing the person who abducted her took her up there".
"Oh no." she hugged the garment to her chest, her eyes filling. "Who's cabin was it Ben?"
"It's one that is let out to hikers, fishermen and the like". He omitted the obvious -- young couples.
"And she was there with someone, you mean?" She raised glistening eyes to his.
"It could have been that she was there against her will, that's what it appears to be. our theory that she put on those large clothes to escape looks possible now".
"But then how did she die in the lagoon?"
"I don't believe that she died in the lagoon, I never have, I believe she died elsewhere".
"Well where, in this cabin, in the tank, where?"
He sighed, at least she was facing it now, she knew that her daughter could have died in her own tank at her own home. His heart bled for her.
"That's exactly what I've got to establish Maggie" He said gently "This Agent, does he have a record of who rented the cabin?"
He nodded "Briggs was leasing it at the time, the lease has expired"
Maggie stood and went to the window, she picked up a cushion and pounded it with clenched fists.
"But there's another aspect Maggie, if she got away from the cabin he couldn't have killed her".
"He could have followed her".
"Ye-s, but I think there's more to it, I think young Lindsay Kellow knows something about all of this."
"Why because he was in the photo with Abbey? They worked together it could have been taken at any time at a social or something". She turned to met his eyes. "Yes it could have but he's a bit of a slippery eel that Kellow he's hiding something I'm sure."
"So what now? "
"I'm going to confront him again. I'm going to put over a bluff story".
"And if he doesn't believe you?"
"I've lost nothing".
"If he talks what then? There'll be just the two of you, it would be no evidence at all, if what you've been telling us is true".
"That's right I'll have to work around that Maggie".
The telephone buzzed beside them. Maggie picked up the mouth-piece. "Hello, Yes he is Milly, I'll put him on". She handed the instrument to Ben.
"Is that so? Well well, where's his brother?"
"I don't know Ben". Milly's voice carried through the phone.
"Right, I'll get down there now".
He turned to Maggie. "Briggs has broken down, they were at the CSPS, Mrs Dawson called Milly, I've got to get there".
* * * * * *
He was sitting quietly, head down, in one of the consultation rooms, Doreen was holding one hand and Mrs Dawson knelt on one knee in front of him.
"Malcolm has spoken with us Mr Brady, we thought you should hear what he has to say. Malcolm here is Mr Brady now he will listen and help you OK?"
"Shouldn't he have a Doctor or someone?" Ben whispered to her.
"Perhaps, in due course. Doreen and I think he needs to talk to someone". She stood and nodded to his wife and they left the room.
At first Ben had to drag every word from him.
His eyes were glazed and his voice almost inaudible, his hands were trembling.
Ben slipped in a few words of encouragement as the man talked more freely.
The story was as Ben had thought until the last words.
"I went to my brother to help, we came back, she was gone".
"Malcolm what was that you said, I didn't quite catch that Malcolm".
"She was gone, she's gone forever, I should have stayed with her I went to get Mervyn to help, I should have stayed with her".
Ben was perplexed if the girl had gone when they got back he could not have killed her. All he had done was knock her out and leave her. That's a hell of a long way off murder. Brady ran a hand through his thick hair and paced about the room. He opened the door, Mrs Dawson and Doreen Briggs came back in.
Doreen Briggs sat near her husband and took his hand.
To Brady she whispered " He's apologised a million times, he thinks I'll never forgive him".
"And will you?" Ben asked quietly.
The woman shrugged. "How can he help it? I can't really blame him for falling in love. I suppose we all do it at some time. He never meant any harm".
Ben was confounded by the calmness of the woman.
"How did you get him to talk to you in the first place?"
"I didn't Mrs Dawson did, she's very good with these people Mr Brady " .
"She must be".
"It's a gift".
"Understanding. I've never understood him really, not until they helped me, talked to me". Ben only patted her shoulder.
"Take him home Doreen". Mrs Dawson said then. Mrs Briggs urged her husband to stand up and guided him out of the room.
"What now, doesn't he need medical help?"
"In an hour or so."
"So do you do that?"
"Yes, we'll have a person out there and then a Doctor if required".
"Will he be all right, he won't take his life or anything?"
"Not now Mr Brady ,not now".
"What do you have to do?"
"Well I can't go to Briggs, Det Sgt. can I?"
"It's difficult isn't it?"
"I'll ring Holdsworth at Pemberdale, he was supposed to contact me but he hasn't".
"What will they charge him with?"
"Kidnapping I suppose".
"Mrs Day may not press charges when she hears the full story". Ben hesitated, he knew Maggies anger and loss, he wasn't sure about that at all.
He sat an hour later his notes in front of him. Adding Malcolm's story to the other facts pointed him in only one direction now. He pondered on this and formed the beginnings of an idea. He wondered if it would work. He'd never been a great poker player, bluffing was not his long suit, but perhaps it was worth a try. He stood up and took a jacket out of the small robe, it was getting very wintry out there now.
As Ben returned to the motel he saw the police car parked at the end of the driveway, the blue and red lights flashed on and off. Two officers were strolling aimlessly about.
"Ah, good afternoon Sir". One of them said as Ben stopped his car.
Ben didn't return his smile but threw him an icy glance, looked at the second man and said curtly.
"Is it me you're waiting on?"
"Yes it is Sir, our boss would like you to call into the station, he has a couple of questions. He knows you'll be happy to help with our inquiries".
"What inquiries are these officer?"
"I can't discuss that Sir, it wouldn't be worth my scalp". He grinned as he added the latter.
"Right let's go. you taking me in the 'light machine'?"
"No Sir, you're not under arrest Sir". The young man replied quickly.
Ben nodded put the car into reverse and backed down the drive.
Briggs got up from behind his desk and came around offering his hand to Brady.
Ben stared at him a moment but accepted the hand.
"Mr Brady do sit down. Thank you for coming down so promptly".
Ben again stared at him but sat on the padded chair in front of the wide desk
Briggs went back to his own seat.
"We've had reason to open up the file on the Day girls death ,not that it was ever actually closed you understand".
"But it was put on hold".
"We-ll yes, but now we have some new information and I want to follow through a couple of points as you're working on this case
I thought.. well. How is the case going anyway?"
He was the soul of affability, softly spoken courteous almost ingratiating.
Ben took a deep breath "Did this information come from the CSPS by any chance?"
"I know they are obliged to report certain things to the local law".
"Yes and no".
"And the no, has that part come from your brother".
Briggs looked at him a moment and the old animosity loomed for an instant in the pale blue eyes, but he said "I have no new information from my brother Mr Brady. I had a chat with him on a couple of occasions several weeks ago, what he told me then has not been changed in any way".
"M-mm that's good for you then. What about the tank?"
"Mr Brady I asked you down here to help me with my inquiries so far it seems to be me answering your questions".
"Sorry about that, what do you want to know?"
"Mrs Dawson tells me you have been interviewing Lindsay Kellow".
"Does she now? I thought she'd taken a vow of silence and discretion".
"She's obliged to answer official questions however, in any case it seems she's concerned about a member of her staff, it seems this member had been dating the dead girl".
"Not according to him".
"He said he broke it up".
"And you believe that?"
"Yes. What I don't know is when he broke it up and how. Did he hit her over the head and dump her in Everard Lagoon or did he throw her in the nearest convenient water tank".
He looked at Briggs closely.
The man said nothing at once and then. "You're still on about this tank".
"So would you be if you'd done a proper initial investigation or if your city boys had. A tank does not jump off it's own stand roll itself into a lagoon with its owner then suddenly roll itself out and disappear--all on the way to the local tip I might add".
Briggs stood up and took a few paces about the room. Suddenly spinning to face Brady he snapped.
"How do you know the tank is at the local tip?"
"It isn't now, it was".
"You removed it!" He cried.
"It was not removing evidence Officer, no one wanted it as evidence".
Briggs sat down again. "What do you mean roll into a lagoon with the owner, I don't follow you".
"If you go out to Abbeys place you'll find there is a tank base and downpipe and no tank between the two. I think that will strike you as a bit unusual."
Briggs merely looked at him "It could be anywhere".
Ben nodded. "Yes, it's a strange thing though that three men found the girls body in the lagoon in a tank. That within a few days the tank is gone and all this time the tank that was onto the girls garage has gone, to turn up at the town tip".
"There's nothing to connect the tank it could be any tank".
"Why don't you check with the manufacturer and the man who did the plumbing - just for starters".
"I see. 1 take it you have?"
"What I've done is inadmissible evidence".
"Most of it. By the way how's your brother?"
"He's coming along all right, we put him into hospital for a few days". He answered absently, looking at his desktop.
"That's a good idea".
Briggs looked at Ben then, a flicker of friendship cut across his cold eyes for a second.
"I don't suppose you also know who has been harassing my brother over recent weeks?"
Ben shook his head "I can only do one investigation at a time Det Sgt".
"I'll get to the bottom of it later believe you me. Now I'm going to bring this Kellow person in for questioning. Do you want to be here?" He pushed his chair back and stood.
Ben didn't believe it. It was a complete back flip, from no co-operation at all to above the norm. He wasn't sure what had changed Briggs attitude. Was it Holdsworth or was it that Malcolm had made a statement on his part in this. Either way it suited him.
"Well I'm not sure. I was going to work another angle".
"I figured if I told him Briggs, Malcolm ie talked, if he believes he was seen up there he might ..."
"So you're convinced he's involved?"
"Up to his eyeballs ".
Briggs of course had no knowledge as yet of the photo in Bens possession.
"Perhaps he and Abbey had a row. He's a pretty heavy drinker, I think he lost his temper".
"And held her under the water".
"No-o, I think there's more to it".
"Such as what?"
"I'm not sure yet".
"So you want me to allow you to finish this investigation your way?"
"Not exactly. I'd like a bit of support. I have an aversion to having face to face tete-a-tetes with killers. He's a lot younger and fitter than I am ".
Briggs grinned exposing large white teeth with a gap on the left upper set.
Perhaps not so much Mervyn the monster after all, Ben thought.
"And when did you plan to have this tete-a-tete?"
"There was one thing holding me up. I had to speak with the law. A PI can operate on his own only so far. I've done that now, lets go". He stood up.
Briggs led the way "So where is he today at work or at home?"
"At home, if he hasn't done a skit".
"You'd better come with me". The officer tapped a young man on the shoulder as they went through "You can drive for me Fenton".
The young officer jumped to attention and grabbed his cap.
There was no sign of Kellow as they drew up to the house.
No car visible, no radio playing, no doors or windows open. Briggs hammered on the door "You go round the back Fenton". The young man went loping down the side drive.
A minute or so later there were shouts and the sounds of a scuffle.
The two older men dashed down the side of the house.
They found Kellow and Fenton wrestling on the back lawn.
Briggs joined in and in a minute Kellow lay panting face down on the grass.
"I never meant her any harm I put her in there to cool off.
How was I to know the silly bint would die. She was two-timing me you know that?". He looked from Briggs to Ben as he was led to the car.
"We know about it Lindsay. We have a person who saw it all. you might as well tell us your version. It doesn't matter now really anyway, it's all over for you".
Ben pushed the issue before Briggs warned him to keep his mouth shut. They all got into the vehicle.
* * * *
"So what happens now?" Martin spoke for his mother too.
"Kellow has come clean to the Police, Briggs is in hospital for a bit of TLC and you two have to start putting your lives back together".
"After the Coroners inquiry". Martin commented.
"I'm not sure what the lawmen are doing about that now. Kellow has been charged with manslaughter. I think that will change the procedure".
"Manslaughter indeed, he killed my daughter" Maggie said angrily.
"Yes he did and I know how you feel. I can't put into words how sorry I am, but as far as the law is concerned he had no deliberate intention, that's why Maggie". He looked at her his own heart heavy. What can one say to a woman who has lost her child forever. Although he said he knew how she felt how could he. He'd never understand the loss that's felt by a mother for her child, he was a mere man.
"Goodbye Ben thanks for the cheque". Milly said as she got into her car. "Lets hope it doesn't bounce".
"Why would it do that?" "Martin hasn't paid me for a while".
"You'd better jog his memory".
"I will. Are you seeing him again?"
She hesitated "Yes as a matter of fact I am, we get on well".
"That's good. Good luck".
"He needs some affection, it's all been terribly upsetting for him too".
"By the way I never saw the confession what did Kellow actually say?"
"He said he threw her into the tank to cool off".
"And the tank, why did he put it in the lagoon with the girl? That makes no sense to me".
"He must have felt that was the best way to dispose of the body".
"And then he removed it after the body was found?"
"Oh no, he didn't remove it Milly".
"He didn't then who did?" Ben gave no answer, just looked at her for a moment.
"Ah I see, so what happens about that?"
"I expect it will be overlooked in the summary".
"covered by an unknown person you mean?"
"I'm not sure really, it will be interesting to read the transcripts of the trial and view the exhibits in the courtroom".
"A tank won't fit on the table". Milly laughed.
"Have a safe trip and thank you, you were a great help".
"Thanks boss". She slipped the clutch and the little car shot off spinning tyres flinging up water and slush from the drive. Winter was settling.
Ben had been putting off saying farewell to Maggie. This morning he got out of his car slowly and as he did so he saw her in the garden. He strolled across the lawn to her. After some small talk he broached the subject of the cottage.
"Maggie I was wondering if the cottage was still for sale?"
"Yes. I'll have to give it to an agent this week I suppose".
"How would you feel about selling it to me? I have been looking for a nice quiet little place to spend my retirement".
He stood slightly taller than her, he looked down now aware of the complications.
His being in the district would be a continual reminder of her loss, of the great tragedy in her life. He was prepared for a refusal.
Now her eyes brightened as she looked up "Why that would be fine. What a good idea".
"I hope you're not asking a small fortune for it thought I don't have much in my saving account". He smiled down at her
"I have no idea what the property is worth but I'm sure something could be arranged. You have been a good friend Ben Brady, we may have hired you as an Investigator but you've won your way into our hearts, I speak for several people in Colbreeth. We'd be delighted to have you come up here and join our community".
She slipped an arm through his.
"I made some scones this morning would you like to sample one? " His wide grin was his answer.
They walked to the verandah a tall, broad man, tending to stoop now and an aging but elegant lady.
Tomorrow would be a new day and a new era in their personal lives .
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