This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. All rights are reserved by the author, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
Product names, brands, and other trademarks referred to within this book are the property of their respective trademark holders. Unless otherwise specified, no association between the author and any trademark holder is expressed or implied. Nor does it express any endorsement by them, or of them. Use of a term in this book should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark, service mark, or registered trademark.
The images used are Brownswirl with cgbc eyes1 811 from the Lulu cover art page and are used with permission of Lulu. The trimming, manipulation, and adding of text is by Ernest Bywater. All rights to the cover image are reserved by the copyright owners.
10 November 2018 version
Published by Ernest Bywater
E-book ISBN: 978-1-312-13232-0
Note: This story was originally written in an A5 book format then it was reformatted for a 6 x 9 inch book. This caused a few odd widows and orphans in the print edition which I worked on to minimise. At the same time the story was reviewed to have some word choice and sentence structure changes made to provide a smoother read and a clearer understanding of the story in some places due to the extra space.
Ernest Bywater, October 2018
The titles in use are a Chapter, a Sub-chapter, and a section.
Every story starts somewhere, so this is where I'm starting this one. I'm a student at an Australian university, and I'm not saying which one. I'm involved in some heavy duty therapy due to some heavier duty on campus events. My therapist asked, the reality is she ordered, me to write down everything about it and some other related key periods in my life. I'm writing this as a short story in the first person from just before the first major traumatic incident. Some things which I found out later are included as at the time they occurred.
My name's Robert Phillips, I'm smarter than average - but I'm not a genius, I'm also a speed reader, and a good problem solver. I'm very tall, with an athletic build - as I keep fit, fair complexion, blue / grey eyes, very light brown hair, and average looks. I left school at the end of Year 10 just after I turned sixteen years of age. I always got good marks, but studying was hard that year due to a small group of bullies in a gang which used me as their main punching bag. I always defended myself, but the Deputy Principal thought I must be to blame since I was part of more fights than anyone else as he never noticed it was always with the same dozen or so boys who belonged to the same gang. Anyway, the Principal was a much smarter man as he knew what the true situation was and he always intervened. However, he was retiring and the Deputy was taking his place. I left while I could still do so with dignity, and not give the idiot Deputy the chance to throw me out the way he wanted to.
I immediately got a job. I worked hard in a production and service company. They promote on competency and skill. I advanced very fast; for someone with my education, age, and work experience it was very fast. Just before my eighteenth birthday I'm promoted to Group Leader, an important position in this company. Of the three hundred and fifty employees in this facility there are sixteen foremen, and only four are Group Leaders. When I first started working I lived at home, and I walked nearly an hour to work. When I got a part-time evening job near my work I found it expensive eating dinner out every night. I work two jobs to save up so I can afford to go to university later. I'll be a full fee paying student when I can afford it, and can go to any university.
After doing some research and sums I moved out of home to live in a boarding house only a short walk from both jobs. I had time to go home, have dinner, get changed, and make the second job. Both bosses know about the other job, and there are no conflicts of interest, so they're happy. This is cheaper than living at home while eating out, and it gives me better meals. The board I'm paying Mrs Miller is the same as I'd been paying Mum and Dad. My leaving home allows my sisters to have a room each, because my parents' home is only a three bedroom affair. Walking to work and back keeps me fit. About seventy percent of my take home pay is going into the bank. I'm paid a full adult wage at both jobs. I'm a supervisor at both, and the government award scales don't include any minor's rates for supervisor positions. I think the idea is: if you're good enough to supervise you're paid full wages, regardless of your age. Personally, I think it's stupid to have different wage rates based on a person's age, and not on their skill level or the work done.
I'm earning a lot more than others my age. I don't drink alcohol or use tobacco. Also, I eat healthy food, and I have no car. My biggest costs are my board and nice clothes. I'm also studying the Higher School Certificate part-time at technical college and home, in which I'm doing quite well. I expect to graduate as a private study student the year after next, just after my twentieth birthday.
I have two sisters, and we're nearly two years apart. Mary has just turned sixteen years old while Nancy is just about to turn fourteen years old. They're typical sisters, and we're in a love / hate relationship, but we usually get on well. Mum is thirty-eight, and Dad is forty years old. Mum looks after the house and kids while Dad works as a day shift supervisor at a factory. Our only other family is Mum's sister, Vera, with her husband and two children. They live on the other side of our suburb.
Mrs Miller is a very fit woman in her thirties. She has two daughters Joan, a year older than me, and Emily, a year younger than me. Mrs Miller owns an old large house, more like an old mansion, with twenty bedrooms and five bathrooms for guests, a huge lounge room, and a giant dinner table. The house is on a very large block of land with a huge back yard. I don't know what's on the floor she and her family use, as guests aren't allowed up on the top floor which is their private quarters.
As a rule each bedroom has one permanent guest in residence. For a reasonable board we get accommodation, a large healthy breakfast, and a large healthy dinner. For both meals we have to be at the table on time, or have given Mrs Miller plenty of warning so a meal can be put aside and kept ready for when we arrive for it. Lunch is always our own concern. We're allowed to have small fridges and minimal food preparation stuff in our rooms for snacks etc. We also have space for our own foods in the kitchen in a cupboard under our own padlock. All in all it's a very good deal. It's very much like living at home, but without the usual parental nagging that goes on. There are monthly inspections to ensure we're keeping the room tidy. We also wash and dry our own clothes by either using the available machines or at a nearby laundrette.
The majority of guests are young men away from home, most for the first time, who are working in the local factories or businesses. There are some young women here too; but very few young women work in this area as it's mostly factories. Most guests are nice, good, honest people. But there are a couple who you wouldn't leave your change lying about near; well, not if you expect it to be there a minute later.
I get on well with the majority of the guests, very well with Mrs Miller and Emily, but not so well with Joan. All three Millers are very good looking. No one knows Mr Miller as he's not in evidence, and he has never been seen by anyone in the suburb. The family moved into the area without him. The house is from Mrs Miller's family, not his.
About eight months back I salvaged a damaged wardrobe from the half-yearly council rubbish removal campaign. The back and bottom were broken, but the doors, sides, and interior were good. After I got permission from Mrs Miller to put it in the work shed my best friend, Peter, he's another guest, helped me carry the cupboard to the work shed.
Over a period of four weeks I pulled the cupboard apart, and I built a steel frame to secure it to. The finished unit is a steel frame cupboard with light sheet steel sides. The wooden sides and doors are attached as the visible part of the cupboard. It looks like an old wooden wardrobe. The insides of the doors are lined with sheet steel with all of the hinges and locks attached to the steel. Three slide bolts for one side, and three keyed alike Yale dead bolts for the other side. All of the bolts go vertically into the steel frame. I stained and lacquered a new wooden plinth to look like the doors and sides. It's all secured to the steel frame, so is the wooden back. The strong wooden shelves sit on the steel frame and able to take some heavy weights. Very solid, and very difficult to break into.
Inside the cupboard is a shelf at just above waist height with five drawers below it on the right, and a hanging space of one metre high on the left. Above the shelf is a one metre high space with another shelf of a fifth of a metre above it, then the top of the cupboard. Each open space has a small fluorescent lamp at its top. The drawers don't quite go the full depth of the cupboard, and there's an open area back there with a power-board in it. A section at the back of the main shelf pops out to allow me to drop power leads into this area. The main part of the cupboard is about a hand's width less deep than the sides. The back of the cupboard is a perforated steel sheet while the final back is a piece of solid wood. This leaves a nice airing gap between the two.
My room is wider than it's deep, and it has an off centre doorway. When Peter helps me carry the cupboard upstairs I place it beside the door where I can see it from both my bed and the card table I have in the room. I've a coat rack and a valet rack beside the cupboard. A power lead runs behind them to the lead feeding into the cupboard. On the other side of the door is my fridge, and a cupboard for some food stuffs.
Once we have it in place Mrs Miller inspects the cupboard. She makes me open it to have a close look at its construction. She has us move it away from the wall while she gets her stud finder. After locating the studs she has us move it a little so the cupboard is in front of two studs, and she tells me to arrange a way to secure it to the studs in the wall. She doesn't want it to be able to fall over or be knocked over. I agree with her so I devise a way to bolt it to the studs in a way to make the bolts difficult to remove while shut. "Now you have your hidden safe," she asks when it's set up, "what do you expect to put in it?"
"A really good TV." I reply with a smile. "I'll get it Saturday while everyone else is out." Both Mrs Miller and Peter smile.
The next weekend Peter helps me to carry a high definition sixty-eight inch digital television to my room. As I planned, it fits perfectly. When we go back to get the DVD player recorder, with 500 GB hard drive, we take the box the TV came in with us to leave it in the rubbish skip at the store I bought it from. All of this gear fits in the cupboard just right, along with space for the satellite TV box. The feed for this comes out the top to go into the wall, up into the ceiling, and to where the TV fellow installed a splitter during the week.
Mrs Miller examines the finished product, and nods her agreement.
I've a nice sound system with an old TV in my room for personal use, they're known about by all, and are visible; but they're not worth the trouble to steal. This top line outfit is worth a lot, and well hidden. I even have four high quality headphones with very long leads to plug into the digital sound output of the TV via a small sound equalizer unit that came as an optional extra; they're surround sound headphones. Now I can safely enjoy a decent TV in my room because this is a much better unit than the one Mrs Miller has in the lounge room. My laptop is also stored in the cupboard, and the TV can act as an external monitor for it too.
For several months life is very good - very, very good.
Late October, a Wednesday night a week just after my eighteenth birthday, and a fortnight before Nancy's fourteenth birthday, it's my weekly night off from my second job. The job is as an office cleaner supervisor where I work five hours a night, six nights a week, for a local cleaning company, and I have every Wednesday night off. I'm at home in my room at Mrs Miller's Boarding House while watching TV with my friend Peter. There's a knock on my door. Lifting off the headphones I place them on the bed, stand up, and I open the door. A concerned Mrs Miller is standing there with two police officers. I know one, a sergeant whose brother I work with. Smiling at them I say, "Good evening Missus Miller, officers. Can I help you?"
"Can we come in and talk?" asks Sergeant Danny Williams, the one I know. Mrs Miller goes to leave, " Missus Miller, please stay, I'd like a witness."
This is a bit surprising to us all. I ask Peter to leave while I turn off the TV and I put the headsets away. Danny's eyes go wide when he sees the entertainment set up I have in the cupboard, but he says nothing. This worries me, because he'd be joking, unless this was very official and serious. I joke while I close the cupboard, "Has Steve finally confessed about that bank robbery we pulled?"
"No, not yet," he replies, "But Mum's still working on that. May I have some hot chocolate, please?"
Turning to my table I make the hot chocolate while I wonder what this is about. It's obviously official, but it's not related to a criminal matter, at least they don't suspect me of being involved in one, because he wouldn't have joked back if it was. What can this be about? I run many things through my mind, and I finally find a possible answer. "Which hospital is Dad in?" I ask while I hand out the fresh made hot chocolate.
"What makes you say that?" Replies Danny when he takes his cup.
"This is clearly official, and you don't suspect me of any crime. The only thing I can think of is Dad has had an accident in the company car and you want me to help break the news to Mum." We don't have a car, but Dad has a company car for use on company business. He often has to visit clients during the day, or on the way home from work, and sometimes of an evening too. I'd no sooner said this than I remember Danny knows Mum and Dad well, because they all belong to the same bridge club. With slow care I put my cup down while I slide onto the bed. "Both of them?" I ask with a quiver in my voice. He nods yes. Gulping hard I squeak out, "How bad?"
He says two words, and I know exactly how bad, "I'm sorry ..." Holding back the tears I wave him to silence. Mrs Miller just sits there, because she doesn't know what's happening. But she can tell I'm very distressed, reaching over she pulls me into a cuddle. I cry while she hugs me. "When you feel up to it," he says, "I'd like your help to tell your sisters." I nod in reply as I cry. We sit, unmoving, for several minutes while I cry the worst of it out of my system.
Gathering myself together I release Mrs Miller, and I look at her, "Can my sisters stay in the empty room for a few days while I sort things out?" It's clear she still doesn't fully understand, but she nods yes. "Please make it ready for them while we go and collect them?" Again, she nods. Then I see the realisation hit her when she puts together the police and my request. Her eyes go wide with concern. I give her a weak smile, and a slight nod, to let her know I'm OK, for now. We quietly finish our drinks, and we leave after I lock everything up properly. Mrs Miller has a look of concern when she shows us out the front door. I know the room will be ready when we return. I get into the back of the police car, and I belt in for the short ride to my old home.
We pull up outside my parent's home at 7:15 p.m. "Please wait out here for about ten minutes or so," I ask Danny. "I'll leave the door unlocked." He nods agreement while I get out of the car.
Walking to the front door I realise it's no longer my parent's home, since they no longer live here. It's a very sad thought to have. I get out my key, unlock the door, click the latch back, and push it shut. Walking into the lounge room I find my sisters sitting down eating pizza while they watch TV. I'm about to ask them what Mum would say about them having pizza while she's out when I realise she'll be saying nothing, now. I gulp hard while I try not to burst the terrible news out. "Got enough for me?" I ask in as normal a voice as I can manage. They both turn around to see me, and spring up while talking fast. Wanting to know what I'm doing here unannounced, what I've been up to since my last visit etc.? I lead them back to the pizza, and I sit down with them.
Nancy says, "Mum and Dad have gone to a work dinner, the address and phone number are by the telephone if you want to chase over to see them." I shake my head no. Those details are for a little later.
"Go pack your bags for a week-long stay with me. You're skipping school for a week."
"Yeah," replies Nancy, "as if." Mary turns to look at me as her eyes go very wide while her lower lip quivers, she was always the smart one of our family. Gulping hard while she holds back the tears she gets up, and heads upstairs. I know she'll pack for them both.
I look at Nancy, and I hold open my arms for a hug, "Come here." She always likes being hugged, so she's quick to slide into my arms, and I hold her tight. "Mum and Dad aren't coming home again." She gives me a strange look while we hug. Noticing some movement in the corner of her eye she turns to look at the two police officers standing in the lounge room doorway. I feel her body go stiff. She turns to look at me, and I nod yes. Now she understands what I'd said. I hold her tight while she cries. Mary returns with their two bags, she's crying too.
Standing up I take Nancy to the lounge to sit her down on it, Mary joins her. They both hug each other tightly while they cry. I leave the room to check everything's turned off with the windows and other doors locked. I remove the perishables from the fridge and cupboards to boxes to take them with us. Mum and Dad always joked they could count on me to be the reliable one, the one who made sure things were done right. For once I wished I wasn't.
Danny stays with the girls while his partner joins me in the kitchen to help with the boxes. When I load a box she takes it to the car to place the boxes in the boot. She also puts the girls' bags in the boot. By the time that's done it's time to leave. Danny helps me lead the girls to the car, and we sit them in the back with Nancy in the middle seat.
I go back to the house to get the address of the dinner function, and I turn off the lights. I double lock the front door. Returning to the police car I get in the back, and I cuddle up to Nancy as well. I give them the address of the dinner: it's on the way to Mrs Miller's. Thankfully, they deliberately take a longer route so we won't have to pass the scene, because they're still busy cutting out the other driver. He was lightly injured and trapped in the car, but he survived the crash.
When we arrive at the hall where the dinner is being held I ask Danny's partner to stay with the girls while Danny accompanies me into the hall. I wouldn't have got past the door if he hadn't. Once inside I look around for anyone I know. They're still in the pre-dinner drinks stage. Spotting one of Dad's staff I ask Danny to stay at the entrance while I work my way to Mr James.
"Excuse me, Mister James," I ask when I reach him, "can you find father's supervisor and his supervisor please?" He looks at me strange for a moment, then nods yes and he moves off into the crowd. A few minutes later he returns with two other men in tow. "Please step outside with me for a moment." They follow me to the entrance, and they look sideways at Danny standing there.
In the foyer Dad's boss asks, in an aggravated tone, "Robbie, where's your father? He should be here by now, and we need him for the main ceremony because he's getting the big award."
I don't need this sort of rubbish, and I've had quite a bit too much tonight. "He's not coming, he's gone to the morgue instead," I respond in a harsh tone. Turning, I stride out the door in great anger.
They stare at Danny with very wide eyes while he says, "Both his parents were killed in a car accident on their way to this dinner. He's just told his sisters, and he's very upset at the moment."
Mr James says, "Oh, please give him our condolences. Tell him I'll let the staff know. I'll see his father's office isn't disturbed until after he can come to clear the personal effects. Please ask him to make it soon." Danny nods to indicate he'll pass the message on. All three turn, and slowly walk back into the dinner. It's no longer a festive occasion for them. When he get back in the car Danny tells me what transpired, and I thank him for his help. We move off to go to Mrs Miller's.
When we arrive at the boarding house Mrs Miller and Peter are waiting for us. She'd roped him in to help, but he hasn't told him why. While I lead Nancy in Mrs Miller leads Mary and Peter carries their bags while the police carry the perishables into the kitchen. Both girls are still crying, they haven't stopped since they started. I wish I can join them, but someone must get things done, and I'm the only one standing near the election podium for that job.
Peter leads the way upstairs. When I left the only spare room was one with a double bed on a different floor, and at the other end of the house to me. Peter is leading us to the room beside mine, his room. I wonder what's happening, but I leave it go because I can't be bothered to ask about anything, at the moment. Entering Peter's room I find all of his gear's gone and the single bed has been replaced with a double bed. There's four bedrooms, a bathroom, and a toilet on this little landing: Peter's, Harry's, Linda's, and mine. It turns out there's been some changes while we were away. Harry has moved to the spare room because it's bigger than the one he had opposite me while Peter's moved into Harry's old room, and the double bed has been moved into Peter's old room beside mine. So the girls will be sharing the room next to me. I smile my thanks, weak smile as it is, at Mrs Miller and Peter when I realise what they've done for us. They smile back at me, and they nod to acknowledge my non-verbal thanks.
We soon have Mary and Nancy settled into their room for tonight. We leave while they get ready for bed. I make them some hot chocolate while they get ready. I know they'll have trouble getting to sleep, but they'll sleep well once they do fall asleep as the emotional drain will help in that regards. I take the hot chocolate to them. We all sit and chat while we drink. I tuck them into bed, and we leave. Mrs Miller gives me extra keys for both rooms we're using. We'll each have a key to both rooms, that'll be useful. Leaving the girls to sleep we go downstairs.
In the kitchen I find Danny and his partner, Mona, I find out, are helping Emily to put the perishables away. Seeing us enter Danny turns to me, "Uhmm, tomorrow ..." he starts to say.
"In the morning I have to go to work to organise someone to do my job for the rest of the day." I interrupt. "Then, I guess, I'll have to go to the morgue to make the official identification." He simply nods at me, since this is what he was trying to lead up to. "Then I have to go to the girls' school to let them know of the changes. Back home to get some papers; the funeral parlour; the solicitor, if I can find out which one; my work boss for tomorrow night; and back here. I know you'll provide a car for the identification. Can you have them pick me up at work, say at ten a.m., and then drop me back at home?" He nods again. I thank him for everything, and I show them out as they've got other work to do.
I later find out they went back to the station and Danny phoned a sergeant he knows on the day shift. He organises for a vehicle to be made available to run me around for most of the day. It'll all be within the division area, so the field supervisor can cart me around while waiting to be called in as support. Later, I was very moved by the amount of help they both give me in the next few days, but I'm too numb to realise it for most of those days. I think they understood that, at the time.
Thursday morning I get up at the usual time. I hustle Peter through the bath to get my bath then I wake the girls. Arriving downstairs in time for breakfast I warn Mrs Miller the girls may be a little late. She nods acknowledgement, "I expect that," she replies, "it'll take them a while to get used to the routine."
I smile my thanks while I eat. I'm quick to finish my breakfast then I go back upstairs. "You've got thirty minutes left to make breakfast," I tell the girls. "You can bathe afterwards, because you're not going to school today or tomorrow." They look a bit stunned, but they nod to show they understand me. They get dressed and go down for breakfast. I ask, when I see Mrs Miller in the dining room, "Missus Miller, will you please keep an eye on the girls today? I'll be back as soon as I can. They're not going to school, but I don't want them sitting around in their room doing nothing." She nods her agreement.
I leave at my usual time of 7:55 a.m. to walk to work, arriving there at 8:20 a.m. for my usual 8:30 a.m. start. Once inside I go through my calendar, and I start redirecting all of the work I can while making sure not to overload anyone. Having done that I go around my staff to inform them of the changes. A few are a bit stunned, but they're quick to agree. Back at my work station I complete the tasks I couldn't delegate. At 9:30 a.m. I tell Duke, a fellow I think will be a suitable replacement for when I'm away, I'll be upstairs and I ask him to keep things rolling in my absence. He nods his agreement.
Upstairs I run into the first bit of trouble for today. I expected it. Mr Hemingway, my boss, has a very nosey and bossy secretary, Judith. "I need to speak to Mister Hemingway on an urgent personal matter," I say as I walk up to her. "When can you slip me in for a few minutes?"
Without looking up or checking his calendar she replies, "I can give you a fifteen minutes tomorrow afternoon, what's it about?"
"Personal, and I need to see him a.s.a.p. When can you fit me in?"
"I can't fit you in until tomorrow, and I can't even do that until I know what it's about." She sits there glaring at me and daring me to fight with her. I'm not in the mood for that rubbish today.
Turning around I walk four paces to the next desk, and I ask Alison, Mr Carpenter's secretary, he's Mr Hemingway's boss, "I urgently need to talk to management on a personal matter. When can you slip me in for a few minutes?"
She looks up at me, because she'd heard my little exchange with Judith, and she knows I don't come up here unless I absolutely have to. "He's just finishing up with Jones of accounting," she says while looking at his calendar. "Dickson is due in as soon as Jones leaves, but I can slip you in now if it'll only take a minute or two."
"Thank you," I reply. "It should only take a minute or so."
Judith says, while glaring at us both, "Mister Hemingway won't be happy about you going over his head."
Turning to her I say, in a harsh tone, "I know, and I bloody well don't care how you explain to him why you made it necessary." Both go very wide-eyed, since they're not used to me being anything but ultra-polite.
Before this can turn into a staring match Mr Carpenter's door opens, and Miss Jones leaves. Both stop in the doorway because they can feel the tension in the air. "Sir," Alison says, "Rob has an urgent matter to discuss with you, it should only take a moment." He nods at her as he signals me into his office.
He shuts the door behind me. "What was that all about, and why me, instead Hemingway?"
Giving him a weak smile I reply with much anger, "I urgently need to take the rest of the day off. Judith wouldn't let me near Hemingway until tomorrow afternoon, and even that requires me to tell her all about why. Since this is personal and can't wait I went up the chain. Judith isn't happy, and I don't give a damn about her happiness." He watches me while he takes his time to walk around his desk and sit down. This is the first time he's heard me swear about anything. He slowly nods as he waves a hand for me to continue.
"Last night my parents were killed in a car accident. Soon a police officer will be here to take me to the morgue to make the official identification. I won't be coming back to work today as I'll have some other things to do in regards to this. I've done everything I couldn't delegate, and I arranged for Duke Bradley to take over for me since he can handle it. If not, this is a good time to find out." When I start speaking he sits up straight to look at me hard, very hard.
When I finish he stands, "Damn right you're not coming back today." Opening the door he ushers me out, "Alison, Rob's about to leave the building on a personal matter. Everything's sorted for his work to get done today. Tell Duke Bradley if he has any issues he can't handle he's to bring them straight to Hemingway or me, immediate access. Get Rob one of the corporate cell phones. Have the switch redirect all of his calls to you, vet what needs to go to Duke or others, and try to discourage any personal calls. He'll get some that'll have to go through, so give them the cell number. Get his calendar up for tomorrow to redirect all of his work, or put it off until Tuesday. Organise the paperwork for me to approve his absence today and tomorrow as special leave." I'm standing there, stunned, when he turns to me, "I don't want to see you back here until Monday morning. If you're not well or haven't finished everything you need to do call in by nine and you can have Monday off as well. You concentrate on what you have to do, there's only the one of you who can do that, we've got a few hundred who can look after this place. Take care." He shakes my hand before he turns to usher Mrs Dickson into his office for their meeting.
Still a bit bemused I turn to Alison. From the corner of my eye I can see Judith is very angry and very confused. Alison hands me a cell phone with some company business cards that have its number. She's busy on the computer changing my calendar while talking to the switch about redirecting all of my calls. She's very good at multi-tasking. We all look up when a large shadow passes in front of the glass wall of the front stairwell, the wall beside the stairs is glass blocks and it faces the sun most of the day. Staff always use the back stairwell, so we know this has to be an official visitor to the front office.
A deep voice says, in more a query than statement, "Are you Rob Phillips, reception said I'd find you here?" I look over to see the largest man I've ever seen: around two metres tall and solid, about a metre wide. For once in my adult life I have to look up at someone. All I see is his huge shadow. He moves closer, and I can see his police uniform, "Sergeant David Darling, Sergeant Williams said I'd find you here today. I'm your transport for today." He looks at me very expectantly. I figure he's already heard all of the jokes about his name, so I decide not to try any because he may not like them - not at all.
"Yes, Sergeant, that's me. If you care to wait at the front door I have to pop downstairs and talk to someone, then I'll be right with you."
He simply nods his head in agreement, turns around, and he heads back down the stairs. Judith's eyes are almost out of her head. Alison just gives me a speculative look, so I think she's worked out what's up.
I lean close, "We're off to the morgue to identify my parents, car accident last night." She looks up at me when she reaches out to give my hand a squeeze while she nods her sympathy. She'll be very careful who she tells, but she'll tell the office staff who need to know. Going downstairs I find Duke. "Duke, I've got a clear board. I won't be back again today, or in tomorrow. You've got the weight. See Hemingway or Carpenter if you need any help. If you're not sure if you should see them talk to Alison first, she'll help if you need it. Avoid Judith at all costs." He nods yes while he looks his question at me. "Last night, car accident, parents, I'm off to the morgue and funeral parlour now."
His eyes go wide. He reaches out to squeeze my shoulder, "We'll manage while you're gone. Take as long as you need - one day, one week, one month - we'll manage." I nod my thanks, and I head to the front entrance. A good man is Duke. It's taken a while to train him, but what he learns stays remembered, and he really knows it.
I climb into the front seat of the police car with Sergeant Darling. He says, "Call me Dave, I'm shift field supervisor. As long as we stay in the division area I can drive you around all shift. I may have to divert to a call or three. That should still be quicker than walking everywhere."
"Thanks, Dave. Call me, Rob, I appreciate the transport." He smiles, and nods to me. We move off.
I won't say too much on this. We arrive, we walk in, they show me what that bastard did to them. I'm able to confirm identity from their faces and a few marks on their bodies: scars and the like. I also give them the name of our dentist so they can do a dental records check if they want to. When we drive away from the morgue I ask Dave, "I know it's too early for a definitive ruling, but who does it look like was at fault last night?"
He glances at me, "Normally it is too early, but this one's cut and dried. The other driver was in a large luxury four wheel drive. He clearly cut across the road in front of them while trying to make a turn. They ran into the side of his vehicle in a classic 'T-Bone' hit in their lane. Initial blood alcohol readings put him well over the legal limit. Your parent's vehicle braked hard, but they didn't have enough room to do any good, no skid marks for his vehicle until after the impact."
Next stop is the school where Mary and Nancy go, and I used to go. Dave goes to the office with me. I give them change of contact details for the girls, and I sign paperwork authorising their non-attendance at school until Monday week as I tell them why. Their exams are over, so it's no big issue, just some notes for next year's subjects. I ask to speak with four students who are the two best friends of Nancy and Mary. The office administrator sends someone for them. She makes a note of everything because the principal is in a meeting, and she sees no reason to interrupt him with routine matters; she also remembers my issues with him.
When Gayle, Tina, Melody, and Belinda arrive I say, "Girls, Nancy and Mary won't be back at school until Monday week. Can you please arrange to get the class notes for them?" They all nod yes. "You'll know who needs to be told, our parents were killed in a car accident last night. They need time to recover their balance. They're living with me over at Missus Miller's boarding house for the next week or so. I'm not sure what we'll do after that. Visitors are welcome, very welcome, but please coordinate it to be only two or three each at a time." They all nod yes, give me a hug each, and head back to class with sad looks. Good people.
While we head back to the car Dave's radio bursts into life; it'd been mumbling all along, now it roars. He listens as we run to the car and get in. He heads off to an address they'd given. Arriving there we find a domestic dispute going on. Two neighbours trying to get at each other over the intervening police officer while their wives are doing the same with his partner. Other neighbours are standing around making bets on the outcome. I know most of those involved, I grew up around here so I should know them. For several minutes they stand there yelling at each other about petty things like vines and trees hanging over fences. Nothing Dave or the other officers can do or say can shut them up.
This isn't my day. They're starting the rounds of their rubbish for the fourth time in about twelve minutes. "For Heaven's sake," I snarl, "shut up. You sound like a pack of silly Galahs squawking away." They all go quiet, and they stare at me. I continue in a harsh voice, "I don't need to hear this crap. I've just come from identifying my parents at the morgue. Stop acting like a bunch of four year old kids in a sand pit and work together." I give them a disgusted look before I turn to get back into the police car. They're so stunned Dave soon has them settled down and back in their houses. All of the neighbours vanished when I spoke, it seems they felt a bit guilty about their behaviour as well.
When he climbs into the car Dave says, "Danny said you were a very self-possessed and in control person. That sure didn't sound like it."
Turning my head I look at him. "Usually, I am. But Danny has never seen me when I'm pissed off. At the moment I'm very pissed off." He nods like a wise sage when he turns forward to start the car to drive off. "My other boss lives just a few streets away, can we stop there for a few minutes?" He nods approval, and I give him the address.
Arriving at the address I get out of the car. My boss is in the garden examining his roses. One day I must find out what his surname is. He said, when we first met, "Call me, Mario, everyone calls me, Mario." I know that's not his real name, but it's what I call him.
I shout, as I cross the road, "Mario." He looks up and he waves while giving me an odd look when he glances at the police car behind me. I soon reach him. "Sorry, boss, but I won't be in to work for a few days. Parents died last night in a car accident, and I've got a lot to sort out."
He gives a slow nod, "You permanent part-time. Got plenty of sick leave owing at full pay. I get wife to do the papers. You sign when you come back to work Monday week. I see you before then, you fired. You understand." I grasp his hand with both of my hands in the manner he likes, and we shake his hand while I nod my head in thanks. He may not speak proper English, but he speaks perfect understanding.
"Thanks, Mario. I'll let you know when and where the funeral is. Please let the crews know. Many knew them." He nods yes. I turn to head back to the police car.
As we drive away Dave says, "Good man, Mario, one of the best." I nod agreement as he sure is.
We pull up outside of the house I grew up in. In a way it is home, but at the same time it's not home. Whatever the house is now, it's not the same without Mum and Dad. While we walk up the drive I pull the keys out of my pocket. I stop short because one of the windows has been forced open, and it's still open a little bit. I point it out to Dave. He nods to me while he turns his radio down and he calls for back up.
A minute or so later two more police cars coast to a silent stop two doors down the road and out of sight of whoever is inside. Four officers get out of the cars and are quiet when they push the car doors shut, they soon join us. After a few words with Dave two go around the back and two stay at the front. Dave and I walk up to the front door. Keeping quiet I unlock the door and I open it.
When we walk in we can hear movement upstairs, so we're careful as we climb the stairs. The noise is coming from the master bedroom. We step into the doorway. Four nineteen year old youths are ransacking the room. I know every one of them - they're the four main trouble makers I had issues with at school.
They've piled valuables on the bed. I move to the bed to pick up Dad's digital camera, and I start taking pictures of them at work as Dave smiles at my actions. One says, while he backs out of a cupboard, "Nothing in here." He turns around. He sees me, and he starts swearing. The others turn and they see me taking lovely pictures; it's hard to argue your way out of a charge when the prosecution has photos.
Two charge at me. They'd not seen Dave in the doorway, how come, I don't know, but they missed his huge form. When they go to pass in front of him Dave steps forward to shove the one nearest him into the other. They both stagger sideways to come up short against the steel frame of the bed end, and they both go 'oof' with pain. "Bloody cops," shouts the leader. That's when the fight starts in earnest, and we hear feet running about downstairs. Dropping the camera into the half-full washing hamper near the door to the en-suite I turn to deal with any of the thieves who come my way. Three go for Dave. The leader, Michael, draws a flick knife with his right hand as he heads for me. I back up, and I move across the bed. He follows me. This puts us near the front windows. I move back while I bide my time. Dave is flat out dealing with his three. There's too many for him to beat them in a quick fight, but there's too much of him for them to beat him quick, either.
Near the left front window Michael sees his chance, so he lunges at me with the knife slicing forward. Being fast of foot I step sideways toward his knife hand. I grab his right wrist with my right hand and his belt with my left hand. Pulling that side of him toward me I throw my body weight backwards and to my left while I pull his right side forward to swing him around. Pivoting on my left foot I pull him right off balance to throw him backwards toward the wall facing the street. His arms go wide to help him balance. He heads at a window. The back of his calves hit the bedside table lying on the floor in front of the window, one of them had thrown it out of his way during the search and it ended up there. He topples over the bedside table on the floor to fall backwards at about forty-five degrees to hit the window with his head and smash the glass. The window runs from floor to ceiling and it all shatters and falls out. When he continues to fall backwards through the window his arms hit the wall on either side, about mid-way along the forearm on each. We all hear the bones snap just before he screams with the pain. His body vanishes out the window, followed by his feet. I don't think he's going too far today with two broken arms plus whatever a four or five metre fall has added to his injuries, they should slow him down a bit.
Turning to the others I punch one of them in the kidneys. He screams and collapses. Dave soon has the other two under control. He cuffs them together, then he calls on his radio for more support plus a wagon to take them away in. He also orders up an ambulance.
More police arrive, and the prisoners are all properly handcuffed. Two ambulances arrive, and the medical technicians are soon examining the injured, four of them. Then one makes a horrible discovery: Michael had fallen on his knife, blade up. He'd sliced his lungs to pieces. They figure he was dead before the call for help was even made. But that makes this a murder scene. It also makes all of his gang mates murderers since they were part of the group committing the crime where he died.
While waiting for the scene of crime people, and the detectives, I go to Dad's den to open his safe to take out the papers and things stored there. I put them in the briefcase from beside Dad's desk. I also empty the desk of all papers, and I put all of the mail I can find in the briefcase. I also get the mail from the mail box.
I call a builder I know to call in to put a temporary cover over the broken window area to keep the weather out until he can fix the window properly.
By the time the detectives are finished with us it's nearly 1:00 p.m. They liked the photos I took before the fight started, because the photos show the table on the floor well before the action started, as well as their unlawful activities. Of the ten members in the gang only one managed to escape the scene. He's picked up later in the day.
Being hungry we go for lunch before making any more stops. During the meal I go through many of the papers from Dad's den I have in the briefcase. Among them I find copies of their wills, and papers showing they've funeral plans with a local funeral parlour.
After lunch we go to the funeral parlour and I speak to one of their staff. She checks their records to get out the plans and go through them with me. It's all sorted out, every last detail. She takes a note of my phone numbers: the mobile, Mrs Miller's, and my work ones. She'll handle everything with the morgue, the crematorium, the Department of Births Deaths and Marriages, plus the papers. She's aiming for Saturday week, early afternoon. We shake hands, and I leave. I'm very glad that's so easily handled, thanks to Mum and Dad's foresight.
At the solicitor's things aren't so easy. Mr Jones is very busy. But when I explain what the purpose is to his secretary he reschedules to give us some time. The wills I have are the last ones Mum and Dad signed, several years ago. However, in the last few months they'd written to him requesting some changes. He has drafts of the new wills ready for signature, but they're not yet signed, there's an appointment to do that in two weeks' time. The most significant change being to appoint me as executor instead of himself, and a few other minor bequests. He explains we can either go ahead with the signed wills or go to court to seek leave to have it altered by the instructions in their recent signed letters and verbal instructions to him.
"Mister Jones," I ask, "apart from the matter of the executor is it possible to legally make all of those other bequests once the older will is enacted?"
He looks at the wills, "Yes, I think so. In the originals the bequest items are being given to you, so you can easily gift them to the people. The cash bequests are another issue. If we handle them the same way you don't get the same share of the estate, and your sisters aren't old enough to authorise any other distribution of assets for some years."
I nod, "Let's do it that way, anyway, because the total cash is only a small part of the whole. It's not as if this is my major concern." He nods yes as he notes my instructions. "When you organise the formal reading of the will please invite everyone and act as if the new instructions are the actual wills. The only places the original wills needs to be mentioned are in the other legal processes." He nods his agreement to my plan.
"Some things I can start on today. Like the life insurance companies to start getting those payments made, and to arrange an authority for you to draw from the estate monies to meet expenses relating to your sisters, please keep receipts and records. I can also initiate the settling of their bank accounts and the mortgage insurance payout."
I nod my understanding and approval, "Now, for the difficult legal part. I want you to start a law suit. If you need to go through someone else, do so. I want the driver of the other vehicle sued. I want his arse. I want him busted. It'll take the police a while to organise the normal charges for breach of the relevant traffic and criminal laws. In the meantime you can bring a civil suit to bear for compensation on the behalf of my sisters and myself. Hit him for millions for each of us. I want to make sure we get enough out of him for my sisters to get a decent education without having to work at the same time. After what we've lost he can pay for that, the bastard."
"That's not how these things are normally done," he responds, "but I see no reason why we can't do it. It may even make the police case easier. I don't handle these sort of matters, but one of my partners does, and I'll brief her. We'll get the police reports, and go from there."
We get up to shake hands, and I leave after giving him the details of my bank, he'll move the working account for me to use to that bank. That'll be easier for me to get money from the estate when I need to.
It's nearing 2:45 p.m. when we leave and head to Dad's work. I ask Dave, while we drive, "Will it be easy for my solicitor to get hold of copies of the police reports?"
"That shouldn't be an issue, although we don't get many requests for them, except from the insurance companies. Anything I should know?"
"I don't know if you should know or not, but it won't hurt to tell you. I've just instructed Mister Jones to sue that bastard's arse off. Since Mum and Dad won't be around to look after my sisters while they finish their education he can pay for their education plus someone to look after them." He glances at me before he slowly nods his understanding.
Dave says, when he drops me off, "It's nearly time for me to go off shift. Danny is taking over, so I'll tell him where you are, he'll be over to pick you up."
I get out of the car with the briefcase in my hand. "Thanks for your help today, I don't think I could've managed without it. I can walk from here. Here's a card with the cell phone I have, in case the station needs to contact me."
He replies, while he takes the card, "I said - wait here, Danny will be over. If you insist on walking, anyway, I can't stop you. But Danny will be coming here expecting to find you waiting. Got it, mister?" Smiling at him I nod yes before I turn to head toward the building. At the front desk I ask for Mr James. The girl looks up at me, and she calls him.
Mr James arrives, and we go through the normal unpleasant pleasantries required of the situation. He takes me through to Dad's office. He has a box on hand. I go through the office removing all of Dad's photos and personal items. Another fellow arrives to open Dad's work computer by using an administrator password. He goes through the hard drive, checking for anything of a personal nature. The only things are some wallpapers created from family pictures, so he copies them on to a CD, and he hands it to me. It goes in the box with the mugs, pictures, and other minor things Dad had here.
Once we finish with the office Mr James takes me upstairs to one of the senior accountants. They sit me down and give me some forms to fill in. I ask, "What are these for?"
"Legally," the accountant replies, "your father was on official duty at the time of his death. So the company insurances come into play. You're entitled to compensation, and these are the claim forms. He also had a small insurance policy with your mother as the primary beneficiary, and you as the secondary beneficiary. He kept talking about updating it to include your sisters, but he never did. A good thing he didn't, because we can organise to have the whole lot paid to you straight away, and you can pay some to your sisters without it having to go through a trustee for some years."
Giving him a weak smile I thank him, and I turn to complete the paperwork. I ask, while I give my bank details for direct payment, "How much is involved?"
"As I said, it's only a small policy, just two hundred thousand dollars. The death at work compensation should be about double that." I'm a bit numb when I slowly nod my head. We should be OK, financially, for a while, once the payments come through. He hands me another form to sign, which I do, and he gives me a cheque. "This is your father's pay due this week, it includes the award bonus he was to get last night. I'll have his leave owing and other benefits paid through to your bank account, once we work it out. The superannuation fund will contact you about paying that money to you. You're the only living beneficiary, since he didn't update it for your sisters, either." I give a weak smile when I nod to him. I leave his office with a cheque, a pile of papers, the box of Dad's personal items, and the briefcase. In the reception area I find Danny waiting for me. I stuff the cheque and papers into the briefcase while he opens the door, and we leave. They're nice people, but I couldn't take coming back here again: just too many memories.
Danny says, while he drives me home, "If you need someone to talk to you have my number." I nod yes in reply since I don't have an answer for him. I may be getting things done, but it's all like I'm watching it happen on a TV screen. The guy doing this looks like me, sounds like me, but isn't really me.
We stop at the bank so I can deposit the cheque, I also draw out a few hundred dollars in case I need some cash.
We soon arrive back at Mrs Miller's, and Danny sees me inside the door. He looks a bit concerned about me, so does Mrs Miller, but I feel OK. A bit bemused, but OK. I take the box and briefcase up to my room to put them on top of my cupboard. I head back downstairs to get a snack from the stuff I keep in my allocation of kitchen cupboard storage. I arrive in time to be sat down by my sisters and fed sandwiches. They're usually all smiles, but not today. None of us are really smiling today, none of us really feel like smiling today.
Mrs Miller sits me down to ask what I've been doing. I tell all three everything, because there's nothing secret about any of it. Mary and Nancy are happy I'll be home with them tomorrow. I turn to Mary, "Do you think you could go and live at home again?" I ask. She shakes her head no. I fully understand, since I doubt I could live there again, not without Mum and Dad. "Do you want to move in here on a long term basis, I'm sure we can arrange it?" She nods yes, so does Nancy. Turning to Mrs Miller, "I think it best if we all live here for the next few years. When you have the space I'd like to take over the four bedrooms on the landing we're on, and I'll pay to have a door block it off. That way we can use it as a mini flat with a bedroom each, and to set the fourth room up as a private lounge room."
She thinks on this for a moment before she nods her agreement. Timing will depend upon when the next room becomes vacant, also on Linda and Peter being willing to shift. Mrs Miller says, "You'll have to pay for the four rooms." I nod acknowledgement. "Later, I can keep it as a mini-flat for the few times a family comes to stay."
We've still got an hour and a half until dinner time, so we go upstairs to my room. Mary and Nancy are surprised at my digital TV. It's also just the thing to jolt them out of their depression. We watch TV until dinner, which is a lovely, but subdued, meal since most of the guests know the story by now.
After dinner I say to Mary and Nancy, "I've got to go out for a while. Do you want to stay down here, or do you want to sit in my room watching TV, or listening to the radio? If I open the good TV one of you has to stay there, and no one but Mrs Miller, Peter, or Linda is allowed in the room." They discuss the matter while I go to get changed.
When I'm ready to leave Mary says, "We'll stay down here. If we want time alone we'll listen to the radio in your room. OK?" I nod yes as I see Mrs Miller waving me away to indicate she'll keep an eye on them. I nod my thanks to her while I think how useful and versatile a nod is in silent conversation. I hadn't thought about it before, but today I've seen a wide range of them in use, and I used a lot myself.
As I'm closing the gate a police car stops. "Where to?" asks Danny.
I reply as I approach him, "Bridge Club and Auntie Vera's."
"Just come from the Bridge Club. I've told the duty manager, and she'll let the regulars know." I nod my thanks as I give him Aunt Vera's address: it's right across the other side of the suburb, and at the far edge of it. He opens the door while saying, "Climb in, I can take you there."
I know he's not supposed to do this sort of thing, but I don't relish the six kilometre walk, either, so I get into the car. A short time later he's dropping me off in front of Aunt Vera's. When I'm getting out he receives a call. "Thanks for the lift," I say. "I can walk home. I want the time to think, OK." He nods yes before he drives off.
I take my time walking up the path to their rented flat at the back of the house, and I knock on the door. Aunt Vera and her husband used to have a small business until government changes giving the unions power to dictate operating methods to some businesses sent them broke. They were smart enough to get out before it got too bad, but they lost all they'd built up since the business didn't have much of a resale value due to the changes in the laws. They were lucky as they broke even; no debts, but no profit. Many other small operators in the industry ended up bankrupt with nothing but the clothes they stood up in.