In this story, set in suburban Melbourne, I’ve introduced two fresh characters, and older woman, Lamara and a younger woman, Lisa. Without giving anything away, the career criminal mentioned in the story is fictional but inspired by characters out of the series Underbelly. I felt it lent a grittier feel to the story but I didn’t want to take it too far in that direction.
The first time I met Lamara it was in an office environment, she was the case worker for a young woman who’d been picked up by the uniformed branch for street walking. Whilst prostitution is legal in some Australian states, sex workers need to be registered and either work for a massage parlour or be employed by an escort agency. Mylene had gone full freelance to pay for her drug habit and it was her intoxication that led two uniformed officers to pull her up for a random drug test.
She failed the drug test in spectacular fashion when she lost her balance and wound up on the pavement, it was then the officers saw the brutal scars on her wrist where she’d attempted suicide. When they went through the shopping bag they found baby formula and some tinned baby food, which had been stolen from a supermarket. Calls were made and two more officers arranged to meet Lamara at the flat in Beaconsfield Parade.
“She’s in a bad way,” Lamara eyed me over the rim of her coffee cup, “but we’re hoping that with some timely intervention she might just make a clean break of it, but I’m curious as to why you’re here?”
Her eyes dropped to the report in front of her.
“She did steal baby formula and tinned food, but it hardly warrants a visit from the Major Crimes division,” her eyes shifted to me, “is she a friend? Or are you doing someone a favour?”
“Neither,” I shifted in my seat, “but the last time she appeared on the radar was when the police questioned this man,” I tapped my tablet and placed it on the desk.
“Barrows is suspected for the murder of two rival drug dealers and he’s also involved in a major ice distribution network.”
“I’ve seen the face once or twice,” she replied, “but what’s Mylene doing with this character? He’s a bit above her pay grade if you know what I mean.”
“He has a habit of keeping a younger woman around who can carry things for him that he’d like to keep hidden from the police, like drugs and guns.”
“I see,” Lamara fiddled with the brooch at her throat, “and you’d like to question her? What makes you think she’ll talk?”
“That’s why I’m here,” I replied, “she’s obviously in a bad way and while I’m under pressure to find a weak point I don’t want to push her over the edge. The department has come under a bit of fire lately for the way we’ve handled investigations in the recent and not so recent past.”
Lamara looked up as someone knocked on the door and a frown creased her brow as the door opened.
“Lamara? The deputy wants to see you.”
“Tell her I’m busy,” she looked pensive.
“I told her that,” the woman advanced into the room, “she said it’d take five minutes.”
Lamara sat back in her seat and let out an audible groan.
“I can come back if you like,” I offered.
She seemed to consider this for a few moments before shaking her head.
“Stay,” her eyes shifted to the assistant, “Heidi, will you bring Detective Constable Anderson a coffee or tea?”
“Coffee,” I replied, “black and strong.”
“Like your men?” Lamara’s eyes twinkled.
“More like my women,” I grimaced.
She shot me a cheeky grin as she rose from her seat.
“To each their own,” she tucked the cream-coloured blouse further into her skirt, “I’ll be back in five minutes,” she clicked the mouse to lock the screen, “I’m really sorry about this.”
I wasn’t sorry. To tell the truth I was quite enjoying sitting in Lamara’s office. She’d been one of our main liaisons between Victoria Police and the people we were interested in. My superiors were a good deal older than I and they could recall times when a good kicking would get results, but with human rights high on the agenda and the press ready to record every misstep even they’d started checking with the Department of Social Services. Usually it was one of the boys who dropped in to see Lamara or someone else on her pay grade but I’d drawn the short straw and I was counting my lucky stars.
Lamara was a fully qualified psychologist, she’d initially started with psychiatry when she was younger, only moving into psychology later in life. As well as English she spoke Spanish, German and French, and just recently she’d enrolled in a Russian language course. Lamara was forty two with a generous mane of blonde hair that fell to her shoulderblades. Her eyes were green and she had an aquiline-shaped face and slim figure and the guys at the station frequently commented on her impeccable dress sense. This was the first time I’d met her and I couldn’t help but agree with their assessment.
The cream-coloured blouse had an embroidered placket, the embroidery consisted of flowers and leaves, the brooch was also shaped like a flower. The garment was tucked into a pencil skirt that extended past Beylikdüzü Escort Bayan her knees, shiny white stockings matched the colour of the blouse. My attire was definitely more utilitarian, a grey trouser suit and black top. I’m twenty seven years old with a healthy head of dark brown hair. I have a squarish chin and I’ve always thought my brown eyes too far apart.
“I won’t be long,” she nodded at me, “the goddess is calling.”
I smiled at the title, the goddess was the other name for Dr. Paulson, the deputy head of her department, those of us who’d been on the other side of the line to her had other more colourful names. Thus her use of that title was somewhat telling. I was left to my own devices, more or less and because I hate sitting on my arse I got up to examine the office. Once a cop, always a cop, I’ve gone back to a woman’s house for a one night stand and never fail to examine her book collection, DVD collection, pictures and other things out on display.
Heidi brought me a cup of coffee about then and left me to my inspection, such as it was. Lamara’s office was pretty standard, she was fortunate because she at least had her own office with its own lock, others below her pay grade had to share an office with their colleagues but she was a few grades below Dr. Paulson. She had a doctorate in psychiatry and psychology along with several other degrees, one of which was in the field of Personal Relationships. I was still pondering what that was all about as I stood in front of a framed portrait of Lamara from quite a few years ago judging by the longer hair and youthful look. She was wearing a black graduation gown over a white blouse, she had a plasterboard hat on and was holding a rolled up piece of paper.
“I was much younger then,” Lamara spoke up suddenly.
I turned around suddenly, she must have crept up on me and then I recalled she’d not worn her shoes when she left the office, it was one of those things you don’t see unless you’re looking for it, I’m a cop I should know these things.
“I was twenty two when I graduated the first time,” she advanced further into the office, “eighteen months later I was married and trying to work my way through a doctorate degree in psychiatry, eventually something had to give. Thank God it was my marriage and not my academic career,” she moved past me and sat down in the chair.
“What was Personal Relationships?” I sat down again.
“Sex therapy,” she cracked a sly grin, “a very entertaining course, my lecturer was one of those try anything types and there were a few students who tried to swing a leg over.”
“And did you?”
“That’s classified,” she typed in her password to unlock the screen, “right, where were we?”
“Mylene,” I replied, “we need to ask her a few questions.”
“And what protection will you provide her?”
“That all depends on the information she provides us?”
“I’ll make this easy for you,” she leaned on her elbows, “my primary concern is the care and protection of anyone who is referred to us. We don’t discriminate on the basis of race, creed, sex or even legal status. I’ve had people from Border Control in here on their hands and knees begging me to give them information and I’ve sent them away on their hands and knees. You want to pull a fast one over me you’d better be early out of bed,” she leaned back and folded her arms.
“So, now that we’ve laid out the rules, what protection will you give Mylene? Assuming she even wants to talk to you about anything.”
I hesitated before replying.
“A full identity change, we’ll even do a whip around to see if we can raise some money to help her buy a few bits and pieces,” I examined my nails, “we don’t have an unlimited budget though, so let’s just put a cap on that one.”
“I’m quite into caps myself,” Lamara smiled crookedly, “all right, let me speak to her and I’ll come back to you with an answer and a time. How does that sound?”
“Perfect,” I shifted in my seat.
“You’re different to the usual ones.”
“Well, most are men but apart from that you seem more pliable, I’m all for negotiating but I find too many out there just want to ride roughshod over you and keep going. I always say you should be nice to the people you meet on the way up because you’ll meet them again on the way down.”
“My sergeant used to say the feet you tread on today might be mysteriously attached to the arse you have to kiss tomorrow.”
“I’ve heard that before,” she fluffed at her hair, “well, I have work to do and so do you,” she pushed a notepad across the desk.
“Leave your contact details on that and I’ll call you soon.”
After I’d written my phone numbers and email address down she nodded at the door.
“Okay, it was nice doing business with you, let’s hope Mylene is just as keen.”
I thought about Lamara three times over the next three days, but to be honest despite the fact I found her attractive I didn’t think she’d fit into my world. I live in the inner eastern suburb of Box Hill and she’s from Canterbury, you’ve got to have money Bahçeşehir Escort Bayan to afford a house there and she didn’t seem to be the type of woman who’d take a rental. I could imagine her flitting through Camberwell market or dining alfresco at a café and watching the world go by.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I couldn’t dress up and blend in but I always found it too much of an effort and besides, I worked long hours and the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was get all dolled up for a night out. Maybe that’s why I felt excited when Lamara called me three days later.
“Well hello there, Detective Constable Anderson… guess who’s a lucky girl?”
“Who is? Oh, hello, Doctor. Sorry, it took me a moment to realise it was really you.”
“I bet you say that to all the girls,” she chuckled, “all right, have you got your good clothes on today?”
“Pretty much par for the course, why?”
“I’m due to meet Mylene at a café just near the halfway house. She’s agreed to have you present but bring something with you that will reassure her.”
“Not an official witness protection document but some blurb that will reassure her that you’re on her side, she’s anxious but on the plus side she’s not exactly bosom buddies with your mate.”
“Let me see what I can rustle up, I’ll talk to the old boy too and see if we can come to a verbal agreement, he’s keen to get something moving on the case.”
“All right, I’ll text you the address of the café and I’ll meet you there at fourteen thirty.”
The text came through a few moments later and I pictured the road in my mind’s eye, it was in Elsternwick, a suburb that is home to the biggest legal brothel in the state. The other picture that came to mind was a fleeting fantasy I’d entertained at various stages of my life of a woman lying on a couch with her blouse partially unbuttoned. The face usually changed to whatever woman I was seeing or about to see at the time, this time I saw Lamara.
“So, you think she’ll supply us with some information?” Bill Byre, my Senior Sergeant propped on his palm.
“More than likely but we need to offer her something in return, a reassurance that she won’t be left high and dry.”
“Tell her we’ll speak to the DPP and recommend her charges are dropped.”
“That’s a healthy start but what about witness protection?”
“I’d need to go further up the food chain and it all depends on what she’s offering.”
It wasn’t much but Bill wasn’t authorised to offer much more than that and so I printed out some information on witness protection and headed out to Elsternwick. As chance would have it, the café where we met up wasn’t far from the brothel. I actually felt quite sophisticated and more than a little exciting at meeting up with Lamara again. However despite my best efforts at dressing up, she looked even more sophisticated in a grey tartan skirt suit and red satin, pussybow blouse, the grey was matched with silver metallic stockings and dark grey suede ankle boots.
Even Mylene looked as if she’d made some effort to clean herself up although it was a tough ask, she had the pale drawn face of someone who’s addicted to illegal drugs and so I ordered a sandwich for her as well. Lamara was quiet and composed but when Mylene came out with a smartarse comment about police her eyes narrowed.
“Mylene, less of the insults and more of the other thing we talked about.”
“It’s all right, I’m kind of used to it,” I took out the folder I’d brought with me.
“We’re here about someone you had something to do with a few years ago,” I opened the folder to show the picture.
“What’s he done now?”
“Oh the usual, drug dealing, extortion and a little bashing now and then. We’re interested in any information you might have on him.”
“Like what?” Mylene looked at me, “don’t you have wire taps?”
“We do but he keeps finding them, we bugged his place just recently but the only conversations we overheard were staged.”
“He almost never talks business at home,” she replied, “but his solicitor has an office where they talk business.”
“His solicitor,” I frowned, “Eric Barnes?”
“No, he’s the official one but there’s a lady solicitor, Toni McLean. He’s been fucking her or so I heard, she handles the cash side of the business. If he wants to launder money she finds ways to do it,” her eyes shifted, “but that’s about all I can tell you.”
It wasn’t much although she did offer up a few little titbits like his holiday home in Sorrento that served as his home away from home and his obsession with changing cars every month.
“He’s paranoid the cops will bug him.”
That we already knew but I played dumb and then she dropped a juicy piece of information.
“He’s got this woman he sees from Clifton Hill, I don’t know her last name but she’s called Danni and she’s a cop.”
That was news to me because it explained why he had prior warning whenever we raided him, but she wasn’t giving up much more than that and so I let her finish the sandwich. We saw her back to the taxi I’d called for her and afterwards Lamara stood tapping her phone against the palm of her hand.
“A penny for your thoughts.”
“I think someone from the department is involved with Toni, I just don’t know if it’s the same Toni,” she frowned.
“What’s his name?”
“Lucy,” she replied, “she’s one of your type, just let me make a call,” she thumbed the screen and took a few steps away from me.
She came back a minute or so later.
“Well they say lightning never strikes twice but she was seeing a lawyer called Toni McLean, which means you might want to speak to Lucy, I’m not sure if they’re still an item though so you might want to make some inquiries.”
“That could be difficult if we’re trying hard to keep things under wraps, we need to be discreet and just calling her in for an informal chat might set off alarm bells.”
“Here,” she touched her screen again, “let me send you my number, call me out of hours if you like and in the meantime I’ll make my own inquiries.”
“Okay but it’s a police matter so all we really need is confirmation she’s seeing her. If that’s the case then my boss has to make the call and you have to back off.”
“No worries, although it’s also a staff matter, we try to keep our noses clean and if she’s in any way involved with the criminal underworld then we still need more information. It might just be she’s unaware of what’s going on, it wouldn’t be the first time.”
“Okay, make some inquiries but for Christ’s sake be discreet. She might be innocent but if she thinks we’re looking at her girlfriend then she might say something.”
“Trust me, I know what I’m doing, all right, you take care and you will hear from me soon,” she smiled and nodded at me.
I had doubts about where this was all going to be honest, but I was happy to let her make some discreet inquiries in the hopes we’d find something. It took three days for Lamara to get back to me and as fate would have it I was sitting in the bath listening to my latest playlist when she called. I took one look at the number and half contemplated letting it go through to the message bank but then I swiped the screen.
“G’day, how’s it going?”
“Detective Constable Anderson? You sound like you’re on speaker.”
“You’ll make a fine detective,” I grinned, “and I’m off duty so it’s Lisa, I’m in the bath right now.”
“Oh, shit, sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, just don’t ask me to switch to video.”
There was a pause and I thought she’d hung up but then she spoke again.
“I’ve found something out about our friend.”
“Lucy’s not as keen on Toni as we thought, it was one of those pie in the sky relationships that turned sour when she realised her love interest likes playing the field but I did find out the pub she frequents. It’s in Clifton Hill.”
“Whereabouts in Clifton Hill?”
When she told me I straightened up slowly.
“Wow, that’s intriguing, considering who has a major stake in the pub.”
“The one and lonely,” I replied, “this could turn into something concrete. I’ll pass that information onto my colleagues and see what comes of it.”
“Okay, listen, I was wondering.”
I waited for her to finish.
“I’ve got a wedding to attend next Saturday arvo, it’s one of my old friends, she’s getting hitched to her girlfriend and I was wondering if um, if you’d like to be my plus one.”
I’ve been taken by surprise more than once in the past but that one came completely out of the blue and for a few seconds I had a mental blank.
“So, you want to ask me out on a date?”
“Not exactly,” she replied, “it’s a plus one but I suppose you might call it that, it’s just that Janine and I go back quite a while and because there will be quite a few gay women in attendance I was firstly trying to blend in and secondly keeping the others at bay,” she paused.
“You don’t sound convinced, maybe I shouldn’t have asked.”
“Au contraire,” I replied, “but now I’m curious. You want a dyed in the wool lesbian to keep other lesbians from putting the hard word onto you.”
“Yeah, it is weird, look, I’m sorry.”
“I didn’t say no,” I stared at a picture on the wall of two Chinese women reclining together, “it did take me by surprise but if you need a plus one then maybe I can put in an appearance but it comes with a caveat.”
“Don’t expect me to act like your girlfriend, I’m your plus one, nothing else.”
“Okay, that sounds good and sure, it’s only for a couple of hours. I’ve got to go see an old friend afterwards anyway.”
“So, how’s about we talk some more tomorrow then? I need a time and place, I’ve got to let my boss know in advance in case I get lumped with a shift.”
“No worries and if it comes down to it and you’ve got a choice of earning money or going to a wedding, take the money and run, I’ll find an alternative, trust me.”
Which made me all the more determined to reserve that particular time for what sounded like a relaxing afternoon. Admittedly I did have some reservations about going through with it because everything seemed too cut and dried. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people over the years and I can usually tell when someone is reciting from a script, it’s just a bit harder when you’re talking over the phone but this still felt somewhat rehearsed.