Dr Addison Greenway clicked off her phone, not bothering to hide her resentment. She wasn’t impressed. The conference room might be high tech, but no amount of audiovisual panels or smartboards could make up for the deficiencies in their reporting system.
“Six women were found suffocated in a frozen food van at Southport early this morning. Apparently the news has just been broadcast. The article claimed they had been trafficked into the country.” She stared round the room. Any boredom vanished at her angry blast. She rapped her pencil sharply on the table. “Let’s wait until we have all the information before the recriminations start.”
The warning had no effect. Emotions ran high—it was not the first time the press had released a story before they had been notified.
“But that’s not the worst of it,” she continued. “At twelve, the Attorney General is coming here to discuss it with us. So someone had better come up with all the facts…and in a hurry.”
She turned to the Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs, Bryson Mason. “What is the situation, Bryson? Surely your department must know about it.”
He held her gaze for a few moments, moustache bristling as he pressed his lips together. Then he dropped his eyes to the manila folder in front of him. He scanned a paper defensively and tossed it aside. “Um…I haven’t an exact briefing on the subject per se.”
“And what does that mean?”
“There’s nothing here about it.”
“Do you mean to tell me your department wasn’t informed those people died in that van?” Addison snapped, definitely on the wrong side of cross now.
“The police report should be in my office. I didn’t call in there this morning.”
She glared at Bryson as she struggled with her temper. It was his responsibility to check for any new developments before each meeting. He was their operational link to the Attorney General’s office and other government services, including law enforcement. And as usual, he was trying to bluff his way through. Not for the first time she wondered if his feigned ignorance was deliberate. For someone with his seniority, he certainly was an ineffectual bloody twat. Addison wished he would put as much effort into his work as his appearance. In his mid-forties, Bryson had a cultivated, boyish look and a penchant for expensive suits.
She looked around at the other seven people in the room. They were representatives of non-governmental social services, appointed by the AG as his Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. Though it came under federal law, trafficking was a national problem. It was too difficult to address under one jurisdiction. She admired this attorney general. He had tenacity and guts. Since his appointment to the portfolio four years ago, he’d seemed determined to stamp out the scourge in Queensland.
Addison noted that as she questioned Bryson, Judge Daniel Stone, their most senior member, nodded his snow-white head in support. He didn’t tolerate incompetence either. Except for Belinda Harrison, the Lifeline rep and her only real friend on the council, the others looked uncomfortable. Belinda’s mouth curled into a knowing smile—Bryson was a frequent talking point between the two of them over coffee.
“I’ll have to adjourn the meeting until we have something to give the AG. We’ll have an early lunch so we can go straight through this afternoon. Get on to it, Bryson.”
“I’ll go to the office right now,” said Bryson, his tone more subdued.
“Good, then everyone be back at a quarter to twelve, please.”
After she watched them file out of the boardroom, Addison wearily shuffled her papers into order. She wondered yet again why she was putting herself through this agony. Okay, she knew why the attorney general had appealed to her to use the council. The previous chairman had been way past his use-by date. Ill health had rendered him ineffectual as a leader, and when he was shuffled into retirement, she took over the reins. She was eminently qualified for the role. After completing her doctoral thesis in international affairs, she had worked with various Southeast Asian embassies as a consultant in women’s affairs. As well, twelve months ago she had been commissioned by the AG to write a report on the exploitation of migrant women in the sex industry in Queensland, and its link to human trafficking.
The flesh trade was complex. Men, women and children were being trafficked for many purposes: industry labour, illegal adoptions and more gruesomely, body parts. But the majority of the poor unfortunates were women and girls for the sex industry. A great deal of them came from Asia which was Addison’s area of expertise. She doubted if the average Australian knew what trafficking meant. These were not refugees paying smugglers to get them in illegally, they were victims, brought into the country by kidnapping, coercion or debt bonding. And sexual servitude was the worst crime. Some users in the sex industry believed Asian women were more compliant and accepted a higher level of violence. It was slavery in its worst form. She loathed the practice. She had seen too much of the abuse to be left unscathed, and she was getting heartily sick of platitudes and no action.
But she was frustrated to the point where she wished she could walk away. Used to decisive decision-making, she hated the ponderous governmental bureaucracy with its infernal red tape and rigid guidelines. What she really needed was to be cloistered in her office to complete her project. But no such luck. The AG had made it quite clear he wasn’t prepared to accept her resignation.
Before she left the conference room, she tried Will’s number again, and grimaced when it went to voice mail. Where the hell was he? He should have called in days ago. After popping the phone into her coat pocket, she made her way down to the Coffee Club across the street.
Belinda had already ordered by the time she took a chair opposite. Addison looked fondly at her friend, an attractive, willowy blonde in her early forties, with an angelic, youthful face which belied her shrewdness. With her husband Alan, a property developer, she lived life in the fast lane. A far cry from Addison’s social inclinations. Regardless, she and Belinda had liked each other immediately when they had met at a Lifeline fundraiser six years ago. Firm friends now, Addison appreciated Belinda as a discreet and caring confidante.
“You’re in a testy mood this morning. Anything you want to discuss?” Belinda asked.
Addison scowled as she tucked her feet under the chair. “Mostly sick of Bryson’s bullshit. He doesn’t make my job any easier. I wish for once he’d come prepared, or at least admit he hasn’t a clue.”
Belinda watched her quizzically. “That’s not the only problem, is it? Is it something to do with your project? You’ve got that everything-is-getting-on-top-of-me look.”
“You’re right. I’m worried. I haven’t heard from Will for four days. It’s not like him to leave it so long before touching base. Not when things are getting serious.”
“I wouldn’t be too anxious. He’s a capable investigator, quite able to take care of himself. What was he looking into this time?”
“A tip we received from a sex worker in the city. I can’t say anything yet because it’s still unsubstantiated, but he was sure it was going to pan out to a good lead.” Addison smiled her thanks to the waitress for her mug of cappuccino before she continued. “Yes, Will’s experienced, but I can’t help feeling something’s happened. It’s been too long.”
Belinda peeped over the rim of her cup, a gleam in her eye. “He’s probably making you wait for once. The poor guy’s been panting after you for years and you continue to treat him like a doormat.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. He’s just a really good friend.” Addison pretended to read the menu while she quashed irritation. Why did most married women need to see every single woman find a husband? Now that her thirty-seventh birthday was just around the corner, her meddling friends dragged out every eligible man they could find.
As a personal favour, Will had agreed to do some legwork to help her with her report. Raised in the same neighbourhood in Brisbane, they had remained close over the years. In fact, he was one of her best friends. An ex-naval officer, Will was buff and good-looking, considered quite a catch in the dating pool. Even though they shared common interests and occasionally went out together, Addison had never let it venture down the relationship path. Will was a top guy but…
Suddenly cutlery and china skittled across the table as an ear-splitting boom rumbled close by. Addison lurched forward, clutching the edge of the table as an anchor.
“Holy shit!” Belinda cried.
Addison swivelled to follow her gaze through the glass partitions. She sizzled out a breath through her teeth. Dusty smoke streamed out through the shattered front window on the third floor of their office block. “Hell, that’s our boardroom!”
She wrenched free of the chair to run outside. Taking in the haze, the sirens and car alarms, she realized the significance of the chaos. She swallowed hard to fight back the sudden surge of panic.
If she hadn’t called an early lunch they would all still be there.
On the ground floor, people were pouring through the glass doors. When she slipped inside the building the air in the foyer was thick with perspiration and fear. The fire alarm deafened the room as a security guard fought to maintain an orderly evacuation through the exit. Addison sank back against the wall, trying to blend into the décor while she waited for the crowd to reduce to a trickle. As the last people were ushered out, she raced up the stairway. On the eerily deserted third floor the overhead sprinklers had been activated, forcing her to pull up her collar and button up her coat.
At the threshold of the conference room, she clamped her hand hard on the side of the door to keep from stumbling. Inside looked like a war zone. Part of the ceiling had collapsed over the furnishings, the gaping hole exposing the electrical wiring, cables and air-conditioning ducts. The beams hung loose and the metal had melted like plastic under a blowtorch. A small flame flickered near the twisted conduits on the right. The walls were scorched. Flying debris had punctured the wooden panels and shattered the long front glass window. The air reeked of charred plastic, powdered concrete and chlorine.
Addison’s heart pounded when she looked at the chair she had not long ago left. It was covered by massive chunks of rubble. She shivered at the implication. As the enormity of her escape sank in, adrenaline seeped out of her body leaving her weak.
The thump of boots in the hallway forced her to back quickly from the room. A burly firefighter met her face on as she turned. He glared his disapproval as he stabbed a finger toward the exit sign above the stairway door. “Why are you still here, ma’am? Please vacate the building immediately.” Without another word, he hurried into the room, followed closely by two more men swathed in yellow protective gear.
Addison ran back down the stairs. The tightness in her chest had lessened and her trembling legs had calmed by the time she reached the ground floor. Without pausing, she burst through the door into the fresh air. The street was crawling with fire engines, police cars and ambulances. The council members were huddled on the pavement outside the café when she crossed back over the street.
After she related what she had seen, even the usually loquacious Chief Secretary of the Salvation Army, Larry Jackson, was lost for words.
Turning to the judge, Addison said, “Daniel, will you ring the AG’s office and tell them what’s happened, please? I’ll have a chat with the police. They’ll want to interview us since it was our boardroom.”
Two uniformed police were standing by the yellow tape cordoning off the entrance to the office block. The older of the two nodded as she approached.
She nodded back with a smile. “Are you the officer in charge?”
He tossed his head in the direction of the fire truck. “Detective Patterson over there is your man.”
Patterson, a thickset man, his face damp with sweat, was talking to one of the firemen. He looked up enquiringly when she approached.
“I’m Addison Greenway, Detective. We were meeting in the room where the explosion occurred.”
“Detective Graham Patterson, Ms Greenway. What organization do you belong to?”
“A government council. Perhaps we could go somewhere to talk. The other members are over at the coffee shop.”
“There’s an office in the next building we can use. Tell the others I’ll be taking their statements shortly.”
* * *
By the time the interviews had finished and Addison had tied up the loose ends with the Attorney General, she was washed out and headachy. After a promise to keep Belinda up to date with the news of Will, she drove home to Brookfield, and it was on dusk when she nosed her dark brown Outlander into the garage. Once inside, she curled up in her lounge chair with a glass of wine, struggling to come to terms with the drama. It still sent prickles of fear down her spine. Would she have survived? She didn’t want to go there. And it was so ironic—Bryson Mason’s incompetence had saved her skin.
She took a gulp of the chardonnay. If only Holly hadn’t gone out tonight—she needed company. At seven o’clock, Addison switched on the ABC news. To her surprise there was only a brief mention of the explosion, which the fire brigade had put down to a build-up of gasses in the air-conditioning vent. She wondered if detective Patterson had agreed with the verdict. He had seemed very concerned about the explosion. And she concurred with him. A terrorist bomb should not be excluded in today’s political climate. There had been important people in that room.
At nine she was getting ready for bed when the doorbell rang. She hastily pulled on a dressing gown, figuring it could only be Will at this time of night. She flung open the door to see two police outside on the landing. Her gut knotted. Addison learnt in the next few minutes that her day could get worse. Much worse.
Her world had turned upside down.
Detective Rachel Anderson shrugged off her coat at the station door, pleased to be inside. The morning peak hour traffic had been more of a rat race than usual. Her partner, Martin Platt, was already at his desk and she strolled over and plopped into the chair opposite. “Morning, Martin. Anything urgent on the agenda today?”
He tipped his head then jerked his thumb toward the closed office on the right. “The chief wants to see us as soon as you arrived. We have an autopsy this morning.”
Rachel felt a flash of irritation. The morgue wasn’t her favourite place, especially since she was on a high after her break. Four days at the beach with Mackenzie had soothed away the stresses of her job, which left her in a particularly good mood. She gave a rueful smile—the morgue was the place where they had first met. Mac had been searching for her twin. The serial killer case—that creep still sent cold shivers through her. But the assignment had brought Rachel the love of her life and Mac had been only too happy to leave her job as a war correspondent to live with her in Brisbane.
She hoisted herself off the chair. Crap! She didn’t want to look at a body being carved up. “Come on then. Let’s go see him.”
Superintendent Holding swapped his mouse for a thin file. He threw it across the table. “I want you both at the morgue. Quinn went out to the site but I’m putting you two on the case. A male in his thirties found on the beach on the eastern side of Moreton Island yesterday afternoon. It’s a homicide. A lump of iron was tied to his legs. He was washed up by the unusually large swells following that massive storm. Otherwise he would still be under the water.”
Rachel flipped open the folder and read the first page. “Right you are. I see he’s been ID’d, which is one job out of the way.”
Before she left the building, she made a detour to the computer hub of the station. The chubby IT specialist, Ian Garrison, sat in front of the monitor. He looked dishevelled as ever, pasty and unfit with his partially bald head shiny in the light.
“Can you run a check on this guy please, Ian? His name’s William Watson. Here’s his driver’s license with his age and address. Email it over ASAP,” Rachel said and bustled off out the door to join Martin in the car park.
The pathologist, Earnest Boyd, was a tall, thin man, not Rachel’s close friend but certainly more than an acquaintance. They had a mutual respect for each other, not surprising considering how many times Rachel had watched him dissect cadavers.
He smiled when they entered the lobby. “I’m glad to see you two.” He pointed to the viewing room. “As his family doesn’t live in Brisbane, we contacted Watson’s father about formal identification. He said his son had a girlfriend, Dr Addison Greenway, and she has agreed to come down. She’ll be here any minute. We’ll autopsy him after that’s done.” Boyd looked hopefully at Rachel. “Would you take her in? A woman with her might make it easier to handle.”
Rachel nodded, and inwardly winced. She hated that part. “She’s a doctor?”
“Not a medical one. A PhD in International Studies. A bit of a recluse from all accounts.”
As the last words left his lips, the door swung open and a woman entered. With the practiced eye of a professional, Rachel studied her as she approached. Addison Greenway was about five foot eight, with an athletic build and dark auburn hair trimmed neatly above her collar. Though not beautiful in the classical sense, for her face was angular and her mouth wide, her looks were still arresting. Handsome would be a better description. She carried herself well, with economical movements. She looked apprehensive, which was to be expected. Her casual clothes had the stamp of a designer label. No wedding ring was on her finger.
Rachel thrust out her hand with a warm smile. “I’m Detective Rachel Anderson, Dr Greenway. If you would accompany me, we’ll get this over as quickly as we can.”
They walked into the viewing room, Addison’s face paling at the sight of the body draped with a sheet on the trolley. Her hands laced together as if in prayer when Rachel lifted the corner of the cloth to expose the face. With a sharp intake of breath, she turned away and nodded. “It’s Will.”
The woman looked so distressed Rachel hated what she had to say next. “Thank you. I’ll have to ask you to come to the station this afternoon. Unfortunately this is a homicide.”
Addison’s shoulders slumped. “Nobody told me that,” she whispered.
Automatically, Rachel closed the distance between them to take her arm. Her voice was sympathetic. “I’m sorry. It must be a shock.”
“It is, yes. But it’s not only that. I…I think it’s my fault. He…he was following up one of my leads.”
“He was working for you?”
“With me. As a personal favour. We…” Addison began to cry, then pivoted abruptly on her heels and walked quickly from the room.
As Rachel followed her out, she tried to think of some words of comfort. She took her hand and squeezed it gently. “You go on home. If you like, I can interview you at your residence at two o’clock this afternoon.”
She received a grateful look. “I would appreciate that, if you would. I don’t feel up to going out again. He was a very dear friend.” After she quickly scribbled down her address, Addison hurried off.
Rachel suppressed self-loathing. It grated that her job forced her to be insensitive when the woman was obviously grieving. She looked back at the pathologist and muttered, “Let’s get on with it.”
Boyd wheeled the trolley into the operations room and with help of the morgue attendant, rolled the tray onto the dissecting table. Everything ready, Boyd knuckled his Harry Potter glasses up his nose and proceeded to sweep the light over the body. Rachel settled herself toward the end of the table to watch as she tuned out. Even though it was a routine part of any investigation, she wasn’t in the mood today. She didn’t have to pay too much attention—Boyd always delivered a running commentary and would bring anything of significance to her attention. When at last his monologue ceased and he pulled off his gloves and face shield, Rachel straightened to attention. “What’s the official verdict then?”
He peered at her with surprise. “Weren’t you listening?”
“Sorry. I was preoccupied. It always upsets me having to accompany someone identifying a body. Not pleasant.”
Boyd’s mouth twitched at the corners. “Domestic bliss making you a bit soft, eh?”
Rachel rolled her eyes and ignored Martin’s muffled laugh. “Huh! Well?”
“Death was from drowning—he was alive when he hit the water. No sign of much of a struggle though. Some bruising on his arms but no head injury. No skin or blood under the nails either.”
“Do you think he was drugged?”
“Most likely. He was a big man and in good nick, so my guess is he was subdued with something so he wouldn’t fight back.”
“Any idea what they used?” asked Martin.
“I’ll have to get the tox report and his stomach contents analysis. Time of death was about two days ago, though the histo will narrow it down. All going well, he can be buried a week from now.”
Rachel gestured to Martin. “Right, then we’ll be off. Hopefully we won’t have to see you for a while.”
* * *
After eleven, entrenched again in their office, Rachel relegated the pile of papers on the desk to her top drawer to make room for the fresh notes.
Martin popped a piece of chewing gum in his mouth and leant back in the chair. “Your turn to lead. What do you want me to do?”
Rachel looked fondly at her partner. He was a big man, solid and dependable, a perfect foil for her energetic investigative style and quick temper. They found it worked better if one of them led in each case. She powered up her computer, clicked into the program and made a new heading. “Here are Quinn’s notes from the site, so we can start from there. Ian’s sending over Watson’s particulars as soon as he’s finished.”
“Right-oh. Then I’ll go to Watson’s workplace to see what I can dig up while you’re seeing Greenway this arvo. By tonight we should have a pretty good profile on him and what he was up to.”
Rachel was only halfway through the work when Martin burst back into the room. By the look on his face there was a new development. “Something happen?” she asked.
“Fuck yes. This case is getting more complicated. Someone set off a bomb in the ceiling of the Century office block in the CBD yesterday. And our Dr Greenway was supposed to be in the room.”
“A bomb went off where Addison should have been?”
“Yes. She chairs the AG’s Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. They were meeting in one of the conference rooms but went to lunch early. Otherwise they would have all been in there.”
Rachel chewed her bottom lip as she slotted the pieces together. “Was it definitely a bomb?”
“Yep. The boss filled me in. The bomb squad found traces of explosives. Apparently, Head Office ordered them to suppress the findings to the public. To stop any hysterical speculation, the fire department told office management that an electrical fault set off a build-up of gasses in the vent. We’ve been ordered to keep it under wraps for the time being.”
“How much damage?” asked Rachel, alert.
“The IED was small, fashioned for a specific target. Not big enough to do extensive damage to the whole block—that would have caused a major incident. Just enough to bring part of the ceiling down. The worst damage was at the chairman’s end. It exploded downwards, hence hardly any fire. It’s a relatively new building so the fire standards were up to date.”
“Was she the target?”
“We can’t be sure. All the council are important people, a ‘who’s who’ of social service departments: The Salvation Army, Lifeline, National Council of Churches, Australian Crime Commission, Department of Social Security and Save the Children Foundation. Plus Justice Daniel Stone, and Bryson Mason from Settlement and Multicultural Affairs.”
“Still, for the purpose of our investigation with Addison’s link to Watson, we have to assume she was the target unless we find out otherwise. I’ll interview her immediately.” Rachel punched off the computer. “What did Ian find out about Watson?”
“He was thirty-nine. Ex-navy. SAS. Twelve years in the service, which included a two-year stint with the SEALs in the US. He started an international courier service when he got out. Apparently the business is doing very well. They move items for the maritime industry, and this year he scored a sizable navy contract. No record or convictions. Not married, though there are a couple of pictures of him escorting Greenway around the town. One thing is certain—killing him wouldn’t have been a pushover.”
“He’d have to have been thrown off a boat,” mused Addison. “So the murder could have something to do with his business and nothing to do with Addison at all.” She reached for the phone. “I’ll update the chief before I head out.”
* * *
The journey out seemed interminable. Addison’s home was a long way from central CID, in an outer suburb where most houses stood on acreage in bushland. She cursed as she neared the turnoff. With this terrain it would be virtually impossible to protect the woman, should that prove necessary.
Rachel drove up the gravel driveway and parked her car near the garage. The house was a sprawling split-level wooden building set into the side of a hill. In other circumstances, Rachel would have been charmed by its rustic setting. A flagstone pathway wound its way through an untamed cottage garden to a trellised pergola. Wisteria and grapevines trailed over the top of the horizontal beams. To the right was a raised bricked pond, where she caught glimpses of goldfish swirling amongst the fronds and water lilies. She manoeuvred her way around a chunky wooden outdoor setting under the trellis to the front door.
At the first knock, Addison appeared at the door and signalled with a wave of her hand to enter. The inside was as delightful as the outside. The hallway led past an old-fashioned kitchen with antique cabinets, a classical porcelain farmhouse sink and pots and pans hanging from a beam. The lounge room furniture, rugs, lighting and artworks also held a vintage look. Soft, comfy armchairs, the type you sink into and which swaddle you like an old friend encircled a stone fireplace.
Rachel found Addison quite different from the vulnerable woman she had met at the morgue. The one who sat in front of her was in command. Addison settled back and crossed her legs elegantly. “So, Detective Anderson, you have some questions for me?”
Rachel took a deep breath, momentarily put off balance by the subtle authoritarian ring to the voice. She sat up straighter, wary. “Yes I have, Dr Greenway. Firstly, let me say I am sorry I have to intrude on your grief but I have to ask you some questions regarding Mr Watson. As I told you, this is a homicide investigation.”
Addison’s nostrils flared, the only outward sign she was disturbed. “How can I help you?”
“How well did you know Will?”
“Very well. We were childhood mates, and have remained good friends ever since.”
Rachel gave a small cough. “His father indicated that you were romantically involved?”
Addison’s lips tightened. “We were not lovers, nor ever had been. I’m afraid his family was under a misconception on that score.”
“But you did go out with him occasionally though.”
“Of course. As I said, Detective, he was one of my best friends.”
Rachel caught the peevish tone, and she moved quickly to another subject. “You mentioned he was doing some investigative work for you. What was his assignment?”
“I’m writing a paper for the Attorney General. Will was following up a lead for me.” Addison raised a finger in the air. “You understand this is highly confidential, so the information is privileged. I’m researching the exploitation of migrant women in the sex industry.”
Rachel leaned forward intently. They were at the heart of the matter. “What was the lead?”
“It had to do with how the girls were being brought into the country. The tip came from one of our city sources. Will said he’d fill me in when he got back home, but that was five days ago and I’ve been extremely worried. It wasn’t like him not to touch base frequently.”
“Who was the city source?”
Addison tapped her fingers on the arm of the chair and looked uneasy. “I’m sorry, but I can’t divulge their name. They requested anonymity and I guaranteed that. Apart from the privacy aspect, if I tell the police I won’t get any more information in the future. So few people out there are willing to talk to me as it is, I’m certainly not going to throw this one away.”
“But circumstances have changed. This is a murder investigation, Doctor. Morally you have an obligation not to withhold evidence.” Rachel said in a voice she reserved for difficult interviewees.
A stubborn look settled on the academic’s face. “Come on, Detective, don’t even try to bully me. And don’t think you can debate ethics with me. You should be aware I am well within my rights to refuse. Now, is there anything else you I can help you with?”
Annoyed, Rachel was tempted to tell her the collapsing roof yesterday was no accident, but held her tongue. Orders were orders. “May I read your research paper?”
The violet eyes glinted, intently focused on Rachel. “No, you may not. It isn’t finished. You must understand this is a very important assignment and highly confidential. It will have far-reaching repercussions.”
Rachel met her eyes with a level gaze. The interview was going nowhere fast. The woman wasn’t going to bend an inch and she was starting to annoy Rachel big time. Her best bet would be to go back to the office and devise a strategy with Martin.
She rose to her feet. “I guess that does it then. Once again, please accept my condolences on your loss. Goodbye, Doctor.”
Addison nodded and murmured, “I am sorry I couldn’t be more helpful. But we both must do what we have to.”
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