Fuck this shit. I’m just not interested.
As soon as I’ve switched off the latest news report about this stupid bloody Indonesian coup, the kid barges in.
“Ready?” he squeaks after seeing the look on my face, goddamn raincoat, buzz cut and bull neck straight out of some B-grade Sam Spade detective story.
Get over yourself. I’m not ready. Shaddup, piss off and leave me alone.
“Getting my shit together,” I tell him truthfully enough. “You’re driving,” I add, since my driving days are over for a while. Got my knee banged up just that bit too much. Makes hitting the clutch too dicey. Quack says it’ll be okay in a month or ten, so I gotta let junior behind the wheel, which is a pain since he’s like some dumb shit kid on a sugar rush at a dodgem-car carnival ride, and my insurance has lapsed.
“Okay. We’ll take my car,” he offers. Good boy. I can’t afford any more dents in my clunker.
ID. Papers. Sal’s brief printed out. Piece. Spare clips. Wallet. Keys. Mobile. Second mobile. Need a goddamn trolley to carry all this shit, but just when you think it’s all too much trouble, a case comes up and you start to feel a bit naked, even with everything on you. A case like this. Another bunch of corpses, but there’s more. More enough for us feds to be called in. Neighbour found them. Blue’s there now but it’s up to us to get down to the details and track down the bastards who did it, and everybody’s cold with this one, especially blue.
Damn kid’s tetchy. How many has he done? Two? Three? When you get to eighteen in less than a year give me a wave. They don’t give you a medal when you reach ten, so quit with the brown-nosing.
In the car, and the kid’s driving way too fast for Sydney traffic, yapping on and on about the Indonesian coup and then something else I don’t give a damn about, but I nod and “uh-huh” enough for him to think I’m paying attention. Trouble is I’m really thinking too much about Sal’s brief.
Shit. The kid’s asked me a question and I wasn’t concentrating.
“Just shaddup a minute. Trying to think,” I tell him. At least he shuts up.
There’s more important shit than your gossip. Far more important stuff, like the fact there were two groups in the area we knew about, but Sal’s reckoning there’s someone else now, someone new. Someone hard-core. Possibly seriously pissed off, drugged up vets mixed with bikies and some sanctimonious rabble from up north who’ve come down declaring war after the latest terrorist atrocity in Europe blah blah or worried the Indonesians are suddenly going to invade blah blah. Mean bastards, led by someone nobody knows anything about. Underground guerrilla types looking to take their idea of justice into their own hands, because us law fucks are all lazy lefty bleeding-heart do-nothing bastards, apparently.
Trouble is they haven’t met me yet.
Blue and white chequered tape across a whole road is pretty serious. More serious is evacuated mums standing at the side of the road in their nighties with snot-nosed sprogs on their hips and it’s 9:20am and raining. More serious still are the media vans surrounded by all sorts of self-righteous onlookers gobbing off at cameras and microphones, as if their gap-toothed, drooling opinions mattered.
Not my worry.
Gun through, blue lifting tape for us and pointing out the white forensic vans at 134 Merrick Road.
We walk up the rain-slick asphalt, parked far enough away to keep it prudent but close enough to not get too wet. Blues everywhere, standing around looking important, heavily padded and armoured despite the show being over long before they dragged their sorry arses to this dump. Makes it look good for the press, I guess.
Nobody to greet us. Guess they’re all too busy inside.
Regular-looking, well-maintained mid-1970s suburban bungalow. Not much of a garden but the lawn’s clipped and everything’s clean and tidy. Beyond white-painted wrought iron gates and parked in front of a shut up garage is a souped-up metallic-purple Subaru WRX with chrome mags. Not a speck of dust on it, looks like it cost more than the house to deck out. A little out of character with the Toyota-and-Ford neighbourhood, but by the looks of the shifty-eyed locals getting rained on, I’m guessing the folk at this address were a little too different to qualify for being welcomed around for Saturday barbecues or the local lamington drive.
Bunny suit just inside the open front door. Then another. Even the feet are wrapped. Dammit, that means there’s a mess. I hate when there’s a mess. Hang onto your breakfast, kid.
The entryway is clear. Beyond the carved timber front door there’s an ornate arrangement of cut flowers perched on a white marble-topped, gilt-legged table. The floor’s white marble. Guessing there’s no thick pile rugs and three paster ducks on the wall in this place. A big mirror has been shattered out of its ornate gilt frame, but the flowers in front of it are weirdly untouched. Shards of mirrored glass grind under shoes.
The perfume from the flowers can’t quite mask the sharp stench of piss. A bunny suit approaches.
“Aaron. We’re in the kitchen and living room this morning. Forensic already have what we need, but if you still want a mask and suit—”
“Thanks, we’ll be fine,” I dismiss. I know how to avoid mess, and the kid’s gotta learn some time. Doctor Kutasewicz is a pain too – spare me the didactic oratory. I need to see for myself what’s happening, not hear about it. If you’ve got something to say, tell me whodunnit and why.
Just follow the sound of cameras and low talking.
And there they are.
There’s a mum. Two mature-aged daughters. A son in his late teens. Little daughter probably no more than ten. No sign of the father yet. Severed heads all neatly lined up on the polished timber dining table, eyes closed, slices of raw bacon sticking out of their mouths. Naked headless bodies with mutilated genitals piled on top of the white leather sofa nearby, with a large, cheaply made Australian flag tossed over the top of them. Blood everywhere. Faeces smeared across heads and bodies and all across framed photos of smiling faces on the wall leading to the kitchen. The place absolutely fucking reeks of piss and shit and blood. Somebody’s pissed all over the carpet, the walls, the bodies on the couch and pretty much everywhere else they could aim, too.
Then there’s the pathetic attempt to burn the house down, setting pages of the family’s Quran on fire in a pile on the living room floor. Nothing took the flames well enough, leaving a black smear of ash and scorch-marks on the carpet.
Maybe all the piss helped put it out.
I turn, and there on the wall are the slogans. In blood. Just like last time, and the time before.
Real fucking classy.
The kid retches, mercifully makes it outside.
Kitchen’s awash with blood, probably where they were killed. Bunch of clothing all piled up in one corner.
Out the back yard, there’s the father. Naked and nailed to a goddamn wooden cross hammered into the ground right next to the Hills hoist. Gutted like a pig, body smeared in faeces, genitals hacked off and shoved down his throat along with a strip of raw bacon. Press helicopters and even someone’s pet drone are buzzing around, but forensic have managed a big white plastic enclosure to guarantee sanitising this latest little offering for the viewers at home. Bunny suits on ladders are untying ropes and pulling out nails to bring the poor bastard down.
No notes. No manifesto. No signature. Just the usual sad, tired, retarded slogans drawn using fingers we have no print matches for.
Sal’s brief tells me blues have already rounded up the usuals, but everyone’s just goldfishing like the useless bastards they are. Some’ll go down for drugs or whatever else the blues can nail, keeping them out of the equation for a while. Nasty business, but we’ve gotta flush out every sewer this time, this shit’s way too fucking serious.
Wasn’t that long ago everybody was talking about peace in our time, the terrorists will never win, blah blah. Now we’ve got terrorists of our own, and they’re us. Goddamn sanctimonious nationalist fascist dickless pricks who think murdering a little girl is going to save their country, save their race, save us all from extremism, without having a fucking brain between them to recognise their extremism might be the actual problem.
When I get my hands on them, I’m going to fucking show them all races bleed the same fucking colour!
Stop it. Calm down. Keep it together.
Mobile rings. It’s Sal.
“One of them just broke, crying for his mummy. Reckons we’re going to gut him,” she says.
“Gut him? Sounds familiar. Maybe that one needs some special attention. There’s nothing here except what forensics might find but it’ll be a while before any of that shines a light,” I tell her.
“How is it?”
“Pretty much same as Fortescue Avenue, but this time there’s a little kid too.”
“Fuck. Ibri’s gonna puke,” she breathes, concern pasted all over.
“I know. Gotta find ’em quick and put ’em down. Get your squealer to tell us something we don’t know. A name, an address. Anything. It’s more than I’ve got right now,” I say through gritted teeth as I watch a bloke who was first and foremost a loving father being lowered to the ground, tangled entrails dangling everywhere. Talk about finding a way to piss off pretty much everybody here, especially me.
Kid flashes me a wallet. It’s not from anybody in the dead family. Forensic found it just now on the kitchen floor after turning over the clothing pile. Driver’s licence? Seriously? Thank you. Wait – Toowoomba? You’re a long way from home, mate. No credit card, but there’s a Medicare card, a membership card for some RSL club and a Health Care card from Centrelink. Jobless loser.
Kid texts Sal the details.
Did they drop it when they ran? Were they that stupid?
Neighbours saw no cars or heard anything, but Linda from next door had a spare newspaper on her lawn this morning and came over to offer it until she saw the front door open and discovered the festivities within.
Ambos took her away before we arrived. Hubby Alan told blue nobody heard a thing. A family slaughtered and you didn’t hear a thing? Are you serious? Probably heard everything but is frightened as fuck, poor bastard.
Forensics reckoned it happened around midnight.
Those fucks wanted a war, and now they’re waging one for themselves. Fortescue Street was two nights ago. Duncan Avenue was three nights before that. This one, last night. Am I going to find out tonight is next? Is that the way this is going to go down?
These people weren’t warriors. They were a family who loved and laughed and celebrated freedom and joy together in a country that’s supposedly one of the safest in the world. Their crime? Actually, no crime. Nothing. Being foreign’s not a crime, and it even turned out all the kids were Australian-born after mum and dad had fled the Middle East back in the late 1970s. Being Muslim’s not a crime, even if some brainless fucktards want to make it so. Having brown skin’s not a crime, even if the same fucktards and their mates reckon it should be. None of what these people did or were was a crime, and if anybody thinks otherwise, they need to take up a discussion with the law, because that’s what we’re here for. The teen loving his car’s not a crime. The little girl’s love of her school and reading’s not a crime. The big sister’s studies to become a hairdresser are no crime. There are no drugs here. Nothing untoward. No connections with asshole terrorists locally or overseas, no history of anything of the remotest interest for the law at all. Father was a plumber, while the mum did work for Telstra. Talk about living the fucking white bread dream.
Mobile rings. It’s Sal.
“Another incident’s just been called in. Market on Merrylands Road in Merrylands has been firebombed. Family living upstairs are all dead, plus there’s dead in the street and injured in adjacent buildings. Blue’s there now with fireys and ambos but there’s almost nothing left,” she says sounding pretty bleak.
“You got it,” she says.
“It’s a war, Sal. All those pollie agitators have been screaming for it, now they’ve got these bad bastards fighting it for ’em.”
“The wallet Bram just texted me the details of?”
“Yeah,” I say, taking it from the kid and hefting it.
“Put it in your pocket and come back,” she says quietly.
“Haven’t bagged it yet,” I let her know honestly enough.
“Doesn’t matter. Top floor want it,” comes a stern tone I haven’t heard in years, giving me pause. “Don’t argue with me, Aaron. Just grab yourself and your shadow and come back right now,” she orders.
“You don’t want me to head over to Merrylands?”
“You heard me. Come in now, or I’ll park your arse behind a desk so fast it’ll make your head rattle,” she insists. Hey whoa! Off a case? I’ve been doing this shit for twenty-eight years and nobody’s threatened me with that before. Something’s wrong, but orders are orders. I grab the kid by the arm and we head up the driveway and back to the car.
We’re speeding up the highway, and even from here I can see the smoke plume. Poor bastards. There’s a couple of hijab-wearing women running up the road, and despite being a school day, their kids are in hot pursuit. That’s it. Panic’s starting to set in.
I pull out the wallet and stare at the licence. Never seen the face and the name doesn’t mean anything to me at first, but then I remember something I heard on the news before heading out to Merrick Road. Some pollie who’s trying to pass some law about detaining and deporting all Muslims to offshore detention camps or some other draconian fascist shit. What was her name? I stare at the licence again. That’s not the pollie of course, but ... holy crap ... the uncommon surname. Tebben. The same.
Sal, what’s going on?
Why was I just yanked out of one crime scene and prevented from investigating another? I’m heading back to see top floor – does that mean I’m off the case anyway?
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