600 Followers

Followers 600 !!!

I just wanted to welcome all new followers to Riverside Peace .

We finally unpacked the last box. The furniture is in place, pictures hung and now we can enjoy our new home in this new location on the beautiful mid-north coast. I can also start writing new poems and stories to post along with new photos.

I haven’t been able to keep up with all my new followers but I will try to catch up with you all soon. Please check out my introduction page About Chrissy, my book pages Teen Novel and my Poetry Books Page.

Thank you.

Chrissy

Stella’s Plight – Chapter Four

Chapter Four

Stella’s arms had rested and the soreness from holding her baby gave way to the need to hold her again.

Teresa gave up the precious bundle into the arms of her mother not wanting to admit her arms were getting tired too.

Stella continued her narrative. ‘When Kath found me, I was in the maternity ward at the Women’s Hospital in Sydney.’ ‘I had gone into false labour a few times since I was admitted with my fluid retention problem so they decided to keep me there until I delivered. I almost didn’t recognise her. Kath’s face had a green tinge about it and there were black and blue bruises around the white tape across her nose. Her right arm was in a sling. I just held her in my arms until she needed to sit. She was still weak from the ordeal. Her story was frightening.’ Stella cleared her throat. ‘After David had found the bull dead in his paddock, he had stormed inside yelling that he was going to get revenge on Ryan. Kath try to calm him down but he was too angry. She said he went on like that for days after he buried the animal. One night he swore to Kath that he would make me pay and he would take me to court for the property that should never had been given to Ryan in the first place. Kath tried to reason with him but that just made him angrier and turned on her. After he beat her, he took his horse and rode off leaving her on the floor. It was their housekeeper who found her. Her son is the stable boy and the two of them helped her to Doc Stone’s house using David’s utility. Doc’s wife took her in until she was able to catch a train to a women’s shelter in Sydney.’

‘Oh my. That poor woman’, Teresa whispered as she retrieved a tissue from her dress sleeve. Doesn’t she have family?’

‘Yes, but she was afraid he might hurt them too.’

‘And David?’

‘He went somewhere to cool off, or so everyone thought. Probably did the lap of their 92,000 acres. It usually takes a few days when he goes out to check on the fences and livestock.’

‘Why would he want your property if he had so much?’

‘Greed’, was Stella’s short reply. ‘Ryan was given just over 300 acres from his Uncle Rick. Rick had bought it from a neighbour who wanted to retire and live in Bourke with his daughter. It was just a rundown hobby farm really.’

Sarah stirred.

‘Hungry again’, she whispered. ‘Can you take her while I warm her bottle?’

‘Why would I not’, she chuckled as Stella opened the door of the cabin behind them.’

After Stella had returned and repositioned herself in the seat, she focused on feeding Sarah. ‘She has Ryan’s eyes’, she said smiling through her sudden sadness. ‘I don’t think I will ever forget him.’

‘I should hope not.’

Stella found it hard not to like Teresa. They had made an unusual connection in a very short time. ‘We should be in Dubbo by mid-afternoon. Are you getting off there?’

Teresa looked thoughtful. ‘I don’t know.’

Stella was confused. ‘What do you mean? Surely you know where you’re going.’

‘Well it’s like this, I have a ticket to Bourke but I can get off at any station before there.’

Stella was quiet and a hint of fear returned. ‘I’m not sure I understand.’

‘Don’t worry yourself. I’m just a free spirit. I can stay with you through to Bourke to keep you company and return to Nyngan later tonight. I’m retiring and Nyngan is the only home I know.’

‘That’s sweet of you but won’t there be someone expecting you?’

‘Sadly, no. My father’s house is there but he and all my family are gone now. The last of my siblings passed away last June.’

‘I’m sorry to hear that.’ Stella waited for Sarah to finish her bottle before speaking again. ‘I hope David doesn’t come to the back of the train again. Oh, I didn’t think. What will I do when I get to Bourke? He’s bound to be getting off there.’

‘Let’s just wait and see. Don’t stress. Tell me more about your story.’

‘Well, Kath stayed close until after Sarah was born.’ She smiled at the thought. ‘It was nice to have her there with me. Anyway, Kath was visiting me a few days later when David came into the ward. I freaked and Kath screamed. Nurses came running and security was called. David was escorted from the ward and the police came to take him away. He was charged for the attack on Kath and a restraining order was set in place.’

‘Where’s Kath now?’ Teresa was eager to know.

‘She’s caught a train a few days ago to stay with her mother in Dubbo. Kath promised to keep in touch. The police suggested she find a lawyer in Dubbo and see what her options are. I don’t expect she’ll go back to Bourke or David.’

‘Surely not! So, what will you do? What do you think he would do to you?’

‘The day after he was escorted from the hospital he returned. One of the nurses recognised him. He was in the nursery and standing over Sarah. She ran to call security but David had already taken Sarah out of her crib and sneaking toward the elevator. When the elevator door opened, there were two security guards. I haven’t let her out of my sight since and I honestly thought he would be in jail. This morning while I was signing my discharge papers a policewoman came up to me and explained that David had been released after he was charged. I was so scared I think she thought I would faint. We sat in a small sitting area near the entry while we talked. David had claimed he was just visiting his new niece and wasn’t intending to take her anywhere. I don’t know what to believe or what he’s up to.’ Stella paused. ‘He wouldn’t have hurt her. Would he?’

Teresa shook her head. ‘He sounds very angry still and he has already been charged with violence but why would he take Sarah? He may just want to hurt you. Maybe it’s a way to get his property back. I’m not sure but I think you should be careful and get some legal advice.’

‘I know but…’

Before she could continue the train was slowing to a stop at Nyngan. ‘Are you sure you want to come with me to Bourke?’

‘I’m sure and look.’ Stella leaned forward to see what Teresa had seen.

There were two police officers standing on the platform.

‘Why do you think they are here?’ Teresa asked and Stella shrugged.

As the train came to a stop, the police officers walked along the platform looking through windows and doors. There was a curve in the railway at the front of the train so they could see clearly the front carriages and engine. After the police officers had past the first two carriages, David jumped from the first and ran towards the exit sign where two other police officers stepped out and grabbed him. The two walking down the platform continued looking until they came to the last carriage where one of them stepped inside.

He removed his hat. ‘Stella Wilson?’

Stella raised her free arm slowly. ‘I’m Stella Wilson.’

‘Don’t be alarmed Ma’am. We received a call from David Wilson’s wife. He’s being arrested for breaking his restraining order by calling her from Sydney and threatening her and her family.’ He shook his head.

Stella gasped and covered her mouth. ‘What are you saying?’

‘Everything is going to be all right, Mrs Wilson. He’s going away for a very long time.’ He turned to leave but spun around again. ‘Do you have anyone who can stay with you at your property? At least until Kath Wilson returns home.’

Stella felt numb. She looked at Teresa who blinked once and turned to the police officer.

‘Will I do? I’m just an old retired nun but I have a mean kick if anyone comes near her.’

The officer chuckled. ‘I meant for company but yeah, you’ll do.’ He replaced his hat and left the train.

The other passengers applauded.

Stella sat dazed.

Theresa just smiled and took Sarah in her arms. ‘I always wanted to live on a big property. I also wanted to help busy young mothers with their babies.’

Stella just stared at her.

‘Well, do you mind? I can’t leave you alone. Now can I?’

Stella swayed a little with the movement of the train as it left the station. ‘I don’t know what to say. You hardly know me.’

‘I think I know enough about you that we can be friends.’ She looked down at the wee baby. ‘What do you think, Sarah?’

Sarah made a squeaking kind of noise and closed her eyes.

As the train rolled out of Nyngan, both Stella and Theresa watched the two police cars that had stopped at the rail crossing to let their train through.

Suddenly Stella burst into tears. ‘It’s over. It’s really over.’

The End

© Chrissy Siggee – 2019

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Stella’s Plight – Chapter Three

Chapter Three

‘It didn’t take long for the coroner’s report to come through. Ryan died from a burst aneurysm in the brain. His funeral was held a week later and he was buried beside his Uncle Rick. The uncle who left him the property.’ Stella added for Teresa’s benefit. ‘The next day I was called to our solicitor’s office for the reading of Ryan’s latest Will. It was straightforward enough. The property and house were to be left to me. Everything except for the few head of cattle he had been breeding. Apparently, they were on loan from Uncle David so Ryan could breed and start his own herd. Unfortunately, there had been only four calves born at the time of his death. Once they were old enough to be separated from their mothers the loaned cattle had to be returned.’

‘Why wouldn’t this uncle David leave them a little longer so you could have an income?’

Stella was about to answer when she noticed a man through the window of the doors leading to the next carriage. He was leaning slightly forward speaking to one passenger after another.

‘I think Sarah needs her nappy changed.’ Stella stood to retrieve the bag she had put in the overhead storage earlier.

At the same moment the guard came through the rear door. ‘There’s a small table in the guardroom if you would like to use it and a microwave. I won’t be using the cabin for a while.’

‘Thank you’, she smiled and let him pass before reaching for the baby.

She had only just closed the door of the guard cabin when the man entered her carriage from the other end. She stepped aside and peered through the stripped security screen that allowed the guard to see out but no one could see much if they looked in. Muffled voices kept her alert. Sarah stirred. Stella rocked her gently. ‘Ssshhh…little one.’

Stella risked a glanced through the window. She drew in a sharp breath. David?

Finally, David moved out of the carriage and Stella could see him move from the next carriage through the door at the other end.

‘Let’s get you cleaned up’, Stella cooed at Sarah her big blue eyes gazing back.

Minutes later she returned to her seat. ‘I should have bought a baby carrier before I left Sydney.’

Theresa stretched out her arms. ‘That would only make things more difficult for you.’

Once settled back into her seat, Stella looked up to see Teresa looking straight at her.

‘What was that about?’ Teresa asked directly.

‘What was what about?’ Stella replied before looking away. ‘Sorry. That man was Ryan’s Uncle David.’ She turned in her seat slightly to face Teresa. ‘I was about to tell you what happened after David came for the cows.’

Stella kept her voice low even though there were only two other passengers at the front of the carriage since the train stopped to embark and disembark passengers at Katoomba. ‘The bull Ryan bought was lame after stepping into a hole in his enclosure. I had only been filling the food and water troughs through the fence since Ryan died. I was no way going to go in there, pregnant or not. I was about seven months along by then and Ryan’s only income was from the land he leased out to another property owner. David said he would pay to have the bull treated by a vet and then buy it from me at a fair price that included the vet fees. That was fine until the bull up and died. David demand his money back after I had already spent it on feed for the calves.’

‘That doesn’t seem fair’, Teresa interrupted.

‘Well, I don’t know much about what’s fair but Kath, David’s wife, was upset over his treatment of me. She had come to stay with me after Ryan’s death until after the funeral. She’s a real sweetie. Anyway, from what I heard over the radio gossip line and in town that David beat her and she up and left him. I didn’t see her again until I came to Sydney a month ago. I was having problems with fluid around my ankles and Doc Stone insisted I go to Sydney until after the birth. Friends from another property offered to look after the place until I returned.’

Stella was tired. She hadn’t slept properly since Sarah was born and the gently movement of the train made her sleepy. She almost dozed off when Teresa spoke.

‘How did you find Kath, or did she find you?’

Stella squeezed her eyes closed before blinking repeatedly. ‘Kath found me.’ Her voice cracked. Doc Stone told her where I was. She asked him not to tell anyone else, not even David, because she thought I was in danger. I guess he believed her because of what happened to her.’ She turned to Teresa; tears streaming down her cheeks. ‘He broke her arm and her nose for standing up to him – for me.’

Teresa sat quietly and looked out the window for a few minutes. Her heart broke for Stel and her baby. She lifted Sarah and kissed her forehead then turned to Stella. ‘That man just now, your Ryan’s uncle, he asked if I had seen a woman with a baby. I’m sorry…’ Her voice drifted off.

Stella sat up straight and looked down the carriage through the door. ‘What did you say? I don’t understand. Why didn’t he stay or go into the guard’s cabin?’

Teresa turned back to Stella and gazed into her eyes. ‘I knew something wasn’t right. I answered him in German, my second language. I knew it would come in handy one day.’ She winked. ‘I didn’t lie. I couldn’t lie. I won’t, but he had no idea what I said and he just left.’

Stella stared at this beautiful woman that had befriended her. She didn’t know whether she should laugh or cry. After a few moments, she smiled. ‘Thank you.’

‘So, tell me what happened in Sydney.’

After a long sigh Stella continued.

To be continued….

© Chrissy Siggee – 2019

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Stella’s Plight – Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Stella began her story from the day her life changed forever. She had awoken early New Year’s Day with a dry mouth and covered in sweat. Nothing unusual for this part of the world but what was different was that Ryan wasn’t in bed and there was no evidence that he had. A wonderful husband of three years and a baby on the way, Stella’s only longing was for a relief from the heatwave and yet another drought.

Peeling back the damp top sheet Stella sat up on the side of the bed; her head groggy from a restless night.

Making her way down stairs she headed to the refrigerator for the jug of water she had place there the evening before. She peered out the kitchen window and noticed the door of the tractor shed was open. ‘That’s strange. It wasn’t open before I went to bed. Maybe Ryan’s tinkering with the engine’, she spoke into the empty room.

Stella looked around the kitchen for a sign that Ryan had eaten breakfast early. Nothing. Heading to the back door she pushed opened the fly screen door. Ryan often left the back door open to allow any breeze that might stir in the sweltering night air.

It wasn’t until she reached the tractor shed that she realised how quiet it was. ‘Ryan, where are you?’

Flo, Ryan’s Blue Cattle Dog began to bark. Stella turned to see that Flo was still in her fenced off area near the house. Since a recent pack of wild dogs had been seen roaming the surrounding properties at night, Ryan had made sure Flo didn’t wander and so the dogs couldn’t ambush her. No way would he leave Flo in there if he were here.

A sudden chill rushed through her. She stood in the wide doorway. ‘Ryan!’ There was no reply except for Flo’s constant bark. She approached the tractor and looked around. Where are you? It was then she noticed a dull glow of light coming from the small doorless room at the rear of the shed where Ryan used as an office of sorts and to clean small tractor parts.

Stella felt like she was walking in a dream only for the constant barking from Flo. There sitting on a stool slumped over a newspaper that lay open on the wooden bench was Ryan. A moment of relief that Ryan must have dozed off while working past through her. The lantern was struggling to keep alight. With no power to the shed, Ryan had kept an old kerosene lamp ready in case of an emergency.

Placing her hand gently on his shoulder she jerked it back. It was cold, an impossibility in this heat. She moved to where she could see one side of his face. His left eye looked back at her. ‘Ryan!’ She gently shook his shoulder but he remained silent and cold.

Stella heart pounded as she ran back to the house. Letting the screen door slam behind her she rushed straight to the radio in the front room. She forced herself to concentrate on the user instructions. Even though Stella used the radio on occasions, it was Ryan who usually operated it.

Almost immediately the operator came over the line. ‘You’re on air early, Ryan. How can I assist you? Over.’

‘Maggie it’s Stella,’ she sobbed in relief. ‘Over,’ she finally remembered and released the button.

‘What is it, Stel? You sound panicked. Over.’

‘It’s Ryan. I think he’s dead’, she blurted out and released the button without the ‘over’.

‘Calm down, Stel. Doc Stone is over at David’s place visiting Ryan’s grandmother. I’ll contact him there. Stay calm. Over.’

Stella gulped down air. ‘I’ll try. Tell him to hurry, please.’ She sat staring at the radio and took long deep breaths until she heard Maggie’s voice again.

‘Stel, Dr Stone will be there in about twenty minutes. David is driving him over in his off-road utility. Over.’

‘Thanks Maggie. Over.’

‘I’ll call you later,’ Maggie signed off.

Flo’s yapping was beginning to annoy her so she went back out to the shed and closed the door but not before looking in the direction of back room where she could barely see Ryan through her tears. Then she let Flo loose, giving her a long hard hug.

‘Oh Flo…what will we do without him?’

It took less than twenty minutes for Doc Stone to arrive but to Stella if felt like hours. She had managed to change into a cotton house dress that had seen better days but she didn’t seem to notice.

David, who was also Ryan’s Uncle, raced ahead of the doctor. ‘Where is he? What happened?’

He was full of questions but Stella could only point. She was shaking and her eyes hurt from rubbing away the constant tears.

‘He’s in the tractor shed,’ she finally blurted.

David put his arm around her shoulder and tried to soothe her. ‘I’m sure he’s fine. Let’s go with Doc and see what he says.’

By the time David and Stella had reach the shed, Doc Stone had already squeezed through the door so Flo wouldn’t follow.

‘David, I can’t go back in there.’

‘OK, stay here and hold Flo. I’ll see what Doc has to say.’

Moments later David and the doctor returned to where Stella waited. They both looked sad and pale.

‘I think he’s been here since possibly late last night. What time did you find him, Stel?’ The doctor asked gently.

‘It was just after five this morning. I woke on Ryan’s alarm and headed to the kitchen for a drink. I guess it was only five minutes later when I noticed the shed door was open.’ She finished in a sob. ‘What happened to him, Doc?’ she pleaded.

The doctor gently turned Stella back toward the kitchen. ‘You’re in shock.’’

‘She’s shivering,’ David added running ahead to open the door before heading into the front room for a throw rug.

After the doctor gave Stella a mild sedative, he sat beside her at the kitchen table while David brought glasses of cold water.

‘Stel,’ Doc began quietly. ‘From what I can ascertain without an autopsy,’ he coughed apologetically. ‘It appears to be a natural death.’

‘But he’s only thirty-four,’ Stella gasped.

‘We have to wait on the coroner’s report.’ He sipped from the glass that David had placed in front of him. ‘I need to use your radio.’

David pointed to the front room and the two watched the doctor leave the kitchen. ‘Stel, I’ll get Kath to come over. She can stay as long as you need.’

‘Oh David, she has too much to do to bother with me.’

‘You forget I make enough money to pay for a housekeeper to help my wife.’ He sighed heavily. ‘Look, I know I haven’t been close to Ryan since…. since my brother left the property to him instead of leaving it in my father’s family. To me…I’m mean, I’m sorry.’

Stella looked up as if she didn’t hear him correctly.

Only hearing bits of what Doctor Stone was saying in the other room, she waited. Her shaking had eased but she couldn’t stop the tears.

Another few minutes passed before Doc came back into the kitchen. ‘The authorities will be here as soon as they can. They’ll question you. It’s routine but I’ll stay until they take Ryan away.’

David rose from his chair and gulped down the rest of his water. ‘I’ll head back and send Kath over in the Jeep. You can use the Jeep Doc until I can get to town to collect it. I need to get those antibiotics you prescribed for mother anyway.’

The doctor nodded and sipped at his water.

The train lurched as it rounded a curve in the rails. Stella sighed. ‘I can remember that morning like it was yesterday,’ she said looking over at her baby asleep in the arms of Teresa. Teresa had become a comforting traveling companion. ‘You know, I didn’t even ask how David’s mother was. She died a few months later from complications after a long illness…’ Her voice trailed off.

‘I’m so sorry to hear that you went through that. So, the little one is fatherless?’

Stella nodded sadly. ‘That’s only half of it,’ she whispered before continuing her story….

To be continued….

© Chrissy Siggee – 2019

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Stella’s Plight – Chapter One

Chapter One

Stella’s thick black hair momentarily obscured the unpaved footpath. Another April gusty breeze sent the fringe in the other direction but not in time to avoid the muddy puddle. Conscious now of a stain that would ruin her best pantsuit she avoided looking down. She wouldn’t have been able to see much past the bundle in one arm and the heavy khaki carry bag over the other anyway. ‘Can my day get any worse?’ she mumbled.

Oblivious of the people bustling around her, Stella again focused on one thing…to get onto that train; her only escape.

Entering a short, almost empty tunnel the clicking of her heels on the concrete floor motivated her to walk faster. She dared a quick glance over her shoulder. Feeling only slightly easier, she turned a sharp right onto a crowded platform. Side stepping suitcases and groups of passengers that chatted and laughed, she kept going until she found an empty bench seat at the far end of the platform where she would be able to embark closest to the guard’s carriage.

The bundle stirred as Stella sat and eased the heavy bag from her sore shoulder. ‘Not long now, little one.’ She reached into the bag for a pacifier. Sucking was instant. Stella’s attention returned to her surroundings.

In a few short minutes, everyone had hushed and turned to face the approaching train. Returning the bag to her shoulder she stood carefully so not to lose grip of her precious bundle. Once the train had stopped completely, she stepped forward to board the carriage. Someone touched her elbow. Panic filled her until she realised that it was a short, pump woman dressed in very plain old fashion clothing. Around her neck hung a chunky cross on a simple chain.

‘Let me help with that.’ The woman took the bag without waiting for an answer.

‘Thank you, ‘Stella answered as calmly as she could before she stepped across the gap and followed the woman to a seat at the rear of the carriage. ‘Thank you,’ she said again before sitting beside her.

Stella moved the baby to the other arm to relieve the ache that had reached the point of stiffness and also to let the kind woman see her baby. ‘Thank you,’ she said, knowing she had repeated herself again.

The warm smile made Stella feel more relaxed than she had been since the day before but still kept alert of what was happening around them.

‘I’m Sister Anna Teresa, but you can call me Teresa. It’s actually what my father called me.’

‘It’s good to meet you Teresa. I’m Stella… or Stel for short,’ she added with a smile.

‘Such a sweet baby.’ The words were tender.

‘Would you like to hold her,’ Stella asked.

‘Oh, could I?’ Teresa handed Stella the bag and reached over to accept the baby.  ‘She’s so tiny. Must be a newborn.’

Stella searched the bag for the items she needed to prepare a bottle. ‘Yes…Sarah is a week-old today.’

A whistle blew and the train began to move.

Teresa watched as Stella mixed the powder. ‘Such a shame…’ she said. ‘I mean…’

‘That’s all right. I’m fine about not being able to feed her myself,’ was Stella’s simple reply. ‘Would you like to give her the bottle?’

Teresa’s huge grin was all Stella needed to hand over the little bottle and remove the pacifier. She watched as Sarah sucked furiously bringing laughs from both women.

Looking up, Stella saw the guard making his way through the carriage. She closed her eyes and sighed heavily.

‘Do you have to travel far? Teresa asked carefully.

‘As far as the train goes,’ Stella answered without thinking. ‘I mean…I’m heading back to Bourke.’

‘Such a long trip on your own with one so little.’ Her eyes now fixed on Stella’s.

In that awkward moment she leaned forward and looked down at the blotchy brown marks at the hem of her slacks. She cringed slightly and studied the other passengers in their carriage. Some were involved in conversations, reading or preparing for a snooze. Stella took a deep breath and released it slowly before making an effort to respond. ‘I am alone,’ she whispered. ‘It’s a long story.’

‘We have plenty of time and I’m a good listener…if you want to share.’

With a sense of relief, Stella slowly began her story.

To be continued….

© Chrissy Siggee – 2019

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

MEMORY OF DREAD – Part Six

🦋 – a short murder mystery for the Christian reader – Part 6 🦋

Brenda gasped. ‘What?’ She stared back at Constable Hoxley then turned to Inspector O’Malley. ‘When did you find this out?’

‘This morning,’ Hoxley replied. ‘Frank Davies’ drive to claim you several years ago set him into a downhill spiral. He began skimming money from your husband’s bank accounts a few years ago as well.’

‘Davies introduced Carlos Lorenzo to Charles as a gardener,’ Hoxley continued. ‘Lorenzo was to spy on your husband’s clients for Davies and to check your comings and goings. He had an elaborate plan that would not only get you but ultimately Charles’ company and investments. Because of Davies’ dirty dealings, he unintentionally put you in danger, even from some of Charles’ clients. Why, we aren’t completely sure.’

Hoxley flicked through his notebook before continuing. ‘Davies’ plans began to come unstuck when you took a disliking to Lorenzo, whose feelings, as you know, were mutual. However, Lorenzo had already become a loyal worker, and possibly a good friend to Charles, at least someone he could trust. Because of this, Charles learned of Davies’ desire to have you and his money. But, he needed proof. The private door was your husband’s idea for private meetings with Lorenzo and clients who were aware of Davies’ dirty dealings. We suppose Lorenzo simply got tired of playing Davies’ sick games, including the blackmailing.’

Brenda sat in dumb silence. This had been going on for at least two years? It was inconceivable. Why hadn’t I noticed? Where was I when these meetings were going on in my own home? She couldn’t even speculate why Charles put up with Frank for so long, proof or no proof.

‘Six months ago,’ O’Malley broke into her thoughts, ‘Davies represented a small-time drug smuggler. The accused walked and Davies’ pocketed a large amount of laundered cash.’

‘And Charles didn’t know any of this?’ Brenda interrupted, her frustration showing from her usual demeanour.

‘Oh… it gets better,’ O’Malley sniggered. ‘Lorenzo found out about the money and dug up some more dirt on Davies.’

His toned softened. ‘But no, I don’t think your husband was aware, at least not until much later. Perhaps only recently. Charles did pay Lorenzo enough money to pay off the blackmail so Davies wouldn’t know things had changed. This we discovered in a ledger your husband kept for his own records, not that he actually recorded it as blackmail money. He recorded Carlos Lorenzo in his last tax records as a business advisor, hence a higher payment.’

Brenda stood and walked back and forth, not that there was much room with the four of them in the small office. The three officers watched her and waited. She turned to Hoxley. Her mind went back to the early piece of news that shocked her most.

‘But I hardly know Frank. He attended business lunches and dinners with us. I sometimes sat in occasional meetings where it involved my own investments but other than that, I only knew Frank as Charles’ lawyer. Why would I be attracted to Frank?’ She hugged herself and grimaced. ‘I doubt I could ever be. You are kidding. Right?’

Hoxley shook his head slowly. ‘Sorry. They were his words. I admit though, he’s one sick man and you have no way led him on.’ He turned to McDougal who had picked up the file on the Asian guy.

‘This Asian character,’ McDougal began, ‘was one of Davies’ clients. He was also a client of Charles’ for a legitimate business. Somehow after a meeting with Charles, Davies and this client, this file got caught between some of Charles’ own paperwork. When Davies went to work on the file, he couldn’t find it and figured out what must have happened.’

‘So, this file,’ she pointed, ‘is what put Charles and me in danger?’ Brenda asked directly.

‘Yes, and this is where it gets messy,’ McDougal replied. ‘You see this client, Fo-Yong-Ho, is also a member of an Asian drug ring. He had met with Davies before this meeting with Charles; the morning before Charles’ murder.’

McDougal handed Brenda the file page. ‘These numbers indicate names of drug dealers, or rather their code names.’ He walked over in two short steps and stood beside Brenda. He pointed to the third number on the list. ‘This number here for instance: 49560HO is Fo-Yong-Ho’s. This sign here,’ he pointed to an Asian character symbol before the number, ‘represents what would be the third letter of their alphabet. What’s so important about the list is that the ASIS (Australia Secret Intelligence Service) would love to get their hands on it, and as soon as we have finished with the murder case, they can have it along with Frank Davies.’

‘You mean he’s on the list?’ Brenda was beginning to understand. She ran her index finger down the page. ‘71062FB! You’re kidding: number 27. As simple as that? But, does this mean he’s just…?’

‘Just a pawn,’ the sergeant finished for her. But a valuable pawn to the ASIS.

Brenda went to the sofa and sat down. With her head bowed slightly she touched her wedding ring. She took in a slow deep breath. ‘Look, I’m grateful for you all explaining all this. It gives me an idea what Charles was dealing with. About Frank I mean.’ Her voice wavered. ‘It’s also good to know why Charles died but what I really want to know is who killed him. Was it Carlos? Was it Frank? Or… this Fo-Yong-Ho person?’

‘Let me give you the facts about your husband,’ O’Malley began. ‘He wasn’t perfectly innocent in a few things but if he was still alive, he would probably be charged for withholding information that would have led to the arrests of Davies and at least a few other names on this list. Also, the fact is he would have known sometime after he employed Lorenzo that he was an illegal resident. For those things alone he may or may not have received much more than an acquitted short term sentence.’ He returned to his chair behind the desk. ‘His gun, as you know, was registered but we’re unsure why it was in his drawer fully loaded.’

Brenda had listened in silence as tears suddenly streamed uncontrollably down her cheeks. She didn’t bother to wipe them away. Had her husband been a criminal or just plain stupid? The thought gnawed at her.

Hoxley came over and sat beside her. As if reading her mind, he said, ‘Brenda, the way I see it, the only thing that Charles was really guilty of was protecting the woman he loved. He wasn’t letting any creep-of-a-lawyer claim you, or his company.’

‘That’s about size of it,’ McDougal conceded.

O’Malley cleared his throat and gulped down his cooling coffee. ‘Let’s finish this up so Sergeant McDougal can continue his research on this Fo-Yong-Ho character.’

The officers returned to their notes and waited for each other to continue.

Hoxley took the lead. ‘After Davies discovered that the file was missing he told Lorenzo to find it or else he would report him to the authorities. Davies informed him that you and Charles would be out most of the night and that he would have plenty of time to search. Fo-Yong-Ho called Davies about 10:00 pm to question him about an error in one of the code numbers. Out of panic, Davies told Fo-Yong-Ho that he had hidden it in Charles’ home safe for security and that he, Davies, could retrieve it in the morning. However, when Lorenzo hadn’t reported back to Davies as scheduled he went to the house to see what was keeping him. Shortly after midnight Davies entered Charles’ home office by the side door, just as Lorenzo had done earlier.’ Looking up he added, ‘apparently Davies had known about the side door but assumed it was just for Lorenzo.’ Here he paused to flip to the next page. ‘Lorenzo had found the file and realized what it was or, at least he had a fair idea. Davies found him in the process of photocopying the file. He hadn’t heard Davies enter, probably because of the noise of the photocopier. Davies struck Lorenzo over the back of the head with the eagle paperweight.’

‘Forensics,’ O’Malley interrupted, ‘had discovered some dried blood on the eagle. At first they thought it was Charles’ but until today we really had no idea whose blood it was. When Davies made his statement this morning, forensics paid a visit to Lorenzo in his cell for a sample.’

‘When Lorenzo regained consciousness,’ Hoxley continued, ‘Davies was sitting in Charles’ chair. Lorenzo was tied up and Davies had Charles’ gun pointing at him.’ He looked over to the sergeant.

‘Yes,’ McDougal confirmed. ‘Lorenzo had admitted in a later interview that he had found the gun in Charles’ desk drawer and had been just checking-it-out while the photocopier warmed up. He had placed it on the desk to press the copy button. A silly mistake no matter how you look at it.’

McDougal took a moment to sip his coffee and waited for any questions. When none came, he continued. ‘Lorenzo also told us that Davies forced him to confess everything including details about the ledger that he found during his own search of the office after rendering him helpless. Davies then gagged Lorenzo and threatened him to keep quiet.’

When McDougal stopped to take a long drink, Hoxley continued the narrative.

‘Davies decided he would wait for Charles to have it out with him, only he didn’t expect the telephone to ring on your arrival. He panicked and forced Lorenzo to hide with him behind one of the large double doors he had opened so he would know when you both returned home. Once Charles picked up the phone in the office, Davies waited a few minutes to be sure you had gone upstairs. By that time Davies had figured out it was Fo-Yong-Ho on the phone. Davies said Charles raised his voice at Fo-Yong-Ho telling him that he would deal with the situation at their next meeting. Davies said he was unsure what the conversation was about but figured Fo-Yong-Ho must have used some weak excuse to call, perhaps to make a visit himself. We don’t know.’

‘Hang on…’ Brenda interrupted. ‘Back up a bit. This Fo-Yong-Ho, Charles had no idea that he was a drug dealer. Right?’

‘Fo-Yong-Ho was a client of Charles with a legitimate jewellery business, which was also a cover-up for the drug dealing, but he used the family company name when dealing with Charles.’ Hoxley checked his notes. ‘Minh Nhung’.

‘Davies has confirmed that Charles knew nothing about the drug deals,’ McDougal added for Brenda’s benefit.

After a quiet minute in thought Brenda nodded for them to continue. She was tired and felt like she had been sucked through an engine of a jet plane but she needed to know the rest so she could make sense of it all.

O’Malley’s phone rang before anyone could speak. ‘O’Malley. Yes, right. Good job! Thanks.’ He hung up. ‘A highway patrol constable has Fo-Yong-Ho in custody but more on that later. We’re almost done. Continue Hoxley.’

‘According to the telephone company the call lasted no more than a couple of minutes. Davies confirmed it. When Charles replaced the telephone receiver, he turned to follow you upstairs only he was confronted by Davies who had stepped out from behind the door with Lorenzo held tightly in his grip and the gun in his free hand. Davies claimed he just wanted to talk. His plan was to take Lorenzo as hostage and leave the country with Fo-Yong-Ho. He told Charles if he called the police or tried to follow, he’d have Fo-Yong-Ho get someone to kill you.’ He paused. ‘Davies also told us that he would never have done that and his real plan was to have you abducted and take you out of the country too.’

Brenda felt ill and must have looked it. McDougal filled a glass with water from a jug on O’Malley’s desk and handed it to her. She accepted it with thanks.

Hoxley continued. ‘Lorenzo kicked and twisted himself out of Davies’ grip. Charles made a dive for Davies but the gun was by then, aimed at Lorenzo. Charles dived between them as Davies fired, taking the bullet for Lorenzo. Charles apparently died instantly. When Lorenzo began to gag on his own vomit, Davies dragged him back out the side door to the garden before he removed the handkerchief from his mouth telling him to stay put and keep quiet or he would get a bullet in his head. Davies then went back inside, wiped the gun clean and placed it in Charles’ hand. He also wiped his prints off the paperweight but missed the blood. Because he was a regular to the room, he didn’t bother to clean up too much else. He was so flustered he left the room without the file and the photocopy he had placed on the filing cabinet behind the door when he hid there with Lorenzo. He returned for Lorenzo and left. When he realised his carelessness he sent Lorenzo back to retrieve the file but by that time they had to wait until the forensics had left. He was in the house when Davis took you back to pack a suitcase.’

‘Thinking back on it,’ McDougal added, ‘Davies’ behaviour was meant to be a distraction and probably timed your visit to make sure Lorenzo wasn’t caught. What he didn’t expect was your sensitive nose.’

Brenda took a deep breath. ‘So it was Frank?’

‘Yes. Davies was the one who pulled the trigger that ultimately killed your husband.’ Hoxley walked over and put his hand on her shoulder and sat down. ‘He died saving Carlos’ life and trying to stop Frank from proceeding with his plans.’

Brenda gave a deep audible sigh. ‘I need to be left alone. Please.’

McDougal and O’Malley quietly collected their notebooks and empty coffee cups and left the office.

He stood up. ‘Do you want me to send in Cheryl?’ Hoxley asked.

‘Not yet,’ she replied weakly. ‘Give me half an hour,’ she added. She managed what she hoped was a thankful smile.

He left and closed the door quietly.

In some ways she was relieved; relieved Charles didn’t suffer. Relieved it was all over. Relieved they had found Fo-Yong-Ho and relieved the law would deal with Frank and Carlos. Yet, a sensation of unexpected sadness tugged at her.

Carlos was also a victim and almost killed by this lunatic, perhaps trying to save Charles. Her emotions confused her. ‘Oh Charles, why?’ The pain was drowning her. She rested her head on the back of the sofa. Just as she did, a still small voice spoke within her. ‘Child, lean on me. Cast all your burdens upon me and I will give you rest.’ Brenda prayed quietly until the floodgates opened. It seemed to wash all the pain,  grief and dread of the past few weeks away in one cleansing torrent.

The life she and Charles had shared was over but she knew deep down this was a new beginning. She thanked the Lord for ten wonderful years with Charles, her safety and a closure. It was time to move on, on to a new life with her newfound faith in a God who loved her.

THE END

© Chrissy Siggee

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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Christian Reads by Chrissy at Riverside Peace