Author: aims80 PM
Two girls who have never met, don't even know of the other's existence. One in Phuket, Thailand. One in country Australia. Yet their fates are bound together and one will have to save the other for them both to live. And perhaps both will ultimately save one another. Please R and R.Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Drama - Chapters: 2 - Words: 4,779 - Updated: 12-13-12 - Published: 12-06-12 - id: 3080544
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[Author's note: I'm not entirely happy with this chapter but the first few chapters have to set the scene so please persevere with me.]
Bendigo, Victoria, Australia.
I put my pen down with a loud exhalation of euphoria, relief and pent up energy that made my neighbour give me a dirty look. I gave him what I hoped was a sympathetic smile and mouthed "sorry" but the look on his face suggested my sympathetic smile needed a bit more work and came off more serial killer eying off potential victim than anything else. But not even he could dampen my spirits right now.
I looked up at the clock and saw there were fifteen minutes left, which meant if I didn't leave the exam room in five minutes I was stuck there until the exam supervisor's collected the booklets and all the students would mill out in a mass exodus and it would take me forever to find my bag amongst the mess of bags in the atrium. Four minutes now. So I quickly flipped my booklet open and thumbed through to the one segment I wasn't entirely happy with my answer.
The question asked for an assessment of the role of the forensic psychologist at A) a mental state opinion at court and B) in sentencing when an offender had been found guilty of an offence by a judge or jury. I had written of course about the holy grail of mental health law- the M'Naughten rule from England in the 1800's that was, to this day, still used in courts throughout the commonwealth which stated that an offender could not be convicted of a crime if they did not have the capacity to know the nature and quality of the act or that the act was wrong via defect of reason or disease of the mind. I'd also gave a passing commentary to two other, lesser, rules of law in the Durham rule (excuses a defendant whose conduct is the product of a mental disease or defect) and the ALI test (excuses a defendant who, because of mental disease or defect, lacks the capacity to understand the criminality of his or her conduct to the requirements of the law). Then I'd explained the process in making a mental state determination such as saying an offender was not fit to stand trial because of his inability to know that what he did was wrong.
And for part B I'd written about the main principles of sentencing (deterrent, punishment, retribution and restorative) and how a psychologist's expert opinion could be used as a mitigating factor because even if the defendant could not meet the requirements for a not guilty due to mental impairment defence there were a whole host of other mental disorders that could lead to diminished responsibility outcomes.
All the information was there but I wasn't entirely happy with my wording. A look at the clock, however, told me I had a minute to get out of there so I raised my hand and waited for one of the supervisors to come and witness my signature declaring I was who I said I was, check my student card and take my booklet. The chair squeaked loudly as I pushed it back and I got another couple of annoyed looks but nothing could spoil my happiness: this was my last exam for the university semester. I was free! I had to fight the urge to break into skipping and jumping and tapping my feet together like Bert did on "Mary Poppins." (In case you were wondering the retro movie reference was due to two things- one, it being one of my favourite childhood movies along with "Swiss Family Robinson" and "Pete's Dragon" and two, it had been on TMC on cable the night before.) But I knew waltzing out the exam room like that would get me a couple more dirty looks as well as a reputation as that weird girl. Or maybe that weird dancing girl.
As I opened the door I heard one of the supervisors's telling the students there were ten minutes left and nobody could leave the exam room now until the conclusion. I found my bag easily and swung it over my chest and headed for work. On my way I pulled out my iPhone, swiped on, and scrolled through my contact list to the high dependency CCU ward at the Epworth Hospital down in Melbourne.
"Nurses station." A perky lady said. Her name was either Jane or June. She usually worked the three p.m to seven p.m shift. (Yes, I make this call regularly.)
"Hi this is Danielle Richards, I'm ringing about-" I began.
"Your father. He's doing well. The physio's got him up out of bed today. He only took a few steps but that's a major milestone. Maybe another week or so and he can be moved to a normal bed." The nurse told me.
"Has the specialist been in to see him yet?" I asked.
Two weeks had been spent in the ICU, one of which was in a medically induced coma after such a massive heart attack that had necessitated a double bypass. Then a week in the HD bed. And hopefully in a week's time a normal bed for about another week or two. From there rehab perhaps, then back up here to Bendigo which is about a two hour drive from Melbourne. But work was still at least another two months on the horizon. And that was the one thing my father was stressing about which, obviously, wasn't conducive to helping a man heal from a major heart attack followed by bypass surgery. Because Dad ran his own business.
"Not yet. Do you want me to transfer?" Jane or June asked.
"Yes please." I said.
A click, a couple of rings and then the phone was picked up. "Richard's hospital bed of insanity."
"Hilarious." I said, rolling my eyes.
"Not as good as the pizza one?" Dad asked.
"None have been anywhere near as funny as you seem to think." I replied.
"How did your exam go?" Dad asked.
"Good I think. There was one question that just didn't sound as good as I wanted it to but the rest were fine. I did annoy a few people by breathing though. In fairness it was a sort of thank God, I survived, type breath." I said.
"So how are you feeling?" I asked.
"Good. A bit sore after the bugger of a physio got me up but they tell me it's important for me to be up." Dad said.
"Maybe they got you up too early if you're sore? After the complications and all you'd think they'd be a little more cautious. Maybe I should speak to your physio or your specialist." I said.
"Don't worry so much. Last time I checked you were the child and I was the father." Dad chided. Although given we'd been on our own for as long as I could remember after my Mum left when I was four our relationship was sometimes more like brother and sister than father and daughter. Dad was pretty bad at looking after himself. If I wasn't there he'd have toast for dinner. Not because he couldn't cook because he's a great cook but because he didn't see the point in making a meal for one. Without me he'd be inclined to just work.
"Last time I checked I was nineteen. A legal adult." I returned.
"Touche. How's the business?" Dad asked.
"Good. The books are holding up." I replied.
Dad was silent for a long moment. "Dan, you're not taking on too many jobs are you? I'd be upset if I thought this health crap was interfering with your studies and your life." He said.
"It was my last exam for the year." I replied cagily. Because if I was being truthful then yes, looking after the business on my own was interfering. But no way in hell was I telling Dad that. He was worried enough and I didn't want to set his recovery back any. Nor was I telling him that I was taking on jobs beyond what he would approve of. I'd been told take only the easy jobs that I'd been doing to help him out with for the past three or four years. But easy jobs don't pay the bills. The house was paid off and the business was running a profit but with just the easy jobs it would be signifantly less so and even though Dad said it wasn't important I knew he'd be devastated to come back to Bendigo only to lose his business.
"And Adam- have you been referring the harder jobs to him?" Dad asked.
"Uh...yeah. But he's been busy with his own stuff too. End of year exams for him too remember. Anyways it's not even important." I said, as I reached the block Dad's business was on. Bendigo, despite its population of over 100,000 is not a large town and most of the population come from the surrounding district where their farms are located. Also despite this Bendigo supports 1.5 licensed private detectives. (Dad being the 1 and Adam being the .5 as he's also a full time law student. I'm sort of a .5 too I guess now.)
Dad's office was sandwiched between "Crystal's Cakes and Bakes" and "Dorris' dresses" which, ironically, was owned and run by a man named Rex who was in his forties. I unlocked the door, flipped the sign from "closed" to "open" and started up the stairs.
"What job have you got on the go?" Dad asked.
"Dad you know what the nurses said- shop talk has to be kept to a bare minimum if you're ever going to get better and come back here to drive me nuts in person." I said.
"Danielle." Dad warned. He was using his serious tone.
"Fine, geez. Your standard cheating spouse. And one of the high school kids is being cyber bullied badly and her parents have hired me to find out who the anonymous "hero" is because the school won't take action at the moment. So much for their whole we do not support bullying either in person or online and will not allow our students to engage in bullying and will work with the children involved to resolve any issues crap spouted on their website." I said as I reached the top of the stairs and unlocked the office door. I flicked the switch to turn the air con on straight away.
"Cowards." Dad said. I could tell he was shaking his head.
"Yeah. And want to bet that even when I find the person the school will find some way not to take responsibility. Claim it was done outside school hours if it's not the school's IP address or something. Even after victims of cyber bullying have repeatedly taken their lives. It's a bloody joke." I said.
"Yeah." Dad said.
"Anyway Dad, I'm here and there are a few messages on the answering machine so I better get back to it but I'll call you tomorrow and I'll come down to Melbourne on the weekend to see you. Let me know what you need me to bring down." I instructed.
"Decent food. Decent coffee. And some beer wouldn't go astray." Dad said.
"You're dreaming." I retorted.
"Okay. Bye love." Dad said.
"Bye." I said, hanging up and putting my mobile into my bag which I dumped on the reception desk. Which was a bit of a joke considering Dad hadn't had a reception for about five years. He could probably afford to pay someone minimum wage or hire a part time receptionist still at school and therefore cheaper. But it looked professional to have the reception room slash waiting area, and then his office, the bathroom and small kitchenette where I had been eating many of my meals since Dad's heart attack and air ambulance flight from Bendigo Hospital- where they stabilised him- and the Epworth Hospital in the inner-city suburb of Richmond in Melbourne.
I felt a bit guilty about lying to Dad because I hadn't told him about the other job I'd accepted. His rule was safety first which meant my jobs were limited to surveillance for things like my current cheating spouse, online work and occasionally other jobs that were safe for someone not trained to deal with danger like him. But over the weekend there had been a robbery at the pharmacy. The man had demanded the pharmacist hand over a number of controlled drugs like morphine based drugs MS Contin (in strengths varying from 10 mg's up to 120 mg's), Endone, and morphine injections, pethidine, and even fentanyl as well as drugs like temazapan, tramal and panadene forte. A job for the police right? Wrong. Well, sort of wrong. The police were investigating but they didn't know that the pharmacist wasn't exactly above board and he didn't want to incriminate himself so he came to me. Normally Dad would want to turn down such a job. But the fact of the matter is Dad's not here and I needed to take the job for the money offered would be better than your standard surveillance. I'd signed a non-disclosure stating I could not go to the police with anything that I learned about the pharmacist. Non-disclosure agreements are fairly stock standard in this business when people come to a private detective because they know they will be discreet and confidential.
Of the three messages on the answering machine one was a hang up (not exactly uncommon in this business where a lot of potential customers don't want to leave details of their problems on a machine), one was a wrong number, and one was for a job. A man suspected his teenage daughter wasn't quite the innocent angel she claimed and he wanted proof that a teenage boy hadn't corrupted his innocent young child.
Before I rang him back I jumped online and using "Facebook" pulled up her profile. Most things were private but I sent her a friend request using my fake profile which meant until she accepted or declined my invitation I could view a little more of her profile including a few more photos and posts on her wall. There was a reference to a "major party" complete with photo evidence in which the girl was tagged drinking what I suspected was not a mock tail. In two photos she was leaning her head on a teenage boys shoulder in a pose that seemed rather friendly. I had a suspicion that this client wasn't going to get the answer he hoped for. But nonetheless I rang him back, got the details, and accepted the job. He'd pay a retainer and then, before I gave him the final report and evidence if there was any, he'd pay the second part of my fee. There are days when I find this business dirty. Dredging up details people would prefer to see remain private, sitting in a car taking photos of men coming and going from a wife's home while the husband was away... Then there are the days like these where I need to pay the bills and look after things while Dad's incapacitated.
With a sigh I plugged my digital camera into the laptop and downloaded the photos from my memory card. For the past two weekends I'd spent a total of six hours parked outside a hotel on the outskirts of Bendigo proper watching and taking photos. For those who think surveillance looks kind of cool or glamorous in the movies or television shows they are dead wrong. It's as boring as batshit. (Though I don't have this on good authority given I've never met any batshit.) You get a sore butt, cramped legs and can't go the toilet. Depending on the job when taking photos you sometimes have to virtually lie down in the seat to avoid being too obvious. But this is bread and butter for the private detective after all. I flicked through the images, lots of images. I picked out the best ones, zooming in occasionally, and then I printed them. While I waited for the printer to spit the images out I picked up the phone again.
"Mr. Hamer? It's Danielle. Can you talk?" I asked. Discretion is the better part of valour they say. For a private detective it's even more important. I'd learnt this the hard way. One of my first jobs had been a cheating spouse and I'd rung the husband to let him know we'd found something and he should come in to view the images and it turned out he was in the car, with his phone on loudspeaker, with said cheating wife. Needless to say we didn't have a happy customer there.
"Yeah, just hold on a tic." He said.
I flicked through my emails as I waited. A deal from flight centre- flights to Phuket for $599 each way (amusing that dropping a dollar and making something under the magical number by one always sounded like a bargain regardless of whether it was $99 or $999) which was actually pretty cheap. I'd been to Bali for a week at the end of year twelve for schoolies. Dad had made me SMS him morning and night to prove I was okay after hearing one too many tales of schoolies gone mad and deaths.
A mass email from a high school friend who was currently "living the dream" backpacking around Europe. She was currently working in a pub in London and living in share accommodation along with something like 51% of Australians aged 18-25. (Okay, so this is not an official stat but it seems to me that there are more Australians in London than in Melbourne. Or, at least, in Bendigo.)
A forwarded joke that made me snort. (A ladylike snort though, I can assure you.)
"You there?" He asked.
"Yep." I confirmed.
"You got something?" He asked.
"I have." I answered in the affirmative.
He sighed over the phone and even though I couldn't see him I knew the pose he'd be in- he would have just deflated, like a balloon, kind of slumped in on himself. I'd seen it many a time over the course of my time working for Dad part time and now.
"So I should come in." He said.
"Yeah. Or I could email you the photos?" I offered.
He was silent, considering. "I don't suppose it will make much difference either way." He said.
"Guess not." I answered. I felt bad for him. The thing was he'd suspected his wife was having an affair. But what he didn't suspect, and didn't yet know, was that she'd been seeing two men, not just the one. Of course he soon would.
"You might as well email them. Maybe they won't look so bad on a computer screen rather than in print." He said.
"Okay, well as soon as I get the final payment in my account I will email them." I said.
"I'll transfer it this afternoon or evening." He said.
I thanked him, trying to sound sympathetic though it was hard after seeing so many cheating spouses to feel complete emotion, and we hung up. If I'd learnt one thing from this job it was that I didn't think I'd get married. Too many marriages ending badly, too many cheating husbands for me to trust a man enough to get married. And, of course, I'd have to find a man first. Unbidden an image of Adam came into my mind- with his sandy hair and tan, like the surfer he used to be before moving inland to go to university here, the athletic body. But I just as quickly pushed it aside. No time for romance anyway, I had to run this business. And I still had two current and one new case on my plate.