Harsh Consequences

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Chapter 27

For the first time since they shuffled Mitch off to prison he woke and leapt out of bed with a purpose. Normally, the beige monotony of routine prison life left one with little to look forward to. Today however was Mitch’s exception.

Today was the day he had dreamed about since the first time his cell door slammed shut behind him. It was the one day that kept him going through all those lonely twelve-hour lockdowns, where the extended solitude messed with his head.

It was the one day where Mitch finally hoped that the small trust he placed in the justice system would vindicate him for simply defending his father. It was the day when he would learn what his future held.

After today he would know if he could once again enjoy the simple pleasures, such as weekends strolls along the beach with Alison, coffees in the seaside cafes, sleep-ins on Sunday mornings. All those things he took for granted were those he missed the most.

Even the little annoying things, such as sitting in peak hour traffic each way on his daily commute to work, or helping Alison with the supermarket grocery shopping on a Saturday, all paled into insignificance, compared to life spent in jail.

He glanced at his calendar hanging on the wall over his desk. The pages were filled with rows of large black crosses — eighty-seven to be exact — that stopped at the heavy circles drawn around today’s date. Mitch had butterflies in his stomach. So much was riding on the outcome of this case.

Mitch met with his Lawyer on Tuesday for the last time before the committal so Frank could run Mitch through the processes of what to expect on the day.

Frank opened their discussion with news that, quite frankly, offended Mitch. ‘The Prosecutors have made an offer and whether I agree with it or not…I am obliged to put this offer to you…’ Frank began.

‘OK…What’s the offer?’

‘The prosecution have offered to reduce the charges to two counts of manslaughter in return for a guilty plea…’ Frank said.

Mitch scoffed. He firmly shook his head. ’Did you tell ‘em to get fucked…?’

‘Well…not in those words…’ Frank said. ‘But I told them that their offer is unlikely to be accepted, but as I said, I am obliged to put the offer to you…’

’Well you can tell ‘em from me…they can get fucked. There is no way I am pleading to anything…those bastards killed my dad and all I was doing was defending him and me…’

‘OK. Good. I will advise them their offer has been rejected.’

Frank went on to discuss the police evidence, based on the full disclosure provided to him. He discussed the strength of their defence. He discussed the possible outcomes. He discussed a lot of things. But after all the talking, all the predictions and all the reassuring, Mitch had one question.

‘Do I have a chance of beating this…?’ he asked his Lawyer.

Frank held Mitch’s gaze. ‘You know what…’ Frank began, albeit unconvincingly. ‘I think we do, Mitch. I think we do. But as you will appreciate, it’s not up to me, it’s up to the Magistrate and his interpretation of the evidence presented before him.’

Frank’s uninspiring words during that meeting last Tuesday resonated with Mitch all through last night. He picked up on the uncertainty in his Lawyer’s tone.

Obviously his Lawyer had never delivered a pre-game motivational speech before, because Mitch walked out of that meeting feeling less confident than when he went in.

After breakfast on his big day, Mitch was herded into one of the pods in a prison van, where he sat on an uncomfortable steel seat in a one and a half, by one and a half metre steel box while being conveyed to the Geelong Police Station.

Mitch wasn’t the only one who experienced a restless Wednesday night sleep. Like Mitch, Alison had impatiently been waiting for this day, but she had done so with trepidation, rather than excitement. As the day neared she became frightened the outcome may not be favourable.

Unable to sleep restfully, Alison rose early ahead of Mitch’s big day. When she moved into the kitchen to make her morning coffee, she noticed the kitchen bench was bare. Fitzy usually left the keys to her i30 on the kitchen bench when he came home. There were no keys.

Alison’s face tightened as she moved down the hallway and opened the internal door to their garage. Only the BMW was parked in there. She wrapped her dressing gown tighter around herself as she returned to the kitchen.

Back in the kitchen she lifted her mobile phone from her hand bag and checked the display. No missed calls. No text messages. That was unusual. Fitzy always kept her informed of what he was doing. Her eyes lifted to the wall clock. It was 6.30am.

The silencing of the gurgling coffee percolator signalled her coffee was ready. After pouring herself a generous mug full, she leaned a hip against the bench and held the hot mug of coffee in both hands as she savoured her first coffee for the morning.

After the first mug of coffee failed to touch the sides, Alison poured herself a second mug. She left the coffee to breath while she made her way out to the driveway to collect the morning newspaper.

As she strolled down the drive a police divisional van pulled up to the kerb out the front of her house. Alison was curious, but she didn’t want to stare, so she picked up the newspaper and commenced her return inside. Half way to the front door one of the cops called out to her.

‘Excuse me…Are you Mrs Alison Dunne…?’

Alison stopped and turned to the cops. She frowned, watching the two uniform Police officers make their way down her driveway towards her. ‘I am…’ Alison said. She wrapped her dressing gown tighter around herself. ‘Why do you ask…? Has something happened to my husband?’

‘What is your husband’s name…?’

Alison’s confused eyes flicked between the two cops. She frowned at the strange response. ‘Mitchell Dunne…’ she replied in a tone that suggested they should already know that.

‘No. Nothing has happened to your husband that we are aware of…’ The older of the two cops replied. ‘Do you mind if we come inside. We just have a few questions to ask you.’

Alison didn’t move. ‘Questions about what?’

‘Ah…questions about whether you still own a white Hyundai i30 sedan registered number A-L-L-1-E.’

Alison’s face tightened. Her eyes again flicked between the two cops. ‘Yes. I do. Why?’

‘Do you know where your car is now?’

‘Um…’ Alison’s eyes dropped to the ground. ‘Um...a friend of ours has it. Why are you asking about my car?’

The cop gestured towards the front door. ‘Do you mind if we step inside. I will explain everything for you once we are indoors.’

Alison led the cops into her lounge room. The cop gestured for Alison to sit, which she did. The cops sat opposite her. The same cop continued. ‘What is the name of your friend, the one who you said borrowed your car?’

‘Why are you asking this…? Why do you want to know his name…? Has something happened?’

The cop nodded. ’Something has happened,’ the cop said. ‘And we are making inquiries on behalf of the police from Sunshine. We are trying to find who was driving this car.’

‘Where is my car now…?’

‘I believe it is at a towing yard in Sunshine…’

Alison’s jaw dropped. Her eyes flicked between the two cops.

‘Your car was involved in an incident…a collision on the Western Ring Road overnight. The car is registered to you, but someone of a different name was driving. We wanted to firstly verify the car wasn’t stolen…’

‘My car wasn’t stolen…well…as far as I know it wasn’t. I loaned the car to my husband’s friend to use while he stayed here with us…’

‘Who is your friend?’

‘Jack Fitzgerald…’

‘And he is living here with you…?’ The cop said as a question.

’That’s right. ‘What’s going on? Is Jack alright?’

‘Do you know if Jack has any relatives in Geelong…?’

‘No I don’t know. Look, you are scaring me. What the hell is going on?’

‘Your friend, Jack has been involved in an accident and we are trying to locate his relatives to inform them of his condition. Police at Sunshine have not had any luck, so they decided to try the registered owner of the car he was driving…that would be you,’ the cop gestured to Alison.

‘What has happened to Jack? Is he alright?’

‘At this stage Mrs Dunne, our first priority is to locate Jack’s immediate family. Until we speak to them, I can’t say too much more.’

‘Um…From what Jack told me…he is an only child. He said his parents are both deceased. He was in the Army for most of his working life, up until he…up until a few years ago, so he is somewhat nomadic…he doesn’t have a home and from what he told me, he doesn’t have any family…’

‘And he lives here with you…?’

‘That’s right.’

The cop glanced over his shoulder at his colleague. His colleague shrugged once. The same cop continued. ‘Well, under the circumstances I guess I can inform you… Your friend Jack Fitzgerald was involved in an accident on the Ring Road. He stopped to help a man who was being attacked by three men. An altercation ensued when your friend Jack stopped to help and Jack was stabbed in the back…’

Alison’s eyes flared. Her hand shot up to her mouth. ‘Oh my God…Is he alright…?’ she said from behind her hand.

The cop slowly shook his head. ‘Unfortunately, he passed away in hospital earlier this morning due to injuries sustained from the stabbing.’

Alison’s shoulders slumped. Her mouth fell open. Her wide eyes stared at the cops as the news sunk in. Tears welled in her eyes. ‘How did this happen?’

‘Well… Like I said Mrs Dunne…Mr Fitzgerald stopped to help a man being attacked. The man he saved told police that your friend actually saved his life. The victim told police these men said they were going to kill him and believed that if not for Mr Fitzgerald’s intervention, they probably would have.’

‘That sounds so much like Jack. Did they catch the men who did this…?’

‘They didn’t have to...’ the cop said. ‘According to the man he saved, the three men attacked Mr Fitzgerald and while he was defending himself against these attacks, each one of the attackers died from injuries sustained.’

Alison’s face tightened. ‘So these men who attacked Jack…they are also dead…?’

‘That’s right…’

‘And he was stabbed during this fight…?’

‘That is what we have been told…’

Alison cupped her forehead. ‘I can’t believe it…We only had dinner together last night…and now you are telling me he’s…gone…’ Alison shook her head. ‘How am I going to tell Mitch…?’ She asked herself rhetorically.

The cop handed Alison a business name and telephone number written on a piece of paper. ’This is where your i30 was towed to. You will need to contact them to release your car. Apparently there is damage to the front bonnet and windscreen. It’s my understanding, the Sunshine police have released the vehicle…’

‘How did the damage occur?’

‘From what we have been told, the vehicle driven by your friend Jack, collided with one of the three men who was attacking the victim…The man sustained serious head injuries and died at the scene.’

‘I can’t believe Jack is gone…’ Alison said.

After delivering the news of Fitzy’s passing and after ensuring Alison would be OK on her own, the two cops left a short time later.

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