Red Bellied Brown

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Chapter 12: Stolen

We headed to his car. The way to UQ was strangely circuitous considering it was just across the river from West End. Something that could realistically be done in five minutes if there was a bridge, took fifteen to twenty minutes if you used the toll bridge. Another five to ten on top of that if you didn’t. Since we knew the university reasonably well now we headed straight to the lab and parked in a loading zone.

Much to both of our surprise a police car was already there. Furthermore a great many students were standing around outside the lab. We got out of the car and made our way through the students, many I recognised from my scrutiny the other day. A police officer was talking to a frazzled Dr Hawthorne.

‘Officer,’ I said, ‘detectives Johnson and Yoshida,’

‘Detectives?’ he said puzzled, ‘I wasn’t expecting you to come down for this.’

‘Not for this but now that we are here we are very curious,’ I said.

Takeshi smacked me in the shoulder sending a great deal more pain through my body than I’m sure he intended.

‘We’re here on a case and anything that happened here probably relates to it,’ he said.

‘So what’s going on?’ I asked.

‘We were robbed,’ said Professor Hawthorne devastated by the event, ‘everything that could be taken was taken.’

‘When?’ I asked.

‘Last night,’ he replied, ‘all of it gone, how could this happen?’

‘This may confirm a theory we had,’ said Takeshi, ‘we found out that a few of your students and one of your professor’s was regularly using a free lab. That free lab has links to the possible cult that we’ve encountered.’

‘A cult?’ he spluttered, ‘none of my students were inclined to religious baloney, we are scientists here.’

‘We don’t know exactly what type of cult it is,’ I replied.

‘Who?’ he asked.

‘Celia Marshall, Jeremy Walters and Stanley Fitzgerald.’

‘That’s impossible, none of those got along.’

‘That’s not what we’ve heard, Stanley and Celia were regularly seen together.’

‘A requirement of group work only I assure you,’ he replied, ‘anyway Celia and Stanley were of the upmost ethics. They wouldn’t steal.’

‘What makes you say that?’

‘Despite their differences personally they seemed to share the same kind of philosophy, both preaching the need for society to move away from the global economic system. They only ever spoke about the greater good.’

‘Interesting,’ said Takeshi, ‘what about Jeremy?’

‘He didn’t have such a philosophy,’ he laughed, ‘he was probably as far the other end of the spectrum as you could get, you think he did it?’

‘We’re asking you,’ I answered.

‘Yes right, well I wouldn’t put it past him, he’s always been a bit of a wheeler and dealer.’

‘What do you mean by that?’

‘Oh well I guess it doesn’t matter now,’ he said concluding some kind of inner battle, ‘Jeremy kept the lab running, in a way no other could. Most labs suffer from a lack of resources, funding or both. Usually plenty of rivalry and a good deal of back stabbing.’

‘We noticed,’ I laughed. He looked a bit offended that I did so.

‘This lab ran smoothly because of Jeremy, he made sure everyone had a bit of everything, you know in exchange for favours.’

‘Oh god not sexual?’ I said immediately assuming the worst case.

‘No, no, mostly just helping him with his papers, how do you think he got to be the youngest professor here?’

‘Brains?’ I replied.

‘That, but not in the usual sense.’

‘And you’re not just saying all this because you know he colluded with Professor Stern to sabotage your experiments and steal your work?’ asked Takeshi.

‘He did what?’ he burst out, ‘Professor Stern’s been stealing my work? How long have you known this?’

‘We didn’t tell you?’ I asked.

‘No, you didn’t,’ he shouted, ‘I knew you took in Francis but I didn’t know why.’

‘Oh, sorry about that,’ I said, ‘well only a few days late. No harm.’

‘No,’ he said sighing the anger draining away from him as he looked over at the lab, ‘I suppose not considering the bigger disaster that’s happened.’

‘Have you seen any of the three we mentioned?’ I asked feeling sorry for the man.

‘No, not today.’

‘Better check in on them then,’ I said to Takeshi.

The green station wagon was still in the front yard giving us hope that we hadn’t missed him. As we got closer I could see the car was packed to the windows. Jeremy was on his way to the car carrying some equipment. He saw us and ran to the car throwing the object through the open window and jumping in the car. It lurched back in reverse and careened across the soccer field the house lay in front of. A car could go a lot faster in reverse than people gave credit. It was in fact the fastest gear. Takeshi jumped the gutter and went after him so that he wouldn’t have time to get out of reverse. Jeremy was heading towards a forest that lined the field. He probably hoped to lose us in it. Takeshi sped up probably guessing what I had moving closer towards the tree line. We easily gained on him. Quite unexpectedly the front door flew open and Jeremy leapt out rolling than leaping to his feet in a sprint. It was hardly anything I thought he was capable of. He ran towards the trees that lined the field. Jumping into them and out of sight. Takeshi sped to the spot and got out on foot before the car had even come to a full stop. I pulled the hand break up and got out the car myself. Unknown to us the trees ran along a creek. Jeremy was already on the other side of that running for his life. Takeshi hopped across on rocks but slipped on one and landed heavily. I caught up and went a bit more delicately. The physical activity was getting to me though. A gritted my teeth and pushed on. I came out the other side of the trees and saw Jeremy dash through someone’s property. I gathered my will and leapt the fence that was between me and him. We came out onto the road. My heart seemed ready to burst. I drew my pistol and fired it in the air.

‘No more running Jeremy,’ I said.

He hesitated for a moment than dashed into another property obviously hoping to cut my line of sight should I actually want to shoot him. Takeshi came screaming down the road in his car. I continued the chase. Takeshi instead drove on taking a right obviously hoping to corner the kid. I went through shouted out to Jeremy that he couldn’t run for ever. I got no response as I went down the side of the house. I burst through wooden gate that had been swinging on its hinges. Takeshi pulled up but there was no sign of Jeremy. I indicated the other side of the house and doubled back. The fence to my left was too high to have climbed in the time he had. I reached the back of the house seeing Takeshi come the other side. I kicked at some shrubbery that lined the back porch making contact with something that grunted.

‘Got you,’ I said.

We pulled Jeremy out of the bushes, I frowned at him.

‘Why did you run?’

‘I’m out,’ he said.

‘You’re out?’ Takeshi asked.

‘The club, I’m out,’ he said, ‘I want a plea.’

‘You really do watch too many cop shows,’ I replied, ‘you ran and now you want a plea.’

‘They wanted to turn me,’ he blurted out.

‘Not following,’ I stated.

‘Like with Stan and Daniel. I was there too, they wanted to turn me.’

‘You’re part of the cult,’ I accused him.

‘Cult? That’s what you’re calling it,’ he laughed in disbelief, ‘I cult you can get out. Protect me and I’ll tell you everything.’

‘Ok,’ I said, ‘come on.’

We took him back to the station. By the time we got there my adrenaline had worn off. I was now visibly worse.

‘You look like shit,’ said Takeshi when he arrived.

‘I’m alright,’ I insisted swaying.

‘I’ve got this, you can go home, you did good.’

‘Don’t patronise me,’ I slurred, ‘I’m fine.’

‘Hey,’ he called out to a nearby police officer, get this guy home would you?’

‘Sure,’ he said and together they dragged me to a nearby police car. I would have pushed them off me but even I knew I was in no shape to continue.

‘Don’t worry mate,’ he said, ’we’ve got them. He reached for his cigarette case and pulled out a rollie. Every morning he rolled ten of them to smoke during the day. He said he was down from fifteen. One day he wanted it down to one or two. That was as close as he had gotten to saying he would quit.

I felt dizzy, finding it difficult to continue the conversation. My head began to swim. My thoughts seem to be following a logical progression until I actually stopped to think about what I was thinking. With my stomach churning I felt I should take Takeshi’s advice. He could handle it. The thing deep down inside me that drove me to be a detective tried to rebel against this decision but the more rational part of my brain told me I was in no shape to help.

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