Red Bellied Brown

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 2: What Parents Know

I spoke to the guys in tech over the phone while Takeshi drove. Gave them the boy’s number and asked for a fix on it.

‘We’ll have to talk to the parents,’ I muttered, hating that part.

‘Already ahead of you Johnson. We’re heading to the victim’s parents house now.’

I was a little annoyed. It was a talk I’d often had with my taciturn partner. He would do something without explanation assuming I was on the same page. The thing that really bugged me about it was that he was usually right. It was often something that I was going to suggest anyway. Would it kill him to have a dialogue about it first? This time he was wrong.

‘We have to talk to Stanley’s parents, find out where he is.’

‘Sorry, I didn’t get their address.’

‘No worries, I’ll make the call.’

I rang up directory enquiries, gave them my code and requested Stanley Fitzgerald’s parents’ address.

‘Okay, just a second,’ I heard a rustle of papers, ‘let’s see; what’s the missing person’s name?’

‘Fitzgerald,’ I answered already feeling impatient.

‘Do you have any first names?’

‘Stanley Fitzgerald.’

‘Thank you,’ she replied, ‘and do you want me to get you Stanley Fitzgerald’s address?’

‘No, I have his address I want his parents’ address.’

‘Ok, and what are his parent’s names?’

‘I don’t know,’ I replied barely containing the swear words I could feel rising up begging to be said. Instead I rattled off Stanley Fitzgerald’s address to her.

‘Great, thank you,’ she replied, ‘and what’s his date of birth.’

I immediately took the phone away from my mouth and started pressing my knuckles against my forehead. After taking a deep breath I brought the phone back to my ear.

‘I’m sorry I don’t know his date of birth,’ I said through gritted teeth, ‘he’s missing and I want to know how to contact his parents.’

‘Ah,’ she said as if something had just become clear to her, ‘Stanley Fitzgerald is missing and you want to file a missing person’s report, wait a moment while I get the form for that.’

‘No,’ I shouted through the phone immediately, ‘I want to know Stanley Fitzgerald’s parent’s phone number and address.’

‘You mentioned that yes,’ she replied as if it wasn’t important information, ‘now could you tell me what Stanley Fitzgerald’s parent’s jobs are?’

‘What?’ I asked astounded, ‘if I don’t know their name, phone number or address; how do you expect me to know what their job is?’

‘Ok, ok, it’s just standard procedure,’ she said defensively, ‘do you have a car registration for Stanley Fitzgerald?’

‘No,’ I said.

‘Honestly, you detectives are all the same,’ I heard her complain, ‘you ring in demanding information and can’t even offer me anything to help the search, how do you expect me to find out the address and phone number of the parents of someone you don’t know anything about?’

I sat there completely flabbergasted.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said through gritted teeth, ‘you’re right I’m asking too much of you. I know it’s a tall order and us detectives aren’t grateful enough to you down there working the files. I’m sorry I don’t know much except a name and address but if you could get what I need you’ll be helping the case a bunch.’

There was a long pause after my apology which put a strained smile on my face and a feeling imminent doom.

‘Could you just tell me what you do know about Stanley and I’ll see if I can do your job for you,’ she replied.

‘I’ve told you everything,’ I said not rising to her bait.

I could see Takeshi shaking his head at my incompetence.

‘Tell her his mobile number, that could help,’ he said trying to hide his grin.

‘Oh yeah, I know his mobile number.’

‘Have you tried ringing it and asking him for his parent’s phone number?’

‘He’s missing,’ I said forgetting I was meant to be repentant.

‘Alright, alright,’ she said, ‘tell me the number and I’ll see what I can do.’

I gave it to her, said my thanks and hung up before the conversation could go on any longer.

‘You’re really hopeless sometimes,’ laughed Takeshi, ’Next time you should just start with the apology that you don’t know shit.

‘How did you get this address so quick?’ I asked.

‘Driver’s licence. The victim’s address was different. Given the age of the victim I assumed that meant he still had his parent’s address as his residence.’

Typical Takeshi spotting something like that.

‘If it’s a different address the victim may not be a resident,’ I reasoned.

‘Yeah, I thought something similar,’ replied Takeshi, ‘that’s why it’s worth checking out.’

We soon arrived in Forest Lake. It was quite a ways out from Toowong. Being roughly fourth zone from the CBD if you went by public transportation system. The name was a little ambitious since there wasn’t much forest left after all the housing development had gone on and the lake was more like a pond. It was a pleasant neighbourhood though. A few cops I knew lived in the area. You knew a neighbourhood was a good one if some cops lived there. There were all sorts of statistics running through a cop’s head when he or she went to buy a house. It wasn’t foolproof, however. It really depended on what stage of the cop’s career they bought the house in. The young ones still didn’t have the lay of the land. They didn’t hear a suburb name and think about crime rates or reputation.

The house we arrived at was typical of a new development area. White washed with black framed windows and black roof tiles. It took up most of the property. Perhaps a metre between each house. Every other house on the block looked the same. I never got why you’d want to buy a house that looked like your neighbour’s. Takeshi rang the doorbell. I nervously straightened my jacket and ran a hand through my hair. Plenty of things could go wrong informing someone a loved one had died. It was rarely anything fatal. Mostly it was just a harrowing experience. No one ever appreciated being told.

A short plump woman in her fifties answered the door. She was wearing a white tank top and shorts. From the lay of her wrinkles I could tell she was often quick to laugh or smile. She was the type of person you wouldn’t hesitate befriending.

‘Detectives Johnson and Yoshida,’ I said flashing my badge, ‘are you Ms Bailey?’

‘Yes, what can I do for you?’ she asked not moving from the spot.

‘Does your son, Daniel Bailey rent an apartment in Toowong, near Toowong Village?’ asked Takeshi making sure the facts were straight.

She nodded her head again starting to look worried.

‘May we come in?’

‘Yes of course, sorry,’ she led us into a house done all in white. White tiles, white walls, white kitchen benches overlooking a living-dining room area with white leather couches. The stainless steel appliance stood out as the only contrasting colour in the place. Even the black framed windows were hidden from view by white curtains. The scene felt familiar. As if I was visiting Yoko Ono’s house. She’d even contrived to get a white flat screen TV. I wondered if she’d just painted over a black one. Would I see stroke marks if I went closer?

Once we were seated with a cup of tea in front of us, she asked us what we wanted. I hated this part more than anything. Most resist what you’ve come to tell them. No matter what, you always end up being harder than you want to be just to get past the denial phase. More than that, I just hated to see them break down once they’d accepted it. No one wants a complete stranger to be privy to that. It made me feel like shit every time I saw it. That I wanted to avoid it made me feel worse. There I was wishing I didn’t have to see them crying because it’d make me feel bad. What a selfish dick.

There was plenty of professional development material on the topic. I tried to dredge up everything I’d learnt from those workshops.

‘I don’t want to be the one that tells you this,’ I began, all the experts on the topic say it’s important to show you are unwillingly informing them. It gave people the impression you weren’t trying to be cruel or heartless. ‘I’ll get straight to the point,’ I said taking a deep breathe. Some hated the direct approach feeling it’s unsympathetic. Others resent you for taking so long to get to it taking it as being insincere. You just had to take a guess at which way they would lean. I guessed from her demeanour that she wouldn’t like any pussy footing around the topic.

‘A body was found dead in your son’s apartment. On his bed to be specific.’

‘A body?’ she said stunned, ‘my boy would never harm anyone. He certainly isn’t a murderer.’

‘You misunderstand us,’ I said in my calmest voice, the one I used to get my daughter off to sleep, ‘while we are unsure on the matter it is possible that it is your son.’

The colour visibly drained from her face. Her kindly demeanour dropped so that her face was nothing but sorrow and loss.

‘What do you mean you are unsure?’

‘The body is difficult to identify, in fact we would like you to come to the station and help us confirm whether or not it is your son.’

‘This is just too much for me at the moment,’ she said shaking her head, ‘what do you mean it is difficult to identify, is it my son or not?’

‘That’s what we’re trying to find out. The manner in which whoever died in that apartment is unusual.’

‘What do you mean?’ she asked looking up from her previously hunched over position. She looked as if she was about to put her head into her hands and cry it all out. Her face was imprinted with sorrow’s stamp but underneath that was a burning desire to know. I could tell my face was beginning to match hers out of sympathy, it tried to change it. Replicate the doctor persona from a medical drama

‘Again, I wish that you could find this out another way . . .’ I hesitated trying to find the right words.

‘Just tell me already,’ she burst out, ‘I don’t need to know how sorry you are that you are speaking to me about this.’

I nodded my head to her apologetically.

‘The only thing that we can say is that the manner in which the victim died was not what I would typically call a natural way to die.’

‘What does that mean?’ she said then pointed at Takeshi, ‘from this guy please, and why do you keep on saying body and victim? Is it my son or not?’

I felt like an FBI agent trying not to reveal a conspiracy while still comforting a victim of it.

‘We apologise if we are being vague or unclear,’ said Takeshi, ‘the body underwent a rapid physical transformation of some kind.’

‘Transformation?’ she asked her voice tipped with hysteria.

‘The body is physically deformed,’ I added hoping to clear it up for her.

‘Then it’s not my son,’ she said immediately, ‘he has no deformities.’

‘The victim appears to have died from some kind of biological attack,’ interjected Takeshi, ‘The police officer who found the body arrived as the victim was dying. He was physically changing in his presence.’

‘I don’t understand, a biological attack?’ she asked for clarification, ‘was it terrorists?’

‘We can’t say for certain either way actually. Not at this stage, but we’ll figure it out,’ I replied, giving them a sense of pending closure was just as important, at least according to several experts in the field.

Takeshi rolled his eyes at me.

‘There is evidence that there was a party at the flat. It is possible the person on the bed was one of the guests. We believe it is your son because we found your son’s wallet in his pocket.’

It was clear Takeshi had sown doubts, denial and hope is a hard barrier to overcome.

‘When you are ready we’d like you to come down to the station with us,’ he reminded her, ‘to identify the victim.’

She seemed to take hope from that. I guess in the same situation I would too. No one wants to find out their son has died. Far better someone else’s did. It was a grim comment on humanity. It’d be a better world if we all cared about a stranger’s death as much as we did a friend or family member’s. She quickly scrawled something down on a sticky note and stuck it to the fridge.

‘Let’s go,’ she said with finality, ‘I’m ready.’

She followed behind us in convoy. Personally, I preferred it that way. If she was in the car with us the silence would be unbearable. The whole way I would have been sitting there struggling not to ask her about her son.

The station was on Roma Street just down from the main train station. The building wasn’t typical of western governmental architecture. The only reference to ancient Roman edifices were four cement columns at the entrance. Not that they looked like the classical column. Rather they were four rectangular prisms of cement two stories high. It took up an entire street block and while no skyscraper it was still ten stories high. To its credit the cement somehow looked polished as if built from marble instead. Large windows lined each floor, giving those within a view of the outside world. Inside still smelt of freshly lain carpet.

We headed straight to the morgue, not bothering to go to our desks or check the pigeon holes for new messages. I couldn’t help feel that this was going to be a pointless exercise given the state of the body. In the movies she would have looked into the boy’s eyes and known it was him, or noticed an irregular scar on his left cheek that could not have been anyone else. As soon as she saw it she ran out of the room. She made it a few steps down the hall before projecting her breakfast onto the wall and floor. I should have realised that would happen and at least brought a bag or bin with me to the morgue but there was no use dwelling on what should have been. We took her to the bathroom to rinse her mouth out and splash some water on her face. Both Takeshi and I were nothing but apologetic for our part in her humiliation.

We brought her back to try again. This time she was better prepared and managed to hold back her revulsion. She stood there for an indeterminate amount of time studying the features. Her head drooped down to her chest and she turned away hiding behind her hands. For a second I thought her constitution had failed her again. Instead of vomiting I heard sobs.

‘It’s him,’ she said against all my expectations.

‘How do you know?’ I asked.

‘Detective,’ she said, ‘do you have a son or daughter?’

‘Yes,’ I replied.

‘Would you recognise her?’

I let my silence answer the question for me. She nodded her head satisfied that I had understood her. Then, as if she couldn’t hold on any more she crumpled up, letting the tears flow as she buried her head in her hands. We took her to another room and fixed her a cup of tea. We sat down with her but didn’t say anything letting her be until she could talk again. When she was ready, we asked her a few questions. No, her son wasn’t into drugs, didn’t participate in any science experiments, was well liked by everyone. I sighed, disappointed. It always amazed me how little parents knew.

We saw her off before heading back to the morgue. I didn’t really know the coroner beyond our interactions on cases. If you quizzed me on what he liked and disliked I would probably fail every question unless it was multiple choice. The man didn’t notice as we walked into the room. An insecure part of me flashed up in rage at this seeming affront. I cooled myself down though thinking of all the times my wife and Takeshi had pointed out I was taking this way too personally.

‘Have anything for us?’ I asked him making him jump.

‘Detectives, I had no idea you were there,’ he laughed awkwardly. He then turned back to the body frowning, ‘I fear I am far out of my depth here.’

‘What have you discovered?’ I asked.

‘Well, I can tell you that he did die from a spontaneous rapid physical growth, the real puzzle is why?’ stated the coroner. I remained quiet assuming he was building to something, after a heavy sigh he concluded ‘to which I have no conclusive answer.’

‘Conclusive?’ I asked.

‘Yes well I tested various theories, there are a number of mutagens. None of which would cause this. Chemical ingestion was an obvious culprit but I know of no chemical compounds that would cause this nor could I find any sign of any unknown chemicals in his system. Radioactive materials is another possible offender but again I’ve never heard of any cases like this nor is there any high degree of radiation on his person nor around his apartment. Of course it’s possible that he was exposed at another location but the spontaneous aspect of this case seems to rule out radioactive exposure. Again especially since there is no greater residual radiation on him than any other person. That left one other possibility, a virus.’

‘A virus?’ I asked backing away from the body.

‘Well viruses can get into the DNA and change it however there aren’t any known viruses that do this nor was I able to find any infection.’

‘So would should we do?’

He shrugged, ‘I’ll keep on running tests, I’ve given some ideas to the others in forensics on what to look for but we really are running blind here. I’ve been scouring research and newspaper articles to find something that sounded similar but I didn’t find anything. As for what you can do. That’s not really for me to say, maybe check his workplace or known hangouts for some kind of contaminant.’

‘Surely that would be better suited you boys down here?’ I suggested.

‘Yes, quite,’ he said, ‘I’ll pass word round.’

‘Thanks,’ I said, ‘it’s appreciated.’

We left the room silenced by the information. The coroner was stumped. What were we dealing with? Neither of us spoke on the way to our desks as we tried to process what was going on. A little yellow post-it note was stuck on my laptop. It had a name, Ronald Fitzgerald, a phone number and an address in Upper Mt. Gravatt. I made a mental note to go down and thank that lady, maybe Takeshi was right, maybe he was the problem not her. I dialled the number and waited for an answer.

‘Ron Fitzgerald speaking of Fitzgerald and Sons Ltd.’

‘Detective Johnson here, I’m ringing regarding your son Stanley. Do you know of his whereabouts?’

‘No, what is this about?’

‘This morning your son’s flat-mate was found dead in his apartment. There are no signs of your son.’

There was silence on the other end for a few moments.

‘Is that you Jonesy?’ he replied, ‘haha, nearly had me.’ It was always harder to convince people you were a cop over the phone.

’I assure you Mr Fitzgerald I would never joke about something like this. Have you received any news from him since yesterday?

‘Pull the other one Jonesy,’ he berated me, ‘I’m not buying it.’

‘This is detective Johnson,’ I repeated, ‘his flatmate, Daniel Bailey, was found deceased at his apartment in Toowong and we would really like to talk to your son. Do you know where he is?’

‘This is getting ridiculous mate,’ he said laughing, ‘Daniel dead, nice touch but a bit too far if you ask me. On your bike.’

‘Look,’ I said getting frustrated, ‘I don’t want to be blunt here but he is dead, you can visit the apartment yourself, you’ll find yellow tape up and a policeman at the door stopping you from going in. Now what I need to know is where can we find Stanley Fitzgerald, your son.’

‘Are you honestly telling me Dan is dead?’ he asked incredulous.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I am honestly telling you that, I am with the police and I need to know where your son is.’

‘Have you tried his phone?’ he asked uncertainly.

‘Of course we have, it was the first thing we did,’ I shot back angrily.

‘Calm down mate,’ he said, ‘probably just means he left it in the car or something. Look he’s probably at the university.’ Then there was a pause, ‘is Dan really dead?’

‘He was found early this morning,’ I said regretting my anger.

‘Are there any other places he would be?’ I asked hoping for a bit more to go on, ‘a girlfriend’s place maybe?’

‘Not that I know of,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘he’s doing his doctorate so he should be too busy for that.’

‘So he’s regularly at the university then? What’s he studying?’

‘Genetics,’ he proudly replied ‘they have him assisting in the lab and tutoring undergrads too.’

‘Do you know who your son’s friends are?’

‘Plenty at the university,’ he said, ‘now that you mention it he did hang out with a girl from the lab. Don’t know if it was serious but he often brought her over, you know before he got that place in Toowong. Celia, I think her name was, or something like that, always thought it was an odd name.’ he replied, ‘I can’t believe Dan is dead. Jonesy if this is you winding me up I’m going to do something equally cruel to get you back.’

‘Sounds like you have a lot of fun Mr Fitzgerald,’ I said.

‘Beats the boredom anyway,’ he replied, ‘fuck, you really aren’t Jonesy are you? Dan was a good bloke.’ A long pause ensued.

‘Do you know if he had any enemies? Anyone who’d want to harm him.’

‘Dan? Nicest bloke around.’

‘How about your son?’

‘He can be a bit up himself thinking he’s better than the rest of us. Never sounded like he was in danger or anything though, I would know too. I always taught him if he was in trouble come to me and I’d sort it out. Whenever he visited he only ever complained about his workload or how much his Professors were riding him.’

‘Could you tell us who his Professors were?’

‘He often spoke of a Professor Hawthorne. Seemed to think he was the only Professor who knew what he was doing. Also mentioned a youngish professor there by the name of Walters. He often mentioned that the guy didn’t deserve a position there. He also mentioned a professor Stern but usually with little respect.’

‘Do you know anything about what your son is doing at the university?’

‘It’s all above me to be honest,’ he said with a bit of pride in his voice, ‘he tried to simplify it for me though, said he’s determined to find the genius gene. Although I honestly can’t tell if that’s his pipe dream or if that’s actually what he’s working on.’

‘Genius gene?’

‘He reckons there is a sequence in the genome that gives you superior intelligence from birth. I think it’s a load of rubbish to be honest. Everyone’s born the same and any intelligence difference is a result of what happens next.’

‘Did you say as much to him?’

‘Fair go, at this stage he’d know better than me.’

‘What university did you say he was at?’ I asked.

‘UQ,’ he replied.

I asked him several more questions but found as I had with Miss Bailey that parents didn’t know much once their kid flew the coop. I swore to myself I’d make sure I kept up to date once my daughter left home.

‘Thank you for your time Mr. Fitzgerald, if you hear from your son please contact us immediately.’ I said and gave him my number.

‘Stanley was studying genetics at the university,’ I told him, ‘sounds like he was usually there teaching or researching.’

‘Better see if he’s there,’ said Takeshi.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.