Red Bellied Brown

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Chapter 6: Stake-out

It had gotten dark by the time I made it back to the car. I placed the two cups of coffee on the roof of the car to open up the passenger door. The potent smell of stale cigarette smoke trapped in an enclosed space caused me to gag. It took all my willpower to climb into that vehicle. Once inside I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

‘I thought I asked you not to smoke in here,’ I coughed.

‘You weren’t here,’ he replied.

‘I get that you don’t know how bad this smells but mate, it is unbearable in here.’

He put down the windows.

‘Here’s a coffee,’ I said passing one of the cups to him.

‘Cheers,’ he said, ‘you know these don’t give you energy, just tricks your mind into thinking you aren’t tired.’

‘Works, doesn’t it?’

‘Sort of, you still get tired.’

‘Well I’d rather false energy then none,’ I replied, ‘miss anything?’

‘Nothing,’ he responded, ‘did you find out anything?’

‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘a bit troubling actually seems there are a lot of missing people who aren’t on the missing persons list because a note turns up saying they are ok but don’t try and contact them.’

Takeshi turned to look at me. His face absolute shock.

‘And they stopped investigating there?’

‘Gets weirder, all their possessions are cleared out.’

‘All?’

‘Yeah, all of their possessions, whole place is emptied.’

‘They come back and get their stuff?’ he asked.

‘Maybe, no one sees the possessions taken out.’

‘No one?’

‘Yeah, no one, the room is just emptied out. Not sure how.’

‘How many?’

‘Around two hundred.’

Takeshi started coughing furious, ‘sorry wrong pipe,’ he spluttered, ‘where does all the stuff go?’

I shrugged my shoulders.

‘Bank accounts too?’ he asked.

I closed my eyes trying to recall anything about it. How could I have missed such a detail?

‘I don’t know,’ I replied, ‘if it’s a cult then that’s probably their main source of income.’

‘So we find out,’ said Takeshi excitedly, ‘follow the money.’

The fog lifted from mind, finally a clear course of action. I looked out the windscreen smiling as I watched the van pull away.

‘The van!’ I shouted banging the dashboard.

Takeshi started the engine and began trailing the vehicle. It was a shame we missed who got in.

The van headed out over the William Jolly Bridge and onto Coronation Drive. I assumed it was heading towards Saint Lucia but it went onto Moggill Rd taking us out to the greater western suburbs. We soon found ourselves going past massive shopping complex that was the suburb of Indooroopilly. The building had gone through constant expansion to the point of absorbing one of the nearby roads. There was a train station about a five minute walk from the place which I guessed was going to eventually get absorbed too. They’d probably start building apartment buildings on top of it and maybe even a theme park. For now though it was just shops. The van went further on though past that edifice to consumerism and into upper class suburb of Kenmore.

The van turned into Marshal Lane just before Kenmore’s own shopping district. Nothing like the scale of Indooroopilly but gave off its own sense of parasitic growth. Marshall Lane was a well-established residential area with little to know street traffic, especially at this time of night. From here it was going to be tricky looking like we were just on our way. When the van pulled over, Takeshi thinking quickly went into a driveway a few houses down. The van doors opened and out came three people in hooded clothing. One carried a suitcase. They headed towards the house at a descent pace. The driver stepped out too and stood by the van. I couldn’t make out his face as he wore a hoodie too. Takeshi and I got out of the car and headed to the door as if we lived in the place. A hedgerow cut the line of sight between the front door and the van so that our ruse could be easily accomplished should they be looking. Once at the door we dashed to hedgerow. We could still see the driver pacing impatiently at the van.

‘They’re breaking and entering,’ I said seeing the three still at the door. One squatting down at the lock.

‘Wait,’ said Takeshi still observing the situation.

The lock picker successfully got the door open. The house had apparently been decently soundproofed. An unearthly wail emitted from within as the three sped hurriedly inside. At that horrid sound my instincts told me to rush in. Takeshi held my shoulder though.

‘We have to know where their base is,’ he insisted.

I heard the front door of the house behind us open up.

‘Oiy, get out of my garden,’ came a surprisingly irate male voice from behind us. I turned around to see a middle aged man coming towards us spewing all manner of profanity. Given the dim light from the street lamps I could forgive him for thinking we were high school hooligans.

‘What do you think you’re doing making such a god-awful racket?’ he continued, ‘in my own backyard too of all places.’

‘Keep watch,’ said Takeshi getting up from his hiding spot and walking over to him doing calming gestures with my hands.

‘Sir,’ I could only just hear him say over the nail-biting screams, ‘please calm down we are on a stack-out.’

‘I don’t care what you’re excuses are,’ he shouted even louder, ‘get off my property or I’ll call the cops.’

I couldn’t catch what Takeshi said next as he moved closer to the man. The driver had noticed and was looking intently in our direction. The screams were starting to get to me. I readied my pistol and decided Takeshi’s tactics be damned. We could interrogate them if we captured them. Then another body would be saved. At the same time I heard Takeshi’s usual stoicism crack from which came a burst of profanities in a voice that had forgotten caution. I looked towards away from the van towards him in surprise. It was a rare sight to behold. When I looked back I saw the driver had something in his hands pointing towards us. I began to run towards Takeshi before I had really comprehended what I saw. Grabbing him around the waist I hurled him to the ground with a thud. I had been moments too late though. Takeshi swore as reached for the crossbow bolt sticking out of his arm. I turned to the man.

‘Stem the fucking bleeding,’ I shouted at him as I drew my pistol. The one good thing about having an opponent armed with a crossbow was loading time. I dashed behind one of the trees lining the road and peered out. The driver was nowhere to be seen.

I looked back at Takeshi torn as to what to do. The man had ran back into the house. I hoped that meant he was getting bandages or towels. There was a good chance though he’d just freaked out. I put my pistol back in its holster and dashed over to him in a crouch. I glanced behind me to see the driver was back, crossbow in hand. Takeshi had his pistol out. He fired it. I couldn’t tell if Takeshi got the driver or if he’d just gone to ground. Regardless I used the time to get Takeshi on his feet and too the car. There was a lot more blood than I had anticipated. I tossed him onto the back seat.

‘Hang in there Takeshi,’ I crouched in behind the open door looking out through the window for any sign of danger. Seeing none I dashed round the door and got myself into the front seat of the car. I leant down out of sight grabbed the radio transmitter to call in back up and an ambulance.

I slid over to the passenger side and went out the door that way making sure the car could offer me cover. I redrew my pistol scanning the scene before me. The van was still there as was the ever-present screams being carried by the wind. People began to come out of their houses wondering what the commotion was. I inched along to the back of the always scanning for the driver. It bothered me that I couldn’t find him. The three hooded figures came out of the house with a fourth person twisting and wriggling in their hands. The screams were getting less insistent. It reminded me of a child who had been having a tantrum for so long that they were now exhausted from it. A loud burst of air that sounded suspiciously like a burst tyre resonated in the air followed by a steady hiss of air. That when the driver came out of his hiding place running back towards the van. I fired at him and saw the figure stumble slightly. It gripped its side as it continued to the van.

‘Fuck,’ I swore and got back into the car.

Sure enough I could hear the distinct sound of a flat tyre running along the asphalt. They were going to get away. I tried accelerating regardless but the van was already going much faster.

‘Damnit,’ I swore smacking the steering wheel with my fists, ‘sorry Takeshi, we failed.’

A police car’s lights gave me hope. I pulled to the side and got out of the car waving them down. The patrol car came to a halt.

‘Detective Johnson,’ I shouted as one of them opened his window, ‘the van, follow that van.’ I pointed desperately in the distance. The car sped off as I ran my hands through my hair.

‘Fuck,’ I shouted into the night.

Fortunately the ambulance arrived shortly after. I helped them load Takeshi into the van and went to go in with him but my phone went off. It was a message from Jeremy about the meeting tonight saying he’d set it up at midnight. I couldn’t give up a lead. As quick as I could I set up the jack and worked on changing the tyre. The bolts had been down on tight at my sense of urgency was making me impatient for results. I soon kicked the bolts off though and pulled the spare out from the boot. It was off to Saint Lucia.

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