Duncan Jervis wedged the telephone receiver between his ear and shoulder as his fingers walked though his file. He lifted a page. Emily patiently watched on from her side of the box.
‘The committal hearing is scheduled for…’ he read from the page. ’Ahh…12th of December. So what’s that…?’ He asked himself as he checked his open diary. ‘Five weeks,’ he said answering his own question.
‘What does that mean…a committal?’ Emily said into her telephone.
‘Evidence will be presented to a Magistrate, just like in a normal court case, but in a committal the Magistrate is not required to make a finding on your guilt or innocence. He or she will decide if sufficient evidence exists to commit the case to stand trial before a Judge and Jury,’ Duncan said.
Duncan was an educated man who was articulate and spoke with a clarity and well-rounded enunciation befitting an English Royal. He was easy to listen to and instantly instilled a confidence in Emily that she had the right lawyer for the job.
‘What if the Magistrate thinks there is not enough evidence for a trial?’ Emily said.
‘If that was the case then the Magistrate would dismiss all charges.’
‘Do you think I have a chance of that happening?’
Duncan held Emily’s gaze. Emily noted the long pause in his response. ‘Look. I think the police case is weak…’ Duncan eventually said. ‘It is circumstantial at best. But…you are charged with seven counts of murder. It would be a brave Magistrate who dismissed all seven counts of murder. My gut is the Magistrate would rather a judge and jury make that decision and so they’ll send it up.’
‘So, you’re saying, regardless of whether I’m innocent or not, a Magistrate will still send me to trial…?’
Duncan firmly shook his head. ‘No. That’s not what I’m saying. If during the committal we can successfully present our defence to demonstrate your innocence, then the Magistrate would have no choice but to dismiss all charges. If our defence is weak, the Magistrate will send it to trial and let a Judge and Jury decide.’
‘I see,’ Emily said. ‘So, I’ll ask you again,’ Emily said with a tone firming with frustration. ‘Do you think I will be committed to trial?’
‘That is what I wanted to talk to you about today,’ Duncan said. ‘Do you think there is any way we can prove that you have the ability to speak to people from the afterlife?’
Emily rolled frustrated eyes. She lowered the phone while she gathered her thoughts. There had not been a night during the long lonely hours of lockdown that she hadn’t tried to think of how she could prove these people visited her. She lifted the phone and glared at her lawyer. ‘Don’t you think if I could prove it, I would’ve done so by now? It would’ve got me out of here.’
Duncan held up a placating hand. ‘I understand. I won’t sugar coat this Emily. That is the basis of our defence. Prove these visits and the police case falls over. If we fail to prove it, the question gets asked about how you knew where these bodies were located and we will invariably go to trial.’
Emily sighed. ‘Apart from my husband, I have thought about little else while I’ve been in here.’ Emily cupped her forehead. After several beats passed, she ran a hand through her fringe. ‘How can I possibly prove something that happens inside my head?’ She fell back in her chair. Her body language conceded defeat.
‘Have you spoken to any other dead people, other than the seven names you gave police?’
‘OK.’ Duncan’s face tightened as he jotted some notes. ‘And these seven were the first time you had experienced any contact with the afterlife…?’ He said as a question.
‘Why do you think that was the case?’
‘What was the case?’
‘The only dead people who you have had contact with were the seven people you have been charged with murdering?’
Emily straightened in her chair. ‘I don’t know. Maybe because they were all missing from Geelong and I live in Geelong.’ She glared at Duncan through the window. ‘Do you think I’m guilty?’
‘That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m asking you a question that a Judge would surely ask at a trial. I need to know what you would say… how you would answer that question.’
‘I can’t,’ Emily said. ‘I can’t control who from the afterlife seeks me out.’
Duncan nodded unconvincingly as he scribbled notes.
‘Have you undertaken any training courses to further develop your mediumship skills?’ Duncan said. ‘These would show you believed you had, and were serious about developing your unique skills.’
‘No. I never bothered. It took me a long time to even know what I was experiencing. It wasn’t until I went to a Medium seminar that I learned what was happening.’
‘Wait. So you attended a Medium Seminar?’ Duncan said as a question. ‘When was that?’
‘Um. Back in June. The seminar was held by this Medium by the name of Molly Williamson. She dragged me up on stage and discussed my skills.’
Duncan frantically scribbled notes. ‘This is good. This is good,’ he said. ‘So…you went up on stage? On your own, or with other people?’
‘Just me. She interviewed me about my visits.’
Duncan scribbled. ‘Was there an attendance fee charged?’
‘Of course. She travels Australia with her seminar. We paid $140 each. So it cost Boyd and I $280.’
‘Boyd went with you…?’ Duncan said. He scribbled notes.
‘This is good. This is good,’ he said continuing to scribble. ‘Any other research?’
Emily startled at the firm knock on the door to her visit box.
Duncan checked his watch. ‘OK. I’ve got a few things I want to follow up on,’ Duncan said while he gathered up his paperwork. ‘We’ll meet again in a week or so, OK.’
Emily nodded. ‘Thank you.’ She was vulnerable. She had no idea what she was doing and relied heavily on Duncan’s advice and expertise.
The door behind her opened. ‘Time,’ the guard said.
Emily hung up her phone and stood. At the door she turned back to Duncan and waved then stepped from the box. Her future was in Duncan’s hands. She was drowning and he held the life buoy. It was up to him to get it to her and save her life.
Max wedged the phone between his shoulder and ear while he continued to scribble notes. ‘OK. That’s great. I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me, Mrs Cartwright. Thank you. Bye.’ Max dropped his phone into its cradle and finished his notes.
‘Six down…one to go,’ he proudly said to himself as he ran a finger down a list, stopping half way down. He lifted the handset and dialled a number.
A true investigator’s mind never turned off. It doesn’t conform to the routine of nine-to-five, returning the next morning. For cops like Max the mind never stopped. It was relentless in continually analysing evidence, assessing people such as witnesses and suspects. It remained switched on considering likely directions to take a case, or ways to locate new evidence.
It was the curse of the investigator and the likely contributing cause of premature burnout of elite level investigators within the force. Only the passionate survive, and above all else, Max was passionate.
During his sleeping hours last night Max’s overactive mind triggered a possible link between Emily Davis and her seven victims. Up until now, he had been unable to connect them in any way. A connection to Emily was the glue he needed to bond his case together. Early this morning his overactive mind may have provided the link he so desperately searched for.
Since arriving at work this morning, Max had spent the morning calling the spouse, or next of kin from each of Emily’s seven alleged victims, to ascertain where they did their banking. It was a possible lead that so far proved promising.
After completing six of his seven calls, his check list recorded that each of the six victims banked at the same bank where Emily used to work. He needed one more to complete his set and confirm the theory that kept him awake most of last night.
The ringing phone chirped in his ear. Max drummed his fingers on the desk as his satisfied eyes passed over his rapidly filling check list. The phone answered.
‘Hello,’ a female voice answered.
‘Good Morning. This is Detective Sergeant Max Higgins from Geelong Criminal Investigation Unit. Is that Mrs Denyer?’
‘Yes it is. Good morning Detective.’
‘Mrs Denyer, I’m conducting some ongoing inquiries in relation to what happened to Malcolm and I was hoping you could assist me. Do you have a couple of minutes?’
‘Yes. I’ll see what I can do.’
‘I need to know which bank, or banks Malcolm banked with. This would include where his pay was deposited, what credit cards, debit cards he used, anything bank related.’
‘Oh, we have a number of accounts. We use two banks.’
‘Did Malcolm operate any accounts separate to you, or were all your accounts jointly held?’
‘No. We jointly held our accounts.’
A smile filled Max’s face as he scribbled the information Mrs Denyer provided for her husband’s bank. He was only interested in one of the banks she mentioned; the one that matched Emily’s former employer.
Max thanked Mrs Denyer and ended his call. He dropped telephone handset into the cradle. As he reviewed his now completed list, a smug grin emerged out the side of his face. He liked what he saw. He now had the full set. Each victim was now connected to former Accounts Manager, Emily Davis via their bank of choice.
Max confidently strode into Emily’s former office to follow up on his latest information. He was met at reception by Emily’s former Manager, Amanda West.
After connecting all seven victims through Emily’s bank, Max contacted Amanda to request further information in relation to these victims’ individual accounts. The information he sought would hopefully provide conclusive evidence that Emily knew of each victim. This in turn would suggest the murders were targeted, rather than random. It would also go towards refuting her Psychic Medium defence.
Max obtained the appropriate search warrant compelling Amanda and her bank to cooperate with his inquiries and he set off for his prearranged meeting with Amanda.
At the reception counter they shook hands and Amanda escorted Max to her office and closed the door. Max presented the order to produce information to Amanda.
With the legal formalities out of the way, Amanda was comfortable in assisting Max. ‘What is it you specifically require from us Detective?’
‘You mentioned on the phone when I called yesterday that when a staff member accessed a customer’s account, your banking system records the staff member’s ID, date and time of access…’
‘That’s correct. Like I mentioned on the phone, we use a key card swipe system to prevent unauthorised use of a staff member’s ID.’
‘Good. What I need you to do is access your records for each of these former customers,’ he said indicating the list in front of himself, ‘and tell me if, and when Emily Davis accessed any of these accounts.’
Amanda accessed her computer. She typed something then swiped a card through a reader running across the top of her keyboard. ‘OK. So what specifically is it you require?’
Max handed Amanda the list. ‘All the information you need for each customer is on that list…Names, dates of birth, address etc. What I need is to find out if Emily accessed any of their accounts prior to the dates recorded beside each name there.’
Amanda checked the list then commenced tapping the keyboard. ‘Since the move to ATMs and online banking, we don’t have many requirements to access customers’ accounts these days. Most transactions are managed by the customer via their online banking,’ Amanda said as she continued to type.
That could be good and it could be bad for Max. Only time would tell.
Amanda stopped typing and read from her screen, ‘OK. I have just accessed the account owned by Jenny Cox. She’s the first name on your list there…’ Amanda said. ‘There is no historical recorded access to this account by Emily Davis.’
Max frowned. That can’t be. ‘Nothing at all?’ he said.
Amanda shook her head. ‘No. For the dates you have provided…in fact I went back a little further than that date there on the list…and…no… there is no access to this customer’s account by Emily.’
Max wasn’t expecting that. He rubbed a contemplative hand across his mouth. ‘What about Emily’s work colleague…What’s her name?’ Max asked himself. ‘Naomi... I can’t think of her surname.’
‘That would be Naomi Johnson.’
‘That’s her. What about her? Is she recorded as accessing that account?’
Amanda tapped on the keys and studied her screen. ‘No. There has been no access to this account by Naomi either.’
Max slumped back in his chair. He saw these inquiries heading in a different direction. ‘OK. Can you try the next one on the list.’ Max lifted the list and read from it. ‘Ah, Libby Vassilliou,’ he said replacing the list.
Amanda tapped on her keyboard. She paused to study the records. She shook her head. ‘Neither Emily nor Naomi has accessed this customer’s account,’ Amanda said.
‘Is there any other way Emily could’ve learned of these accounts…? Any way that would not record her staff ID?’
‘No. All access is recorded for security reasons. Under our strict privacy requirements, staff must have an operational reason for accessing customer accounts. This prevents sticky nose employees randomly checking friends, or celebrities to see what bank balances and investments they have. So, no…even if she wrote a loan for these customers it would be recorded.’
‘What if she approved a loan that was prepared by an employee reporting to her?’
‘Same. It would record her involvement. Plus, she would have to access the customer’s records to check their banking history and other things of interest in the account.’
Max leaned his elbows on the desk. ‘Not off to a good a start are we…?’ He forced out a smile. ‘OK can you continue to check the others please.’
One-by-one Amanda accessed the accounts of the people recorded on Emily’s list. And one-by-one she returned the same result. None of the remaining accounts had been accessed by Emily Davis or Naomi Johnson. There wasn’t even any recurring consistency in the names of the staff members who had accessed each of the accounts of interest.
This outcome floored Max. ‘So all these people…’ he flicked a finger at the list in front of Amanda, ‘these… these seven murder victims, all banked at this same bank that employed Emily Davis, but she never accessed any of their accounts. So this is just one big misleading coincidence,’ Max said. His recap was rhetorical.
Amanda didn’t respond.
Max left the bank in complete contrast to how he entered. A slow shuffle replaced the earlier confident gait. Rounded shoulders replaced the earlier upright stature. Every few steps he shook a slow disbelieving head as he tried to come to terms with the disappointing outcome. If he was a betting man he would’ve bet the house on Emily being linked directly to each victim, via their bank account. Good thing he didn’t gamble.
Back in his office Max dropped his folder on the desk. He slumped back into his chair. The momentum caused it to recline back. He locked disappointed fingers behind his head while he tried to rationalise the lack of success from the bank inquiries. He still needed that missing connection between victim and Emily.
The lure of fresh air and warm sun dragged Emily from the stuffy confines of the cottage, to the manicured garden area out front. She lounged on the lush lawn, leaning on an elbow. It was a pleasant retreat, compared to her cell, to be alone.
She plucked some grass and launched it skyward. She closed her eyes and lifted her face to the comfort of the warming sun. The breeze gently caressed her face. For a brief moment her mind transported her away from this place. She was free. She visited Boyd. She laughed with Naomi on those fun coffee breaks. She visited her parents in Ballarat, spent time relaxing on the beach watching the waves roll in. Anything she enjoyed in her former life, she relived in her imagination.
Her reflections were however short lived. Coming down from the brief high was a stark contrast to her reality. It was mildly depressing.
Emily plucked some more grass and lobbed it skyward. She watched the blades separate and drift back to the ground. A heavy metal clunk resounded through the garden area. Emily’s focus shifted towards the sound. A female Guard and a new remandee strolled down the path towards the cottage.
During the three months Emily had been held on remand at DPFC, all her cottage inmates, with the exception of Mandy, had been turned over. She wasn’t sad to see the back of those drug affected women. Their moods and temperament were unpredictable as they battled with coming off their addictions.
Emily watched remandee number four stride her way to the cottage. Her initial visual assessment of the new arrival was not flattering. This twenty-something year old woman had that stereo-typical druggie appearance; pallid complexion, underweight, unkempt bottle-blonde hair with heavy dark roots and a heavy covering of visible tattoos. An intimidating scowl filled her face.
She watched them until they disappeared into the cottage. A short time later Mandy emerged and made her way to Emily’s comfy corner of lawn. Emily sat up and dusted her hands while watching Mandy approach.
Mandy jabbed a thumb over her shoulder. ‘Did you see that one they just brought in…?’ Mandy said. ‘You should hear the language coming out of her… Eff and C bombs fired off everywhere,’ she said lowering herself to sit cross-legged beside Emily.
Emily leaned back on her hands. ‘Yeah, I did. I thought she looked a little rough. Druggie ya reckon?’
Mandy scoffed. ‘Hell, yeah…might have to watch that one. She’ll be a handful.’
The front door banged heavily when the female guard exited the cottage. Emily and Mandy watched her stroll along the path to the main building.
‘Hey, I meant to ask you…,’ Emily began. ‘How did you go? Have you got a date yet…?’
‘Yeah. I thought I told you…’ Mandy said. ‘My trial is next week. Ah, next Thursday.’
‘Trial…? What about your committal?’
Mandy’s mouth inverted. She shook her head. ‘No point. I’m guilty. I’ve elected to go straight to trial for a plea. I’m hoping that will work in my favour when it comes to sentencing.’
‘I hope so Mands…’
‘Two million bucks is a lot of money…’ Mandy said, slowly shaking her remorseful head. ‘My lawyer says I’ll definitely get time, it just depends on how much, after they take into account all this remand I’ve had.’
Emily dusted off her hands. ‘What do ya reckon…?’ she said deliberately changing the subject. ‘Must be close to lunch time?’
Mandy looked skyward. ‘Yep. The sun’s virtually straight up.’
‘Let’s do it…’ Emily said pushing herself to her feet.
Mandy clambered to her feet and the girls returned inside to prepare their lunches.
Emily and Mandy stood side-by-side at the kitchen bench, idly chatting while they prepared their tomato and cheese sandwiches.
Neither noticed the recent arrival walk into the kitchen behind them. Emily squared off her sandwich then cut it in half. Her mouth salivated in anticipation of her tasty lunch.
Before she could lift her plate and move to the table, the recent arrival shouldered Emily aside and lifted one half of Emily’s sandwich. She took a bite then held it up to Emily. ‘Thanks bitch,’ she said then moved over to the lounge area.
Emily’s mouth fell open as she watched this school yard style bully walk away from her. It was evident she was not knew to incarceration. Emily’s frozen expression flicked to Mandy who now sat at the dining table watching on. Mandy slowly shook her head. ‘I’ll help you make another one Em…’ Mandy said as she pushed herself up from her chair.
Emily held up her hand. ‘It’s OK. I can do it. Thanks anyway.’ Emily glared at the sandwich thief, before preparing a new sandwich.
Emily leaned a shoulder on the wall while she chatted to her work friend Naomi during her allocated telephone call time. Naomi made her laugh. She was good therapy for Emily.
‘Oh, I forgot to tell you Em…you know that cop that arrested you…?’ Naomi asked rhetorically.
How could I forget him? He’s the reason why I’ve spent over three months in jail. ‘I do…’
Naomi continued. ‘He came into the office last week with a search warrant. He and Amanda went behind closed doors in Amanda’s office.’
‘A search warrant...? What would that be for?’
‘I spoke to Jenny, and she said Amanda told her over coffee that the cop was trying to find evidence on the bank’s computer system…something about you accessing the bank accounts of the people they reckon you killed.’
Emily’s face tightened. ‘That’s absurd,’ Emily said. ‘I never accessed any accounts from those missing persons…In fact… I didn’t even know they were our customers.’
‘Don’t sweat it Em…He didn’t find anything.’
‘That’s doesn’t surprise me. There was nothing to find…’
Naomi chuckled. ‘Amanda told Jen that the disappointed expression on the cop’s face was priceless when he realised he’d wasted his time.’
‘You know what that means, Em…? He’s still looking for evidence against you to prove his case…that’s a good thing.’
‘It could be…I just worry that he — ’
A hand reached from behind Emily and disconnected her call.
Emily’s jaw dropped. She turned to see who was so rude. Her frowning glare met the snarling scowl of Paris.
Shortly after she stole Emily’s sandwich earlier today, the guard on duty introduced this new arrival to everyone as Paris. A skanky name for a skanky girl, Emily thought at the time.
Paris was one of two current remandees living in the cottage with Emily who was required by court order to attend compulsory drug rehab during their remand. Rumour through the cottage had it that Paris was a recidivist who had spent most of her youth in a jail of some sort.
Clearly she had no respect for anyone else. She was a bully. Emily was not one who sought out confrontation. If anything, she was a pacifist. But disconnecting the call while she still had time remaining was unacceptable. She had to speak out.
Before Emily could respond, Paris forcefully shoved two hands into Emily’s chest. Emily dropped the phone as she careered back into the wall. The dangling telephone receiver swung like a pendulum from the wall mounted base.
Paris caught the swinging receiver. ‘Time’s up, bitch…’ she blurted. She positioned herself in front of the telephone and punched in her PIN and reference number.
‘I hadn’t finished my call…’ Emily said.
Paris ignored Emily. She continued entering the numbers.
‘Excuse me…’ Emily stood with hands on hips. ‘Excuse me,’ she repeated in a firmer tone. Emily stepped forward and hit the cradle to disconnect the line.
Paris glared at Emily. Her brow plunged deep into her face. Hypocritically, she appeared offended at Emily’s actions.
‘How do you like it…?’ Emily said, showing a bravado foreign to the Emily of old. Problem was, she was way out of her depth.
Without any warning, Paris punched Emily in the face. A flash of white light momentarily blinded her vision. Emily’s knees buckled. She fell back into the wall and slid to the floor. The left side of her face throbbed. Her wide eyes glanced up at her attacker.
Paris glared at Emily as she stood over her. She jabbed an aggressive finger at Emily. ‘Touch my phone again and I’ll fucken kill ya…’ she said through gritted teeth. She returned to making her call as though nothing had happened.
Discretion was clearly the better part of valour for Emily. She slowly climbed to her feet. Her hand pressed against the side of her cheek while her wide eyes closely watched her attacker.
Emily sleeked back to her cell to examine her injury. She splashed cold water over her face then examined the redness of her left cheek. It was swollen and tender to touch. It would most likely bruise, but she didn’t think there was any other more serious damage.
Prior to Paris arriving, Emily never once felt threatened by the presence of another inmate. But now, Paris represented everything Emily feared about being incarcerated in a women’s prison; roughhouse bullying, stand over tactics and physical abuse.
Up until now, remand had been easy time. She did not want to spend the remainder of her remand time looking over her shoulder. She would do her best to avoid being anywhere near Paris.
Emily wandered from her cell into the common lounge area. Mandy passed Emily on the way. She stopped and lightly grabbed Emily’s forearm. ‘Are you OK…? What happened to your face?’
Emily touched the tender red mark on her face. ‘Paris…’ she said. ‘I was on the phone and she wanted it.’
Mandy’s mouth fell open. ‘You’re kidding. What…she just punched you because she wanted the phone and you had it…?’
Emily’s favourite guard, Clive happed by on his way towards the area of the cells. He smiled and nodded a silent greeting at the Emily and Mandy. He suddenly stopped and back stepped. He glanced at Emily’s face. ‘Are you OK? What happened to you?’ he asked.
‘I’ll be OK.’
Clive’s eyes flicked to Mandy. ‘What happened?’ He said. His tone had firmed slightly, more out of concern than anything else.
Mandy jabbed her head towards Clive. ‘Tell him Em,’ Mandy said.
Clive closely inspected Emily’s injury. Emily flinched slightly when he gently applied pressure to her cheek. ‘You’re gonna have a nasty bruise there,’ he said. He looked to Mandy. ‘Tell me what?’
‘It’s nothing,’ Emily said in her attempts to play it down. ‘Just a slight disagreement. It’s been sorted out.’
Clive held a firm glare at Emily. ‘Were you punched?’
Emily’s gaze flicked to Mandy. Despite being a relative new comer to prison life, she’d watched enough prison shows on TV to know that you don’t rat out your fellow inmates. She just wanted to do her remaining time with the least of trouble.
‘It’s nothing...really,’ Emily said.
As they chatted, Paris strolled passed after finishing her phone call. Emily’s body tightened in Paris’ presence. Her shoulders tensed while her eyes followed Paris as she walked by.
Clive must’ve noticed Emily’s body language. ‘Did she do that?’ Clive asked, jabbing a thumb at the passing Paris.
Emily held up a hand. ‘Look, it’s OK. I’ll heal.’
‘No it’s not OK,’ Clive said. He glared at Paris as she shuffled away from him. ‘Because of her history of violence, she was supposed to do her remand in general population. There was no room in Gen Pop at the time she arrived, so they sent her here, against my wishes.’ He continued to glare at Paris as she moved into the lounge and slumped back in a chair. He shifted his gaze back to Emily. ‘Did she do that?’
Emily nodded once. In her mind that was not really telling.
‘Do you think you will require any medical attention?’
‘No. The swelling has already reduced. Honestly. I’ll be fine.’
‘OK.’ Clive marched over the Paris. His stride was long. ’He stopped in front of the lounging Paris and jabbed a finger at her. ‘You. In your cell now,’ he ordered.
Paris slowly stood from her seat and followed two steps behind Clive as they moved towards the cells. As she passed Emily and Mandy she mumbled, ‘Ya dog. You’re fucken dead...’
Emily’s jaw dropped. ‘Did you hear what she just said?’
‘I did,’ Mandy said. ‘I heard it quite clearly.’
‘Do you think she means it?’ Emily said. She watched Paris follow Clive into her cell.
‘I wouldn’t trust her Em,’ Mandy said. ‘She lives by different standards to you and me.’
A short time later Clive emerged from the cell and locked the door. Paris shouted expletive filled abuse at Clive, as well as comments that questioned his sexuality and manhood. Clive did well to ignore them, although he’d probably heard them all before.
As he marched passed Emily and Mandy back to his guard station Emily said to Mandy, ‘I need a strong coffee.’
‘I’ll join ya...’