Wednesday morning was about to get a whole lot more unpleasant for Max. He received the memo, but simply forgot the significance of this date. He was distracted by his growing caseloads.
Max sat at his desk in the back corner of his office. Earlier in the morning he noted that most of his colleagues were absent, but he never gave it another thought. He was about to learn the reason for their collective absenteeism.
His Detective Senior Sergeant entered the bull pen, accompanied by two senior officers from upstairs and the Victoria Government Police Minister. Max’s shoulders slumped when he saw the visitors enter the room. He rolled his eyes then as if by instinct, quickly scanned for an escape route. Problem was, the only way out was blocked by the entering entourage. He was trapped.
Today was a day that all cops like Max tried to avoid. Usually when dignitaries were scheduled to visit, Max and many of his other likeminded colleagues, intentionally made sure they were absent from the station for the period of the visit.
As the entourage approached, Max silently rued his carelessness at being in the office this morning. He knew the Minister was coming for a visit, he just simply forgot. Frankly, he couldn’t be bothered with all the protocol bullshit that surrounded these visits. And all the arse kissing made him sick.
‘Ah, over here we have Detective Sergeant Max Higgins…’ The Senior Sergeant said as the group moved towards Max.
Max was like a deer in the head lights as they approached. He froze, watching them near, step-by-step.
‘Max leads up our missing persons’ team here at Geelong,’ The Senior Sergeant said.
The Minister approached Max and shook his hand.
‘Minister,’ Max said with a nod. He didn’t vote for the incumbent Government and he did not like the work this particular Minster did for police.
‘You are doing a wonderful job here Detective,’ the Police Minister said. It was a perfunctory comment that attempted to disguise his lack of genuine interest. The Minister glanced around the near empty office before he returned his focus to Max.
He gestured to Max’s white board containing five photographs. ‘Are these people all missing?’ he asked.
‘They are...’ Max said.
‘Why don’t you run through some of these cases for Mr Newel,’ Max’s boss said.
‘What about this one here,’ the Minister said. He gestured towards the photo of a female. ‘This young red haired woman here. She has that typical Irish appearance, doesn’t she? Red hair. Pale white skin and green eyes.’
‘That’s one of the more recent cases. She went missing about four months ago.’
The Minister approached the board and read the name under the photograph. ‘Sarah Moon…26 years of age,’ he read. ‘Hmmm. What are the circumstances of her disappearance?’
Max had no interest entertaining this Minister with war stories, but he did so under sufferance. Frankly, he wanted to keep his job, so he played along.
‘She was last seen at a CBD hotel drinking with friends. Left the hotel shortly after 10.30pm and hasn’t been seen since. A substantial quantity of blood was found on the roadway beside where she parked her car. We have obtained DNA from the blood, but we don’t have anything to match it to, at this stage. Her abandoned vehicle was found burnt out in farm land south of Winchelsea about two-weeks after she disappeared,’ Max said.
‘Winchelsea is a small country town about forty kilometres south-west of us here at Geelong, Sir,’ The Senior Sergeant said to his visitor. ‘It has a population of about 2000 residents.’
‘I see…Yes, yes. I think I know that town,’ The Police Minister said, without any semblance of conviction. ‘Any leads on this one Sergeant?’
Max shook his head. That was always the question he found hardest to answer. The longer a case went on, the less likely they would be found alive, if at all. And that brought with it a sense of failure.
‘No. nothing much is known about this disappearance at this stage.’
The Police Minister strolled the length of the board examining each of the photos on display. He gestured to the first photo. ‘This poor gent has been missing since 2016,’ he said, stating the obvious. ‘And what about him. Not much known of his whereabouts either?’ The Minister said as a question that to Max, sounded riddled with condescension.
Would he be on the board if we knew his whereabouts? Max thought. Using all his restraint, Max replied to the question. What he actually said was, ‘That’s correct.’
Max checked his watch. He’d had enough of this time wasting bullshit. Fortunately, the Police Minister took the not-so-subtle hint.
‘Well, we shall leave you to it Detective. I won’t take up any more of your valuable time. Thank you for running through your cases with me,’ he said.
Max nodded once. ‘You’re welcome,’ is what he said. Now piss off, is what he thought.
The lack of sleep from this morning’s nocturnal visitor started to show on Emily. She had already shut her eyes twice while sitting at her desk. So the timely morning coffee break stroll from the office to her favourite café reinvigorated her.
Her work mate, Naomi entered first then held the door for Emily to enter behind her. The tantalising aroma of freshly Barista brewed coffee welcomed them as they stepped inside.
‘I never get tired of that aroma…’ Emily said.
The queue was long, but it moved fast. Emily ordered for both of them then moved over to stand off to the side with Naomi.
Naomi watched Emily approach. ‘You look so tired, Em… Are you sleeping OK?’
‘This morning I didn’t, no…’
Naomi shook a slow sympathetic head. She was Emily’s closet work mate and the only person at their work who knew of Emily’s strange, early morning visitors.
It helped Emily to have someone at work to discuss these ‘visitors’ with; someone who didn’t think she was a nut case. Someone who believed her for what she thought she saw. And that someone was Naomi, who loyally kept Emily’s secret.
Emily couldn’t afford her boss to find out about her dreams. She knew in her own mind that if it was anyone else who claimed to be visited by unknown people in their dreams, she would be cynically judgemental of them.
So, through fear her boss would question her mental stability, Emily kept her problems from her boss. She loved her job as the Accounts Manager in one of the country’s big four banks and could not afford to have her sanity questioned over these early morning visits.
While waiting, both girls casually monitored the coming and goings of the many office workers seeking their morning cuppa-of-choice from the popular café. People watching helped pass the wait time.
‘I was a little uncomfortable bringing this up…’ Naomi began. ‘But seeing how tired you look…I figured, what the hell.’
‘Uncomfortable bringing what up…?’ Emily said. She nudged Naomi then discretely lifted her chin to the hot guy entering the café.
Both girls’ heads followed the suit-wearing man as he moved to join the back of the queue.
Naomi smiled knowingly to Emily as she lifted her phone and tapped on the screen. ‘Do you ever wonder why these people who visit you, picked you…?’
‘Only every day,’ Emily said while she continued to leer at the cute guy.
‘What if these people were murdered and they were coming to you for help…’
‘Why me…? How can I help a ghost?’
Naomi turned her phone screen to Emily. ‘I saw this the other day and I thought of you.’
Emily took the phone and read the screen. She shook her head and handed the phone straight back to Naomi. ‘See, I don’t believe in that shit, Nomes,’ Emily said. Her tone was direct.
‘Hear me out, Em…These people that come to you in your dreams are most likely dead. Stands to reason, doesn’t it?’
‘Order for Emily…’ a Barista called.
Emily pushed herself away from the wall and collected their order. She handed Naomi her coffee. As they strolled to the exit Emily said, ‘I have no idea if they are dead, or just dreams…All I know is…I wish they would stop.’
Naomi lifted her phone screen to Emily. ’Could this really hurt? What if it gave you some answers…? Would that be so bad?
‘And what if it didn’t…? I’m not in to all that witchcraft hoo haa.’
‘It’s not witchcraft… Look here…’ Naomi read from her phone. ‘A Medium is a person who mediates communication between spirits of the dead and the living.’
‘Aha… Just like I said….Witchcraft.’
Naomi rolled frustrated eyes at Emily. ‘I’ll go with you, if you want company. If you can talk to these experts, it may give you answers… reasons why you are visited in your sleep.’
Emily had to admit, Naomi made some sense. But the cynical part of her, the part that disbelieved in ghosts and the afterlife, prevented her from embracing Naomi’s suggestion. Maybe it was time to step outside her comfort zone and explore some alternatives to why these visits kept happening.
She held out her hand to Naomi. ‘Give me a look at that.’ Naomi smiled her satisfaction as she handed Emily the phone. Emily read from the screen. ‘A Psychic Medium’s skills and connection to the after-life support investigations and assist law enforcement agencies solve crimes.’ She lifted her eyes to Naomi. ‘Could this be what it’s all about, Nomes…? They just want my help?’
Naomi shrugged. ‘Could be.’
For the next twenty, or so metres, while reading the screen, Emily unwittingly became one of those people she observed on a daily basis who annoyed her. Like those inconsiderate people, she now walked along the busy footpath with her eyes buried into a mobile phone. And yes, on more than one occasion, she did almost career into oncoming foot traffic.
Scroll all the way to the bottom, ’Naomi said.
‘See there…’ Naomi began. ’An actual Medium is holding a seminar in Melbourne next month…I reckon you should go.’
‘Aren’t these things just tricks…you know scams…? Don’t they have people planted in the audience, or something?’
‘I don’t know Em…What have you got to lose?’
‘$140 for starters. They’re kidding themselves, aren’t they? Who’d pay that?’
Naomi scoffed. ‘You’d be surprised Em. Look, think of it as an investment into curing all this. What better way to get the answers you seek…I’ll come with, if you want.’
Emily lifted the phone to Naomi. ‘You’d spend $140 on this bullshit…just for me?’
‘I do anything for you if it will help you with these night time visitors.’
Emily hugged Naomi. She was warmed by her friend’s loyalty.
Naomi moved ahead and opened the door to their building. Emily moved through first, handing Naomi back her phone as she passed.
As they strolled to the elevator lobby Naomi asked, ‘Well…what do you think? Interested in going?’
‘I’ll have a think about it and chat with Boyd. See what he thinks.’
Emily watched Boyd top up her red wine, then his own. She was keen to discuss Naomi’s suggestion about the Medium seminar with Boyd. However she was a little nervous discussing something they both believed were scams, run to profit people who preyed on the vulnerable, or even the gullible.
She had it all planned out. While enjoying their pasta dinner tonight, she would causally raise Naomi’s suggestion, to seek her husband’s opinion, and gauge his response. Problem was, dinner was almost over.
Boyd caught Emily’s contemplative expression. ‘You OK…?’ he asked. ‘You seem a little quiet tonight. Did you have a bad day at work?’
Emily forced out a smile. ‘No. No. work’s good. I’m just really tired from this morning’s episode. I didn’t sleep well after it.’
Boyd twirled his pasta around his fork. ‘You and me both…’ he said, then shovelled the sizeable serving into his mouth.
‘There’s something I want to talk to you about…’ Emily said. She surprised herself. The words came out of her mouth before she had time to think about what to say.
Boyd reached for his wine. ‘What’s up? Everything OK…?’ He said. He regarded Emily as he sipped on his wine.
Emily’s long pause in responding must’ve worried Boyd. It wasn’t intended, she just searched for the right words. It was always going to be difficult to sell the seminar idea to Boyd, when in her own mind, just like Boyd, she was a disbeliever.
Boyd leaned on his elbows. He regarded Emily with a frowning brow as he waited for her to respond. ‘Em…? What’s up? Talk to me. Are we good..?’
Emily’s face lit up. ‘Yes. Of course we’re good.’ She placed a reassuring hand over Boyd’s hand. ‘It’s just that…well…I think I’m becoming desperate for answers as to why I keep getting these early morning dreams.’
‘That’s more than understandable, Hun. I wish I knew the answers. I wish I could help more.’
‘You know Naomi from work…?’ Boyd nodded as he shovelled some pasta into his mouth. ‘I was chatting with her today about my most recent visit. She showed me something she found on the internet that she thinks might help me understand what, and why things are happening to me.’
‘Naomi thinks I might unknowingly have some sort of ability to communicate with the afterlife…’ Emily cringed slightly as the words left her mouth.
Boyd held Emily’s gaze for an extended, uncomfortable pause before he responded. ‘And what do you think about that?’
‘Honestly…I’m like you. I don’t believe in that after life stuff…But do you have any other alternatives as to why this keeps happening to me…?’
‘I wish I did. But I don’t.’
Emily slid her phone closer and brought up the website she visited earlier with Naomi. She slid the phone to Boyd. He read from the display.
Emily thought she saw his shoulders slump, ever so slightly. Boyd scrolled the screen as he continued to read.
He pushed the phone back to Emily. ‘OK,’ he said. ‘And you would like to go to that seminar…?’ he said lifting his chin to the phone. His tone sounded disappointed.
‘I don’t know Hun. It sounded like a good idea today, but now I’m not so sure. I’m just over all this…’
‘Hey,’ Boyd began. He placed his hand over Emily’s hand. ‘If you think this, this seminar thing will help…then why don’t you give it a try.’
Emily’s face lit up again, this time with excitement. ‘Really…? You don’t think I’m being gullible..?’
‘I didn’t say that…’ Boyd said. ‘But if you think it will help you cope with it all, then I think you should give it a try.’
‘It costs $140...’
‘I saw that. Look at this way…It is an investment into your health. If we went for an MRI or a CT scan over something wrong with our health, it would cost more than that and we would still do it, regardless of the cost.’
Emily smiled her relief. ‘Naomi said she would come with me…’
‘With us…’ Boyd began. ’I’ll request a day shift, or a day off. So if she wants to go to this seminar, she can come with us. I’m not letting you go on your own…’
Emily cupped her hands to her mouth. Her eyes swelled with tears. She was so happy her husband had chosen to support her. ‘Thank you so much, Hun,’ she said.
’Go ahead and make the bookings, ’Boyd said. ‘Who knows, it might be entertaining.’