Max’s inquiries into what was known about Emily Davis came up empty. She was twenty-eight and a clean skin. She held a current Victorian driver’s licence. She and her husband, Boyd Davis owned their home at 14 Wentworth Court Belmont.
Boyd Davis was also not known to police.
Max had long hoped for a breakthrough in one of his cases. But this woman claimed to have information on all seven. Could he be so lucky? It was time to contact this enigma that is Emily Davis.
He dialled the number written on the notes he received from the Constable Coutts. A female voice answered.
‘Hello. My name is Detective Sergeant Max Higgins. I was hoping to speak with Emily Davis please…’
‘This is Emily. What’s this about?’
‘Good afternoon Emily. I understand you visited the Geelong Police Station earlier today. I was hoping to chat with you about your visit…Do you have a spare minute or two now?’
‘That was so embarrassing. I know he didn’t mean to, but that young cop made me feel like such an idiot…’
‘Let me apologise for that. I’m terribly sorry. That should not have happened the way it did. But I am interested in the list of names you brought in with you though…where did you get that list?’
‘I prepared it. The people came to me…’ Emily paused. She knew the words that were to follow were unconvincing. They would certainly sound like the ramblings of a crazy woman. ‘Look, I’m not sure it’s worth me even trying to explain all this to you. You’ll just think I’m a raving nut case…’
‘With all due respect Ms Davis…’ Max began. ‘I think you should let me decide what I think. As a matter of fact, I am very interested in what you have to say…probably more than you realise…’
‘Because I lead the Missing Persons squad here in Geelong and the names on your list are all of my cases…’
‘Oh. OK. Good. If you promise not to judge me, I’ll continue.’
‘No judgement. I promise.’
‘I learned recently, as recent as around six to eight months ago that I have this ability to communicate with people who have passed on…’
‘You mean, who have died…?’
‘Correct. I know how that sounds, but over a period of time these people all came to me one-by-one and asked me for help in locating them. I wrote them on a list, which I assume you have there with you…’
‘I do…Tell me, how did you know they were missing persons? Did they tell you they were missing?’
‘No. My friend, Naomi looked up the missing persons on the police website and showed me. I recognised some of the faces on there as being the people who visited me.’
’I see. Why do you think they asked you for help?’
‘I wish I knew…Nearly all of them wanted closure for their loved ones and asked me to help find them.’
I find this incredibly intriguing, Ms Davis. I was wondering…Are you free later tonight after your work? I would love to visit you and hear more about your visits from these people.’
‘Um. OK. Sure.’
‘Would 8pm suit you?’
‘Yes. 8pm is fine…’
‘Great. I have your address from your visit today as 14 Wentworth Court, Belmont…’
‘Excellent. I’ll see you then…’ Max said, then ended his call.
He dropped his phone onto the desk. He rubbed a hand across his mouth as he read Emily’s list of names. This will be an interesting visit, he thought.
Emily glanced at the wall clock when her doorbell rang. ‘Eight o’clock…right on time,’ she said pushing herself up from her lounge chair.
The smiling face of Max Higgins greeted Emily when she opened the front door. ‘Detective Higgins…?’ Emily asked.
‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘You must be Emily.’ He held out his police ID to Emily, which she inspected.
Emily stepped back, a silent gesture for her visitor to enter. Max moved inside and she closed the door behind him.
Max moved through to the lounge room and approached Naomi sitting in an arm chair. ‘Hi. I’m Detective Sergeant Max Higgins from Geelong police…’
Naomi shook Max’s hand. ‘Naomi,’ she said. ‘Pleased to meet you…’
Emily gestured to a vacant lounge chair. Max took a seat.
‘My husband is working afternoon shift, so I asked my friend Naomi to sit with me while you visited. I hope you don’t mind…’
‘Not all at,’ Max said, giving his best reassuring smile to Naomi. ‘What does your husband do for a living…?’
‘He’s a Paramedic here in Geelong…’ Emily said.
‘Oh, Nice. I have probably seen him around then…We often cross paths with the ambos at various jobs we attend,’
‘Would you mind making some coffees Nomes…?’ Emily said. It was her signal to Naomi that she was comfortable being left alone with this cop, albeit for a short time.
Max handed Emily her list. ‘Did you create that list of names, Emily…?’
Emily briefly scanned the page. ‘I did. I unintentionally left it at the police station earlier today.’
‘I’m glad you did. I’m glad I got to see it…’
By the time Naomi returned to the lounge with coffees for all, Emily was well into her explanation about how she met each person named on her list. She explained where their bodies were located, as told to her by each visitor. She even mentioned the one occasion when three people visited her at the same time because they shared the same hole.
‘Tell him about the seminar you went to Em…’ Naomi said.
‘Seminar…?’ Max said.
‘A few months back, I didn’t understand why I was being visited by these dead people. Naomi found this Medium Seminar being held in Melbourne. So I went to try and find some answers. The host, Molly Williamson, dragged me up on stage and told me that I apparently have a rare gift…the ability to talk to the dead.’
‘Did this Molly Williamson have the gift…?’ Max asked.
‘So she said.’
After what Max considered was an informative forty-five minutes he began to wrap up. He scanned his detailed notes taken during their chat. ‘It seems that some locations are more precise than others…did you find that?’ He asked.
‘I did actually…’ Emily said. ‘But that is what, or where they told me to look…I just wrote it down.’
‘And these are the injuries they each told you they have…presumably the same injuries that killed them…? Would that be right?’
‘That’s how I understood it, yeah,’ Emily said.
Max showed Emily the list. ‘These last two people on your list…they don’t have names. Why is that?’
‘They aren’t on your missing person’s website.’
Max regarded Emily, briefly. He frowned. ‘I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying that you only know these peoples’ names because they are listed on the website…?’
‘But you talk to them... Don’t you ask them their names…?’
‘Look. It’s all very surreal when they contact me. They control the conversation. We don’t talk like you and I are talking now…I just clarify what they ask, or want. Asking their names is the last thing I think of at the time…’
Max nodded, albeit unconvinced. ‘OK. Thanks.’ He stood from his seat. ‘Well, I won’t take up any more of your time. Thank you for the coffee Naomi,’ Max said.
Emily escorted Max to the front door, opening it for him. ‘Thanks again. I’ll be in touch,’ Max said, then stepped onto the front porch.
Emily watched her visitor make his way to his car parked in the street out front, then closed the door.
‘What do you make of all that?’ Emily said.
‘He certainly seemed interested, Em. That’s more than you got from those other cops today.’
‘Yeah. I suppose you’re right. I’ll be curious to hear if he finds anything at any of those locations.’
Max Higgins locked his fingers behind his head and rested his feet on the side of his desk; his favourite position for contemplating. His eyes remained glued to his whiteboard photos.
His boss, Jeff Fry stood to the side reading Emily’s list of people who she claimed visited her. ‘You’re telling me this woman gave us a list that contains every one of your missing persons…’ Jeff said. ‘No other missing persons…just these ones,’ he waved a hand at the whiteboard.
’And the only way she knew their names was by visiting the Vic Pol missing person’s website…? She didn’t think to ask them their names when they visited her…?
‘Bullshit,’ Jeff blurted. ‘I find it intriguing that this woman claimed to speak to dead people who have gone missing and she doesn’t take the time to ask them their names…Wouldn’t that be one of the first questions you’d ask someone who claimed to be missing? What’s your name? Where are you from…?’ Jeff said in a rambling rant.
‘I agree. And I know where you are heading. But the thing is, this Emily Davis is a sweet, calm amiable type who gave the impression she wouldn’t hurt a fly…when you speak with her she genuinely seemed intimidated by these visits she claimed to have had.’
’The way I see it Higgo is you have two options here. One. She is a psychic who speaks to dead people, only some dead people mind you, but while doing so doesn’t think to ask them their names…’ he said riddled with cynicism. ‘Or two. She is either the perp, or knows the perp.’
‘Normally I’d agree,’ Max began. ‘But if she was our perp why would she implicate herself in murders of people who have been missing for considerable periods of time? Secondly, she’d be five-three in the old money, and only 60 kegs wringing wet…so she couldn’t move these bodies…not on her own any way,’ Max said.
‘So, she could be a co-offender then…’
‘Mmmm. Still doesn’t explain why she would bring heat on herself after all this time,’ Max said as he continued to study his whiteboard.
‘I go with the hard evidence, every day of the week…Something that can be proven, not his mumbo jumbo psychic bullshit,’ Jeff said.
Max dropped his feet to the floor and woke his computer screen. ‘Why don’t I run a test case on the first name on her list…’ He flicked a finger towards Sarah Moon’s photo. ‘Let’s drag this dam and see if her body is in there. If it is…we can re-visit this conversation and decide on our options, moving forward.’
He brought up Google maps satellite image and typed in the area where Sarah Moon’s burnt out vehicle was located. ‘OK. There are two dams near where her burnt out car was located. Here and the other over here,’ he said tapping his screen. His eyes lifted to his boss. ’What do ya reckon…drag ‘em?’
Jeff waved a hand in the air. ’Drag ‘em,’ he said with a defeated tone.
Max printed the map displayed on his screen.
Slight ripples fanned across the opaque, coffee coloured dam water, courtesy of the biting winds whipping up from the south-west. Tiny waves lapped onto its muddy shores.
With open farm land stretching to the horizon in all directions, there was nothing to reduce the impact of the chilly unseasonal winds.
Max Higgins stood on the elevated dam bank overseeing proceedings. Which in reality meant he tried to follow the almost indiscernible trail of oxygen bubbles expelled from the police divers trawling the floor of a dam, roughly four times the size of the average back yard swimming pool.
While he waited Max toed small pebbles on the bank of the dam. Some of the larger ones he pitched at a nearby well-weathered fence post, keeping score of his hits and misses.
When he wasn’t reshaping the landscape, one pebble at a time, he shoved his bored hands deep into his pockets and pressed his arms tightly against his body, to trap in whatever heat he could. His light-weight suit jacket did nothing to warm him from the cold mid-morning winds.
Every so often an occasional wayward flipper breached the water surface, like a frolicking seal, then disappeared into the murky depths. It was his only highlight to break the monotony.
The poor visibility on the dam floor meant the two divers had to drag their hands across the silty bed in an organised grid pattern, foot-by-foot using touch in their search for human remains. A third member of the Search and Rescue team remained on land monitoring his colleagues for safety warnings.
Max checked his watch. The divers had been down now for twenty-five minutes. It wasn’t looking good, not for this dam anyway.
One of divers breached the surface and stood in the shallows. ‘Finally,’ Max mumbled. While the diver removed his flippers, the second diver surfaced and stood in the shallows of the dam.
With their flippers held in their hands the divers made their way to the bank. Max moved around to meet the divers.
‘No good…?’ Max said.
One of the divers shook his head. ‘Nothing,’ he said.
Max rubbed a hand across his mouth as he scanned the country side. ‘OK…’ He said. He unfolded his printed map. ‘This is us here…so the other dam is there,’ he tapped the map. ‘Which is over in that direction.’ He gestured to the north-west. ‘Looks like we’re moving to dam number two…’
It wasn’t long before Max experienced a sense of déjà vu at this second dam site, located on a different property about five hundred metres from the first dam. It was much smaller than the last dam, but it was the same biting south-westerly wind, the same coffee coloured water, the same boring wait while all the action happened below the surface.
While he waited, Max kept an eye on three nosey cows that wandered over to him, obviously curious at what all the fuss was about at their waterhole. As long as they kept their distance, Max was happy.
Twenty minutes after entering the water, the divers re-surfaced. They proceeded to remove their flippers in the shallows. To Max that meant only one thing— strike two.
He moved over to the divers. ‘Nothing there either…?’ He asked.
‘Same-same,’ a diver said.
‘OK,’ Max said. He held up a finger to the divers. ‘Give me a minute to check something…’
Max quickly returned to his vehicle and revisited the notes in his folder. He read from Emily’s hand written notes that recorded Sarah Moon’s supposed whereabouts.
In a dam south of Winchelsea, he read. He scanned the surrounding open plains. ‘There are no other dams around here…’ he said to no-one.
Then, he had a light bulb moment. He removed his phone and opened Google Maps and rechecked their location. ’Ah…south of Winchelsea...’ He mumbled to himself. His first mistake was he limited his initial search area to where Sarah’s burnt out car had been located.
He jogged back to the divers, waiting by the side of the dam. ‘We were supposed to be looking at dams south of Winchelsea…’ Max said. ‘We are south-east of Winch.’
‘OK. Any dams to the south of Winchelsea?’ a diver asked.
‘There’s this one that’s not too far south of the town. The only other one is a few Kay’s further south…So I’m thinking we’ll do the closer one,’ Max said.
‘Your call,’ one of the divers said.
‘OK. We’ll make this the last one,’ Max said.
‘We’ll follow you,’ the Dive team leader said.
Max watched the divers slide into the third, and final dam and disappear from view. He checked his watch. His hunger pangs reminded him his lunch was well overdue.
This dam was similar to, if not slightly larger than the first dam, so he expected it would take time for the divers to trawl across the floor of this dam. He settled in for a long wait.
After a few short minutes of boredom, his wandering eyes located some young lambs playfully frolicking nearby. The paddocks were dotted with hundreds of woolly sheep feeding, many with a small white- lamb close by. The playful innocence of the new-born lambs caused a rare smile to emerge on the tough cop’s face.
His ovine watching interlude served as an unintended, pleasant distraction to the expected lengthy wait for an outcome. That’s was until a shrieking whistle caught Max’s attention.
The head and shoulders of one of the divers protruded from the water. His face mask was up and his mouth piece out. The diver held up a thumb to Max.
‘You got something…?’ Max said. He approached the water’s edge, trudging carefully through the deep sheep hoof prints in the mud.
‘Got her…’ The diver said. ‘She’s been weighted down with two car batteries.’
Max rubbed a contemplative hand across his mouth. He was a little stunned; pleased, but stunned. He didn’t expect this last dive to uncover anything. He had all but conceded their efforts would come up empty, proving Emily Davis to be a psychic fraud.
Instead, Emily’s handwritten notes were accurate. Sarah Moon’s body was in a dam near Winchelsea. But did Emily know this because she put Sarah’s body there, or was she a Medium psychic as claimed?
‘We’ll keep checking the dam floor for a weapon, or anything else…’
Max held up a thumb to the diver.
Following Max’s phone calls, the large dam on the quiet country farm, usually reserved for livestock to rehydrate, had transformed into an active crime scene. Several police vehicles, marked and unmarked now occupied the immediate vicinity.
Max stood on the bank of the dam chatting to the third member of the search and rescue team.
‘Do you want us to bag her before we bring her up?’ he asked.
‘For evidence preservation?’ Max asked.
‘I understand she’s been tethered to car batteries by wire…We’ll need photos of that before she’s transported,’ Max said.
‘That’s OK. We can just bring her to the side and lay her out with the batteries beside her, for forensics to photograph.’
‘Yeah, let’s do that,’ Max said.
The land based Search and Rescue member moved to instruct his dive team, while Max moved away to call his boss to update him on the find.
When he returned to the water’s edge, Sarah’s heavily bloated, ashen body had been removed from the dam. Forensics officers snapped photographic evidence.
Max regarded his swollen victim with a tinge of sympathy. This was undoubtedly Sarah Moon. From her distinctive ginger red hair, to the clothing she last wore, as described by her colleagues. Due to the lengthy time spent underwater, she was however unrecognisable, facially. He would have to wait for DNA confirmation, which would be a mere formality.
His squatted down to examine the thick gauge wires, embedded deep into Sarah’s bloated torso. The wire led to the two old car batteries now positioned beside her body.
‘She clearly wasn’t meant to be found…’ Max said to anyone listening.
He sighed heavily as he pushed himself back to his feet. Finding one of his missing persons was always bitter-sweet, particularly when it involved a murder. Locating the body was just the first step of many he must now tread to try and find out who did this, and why.
It was late afternoon by the time Sarah’s remains were loaded into the Coroner’s van, en-route to the next stage of investigation — the autopsy.