Following his return from recovering Sarah Moon’s body from the Winchelsea dam, Max and his boss, Jeff Fry discussed the next course of action. Jeff was black and white. To him the next step was straight forward. Max was more shades of grey. To him he still wasn’t convinced he had his murderer.
‘Whichever way you look at it, Higgo,’ Jeff said, ‘this woman told you where to find the body of a murder victim, more specifically, the body of your missing person, Sarah Moon…’ Jeff gestured to Sarah’s photograph. ‘You have no choice…ya have to bring her in…’
Max silently eyed Sarah’s photograph with the words “LOCATED DECEASED” written above her photo in red capital letters.
‘I’m not convinced, Boss.’
‘She knew where the body was…How much more proof of her involvement do you need,’ Jeff said. ‘And don’t give me that shit about talking to dead people. That crap won’t hold up in any court in this land. You know it. I know it.’
‘We have no evidence to place her in, or around Ben’s Bar on the night Sarah disappeared. We don’t have a weapon and we have no evidence linking Emily to Sarah’s body.’
‘Bullshit.’ Jeff blurted. ‘You have the evidence that she knew exactly where the body was dumped…’ Jeff said. He glared his disagreement at Max.
‘Well, it wasn’t exactly. But apart from that…we have nothing else linking her to the murder. I need more to roll that dice.’
‘What more do you need. She provided you with the location of a body that only the offender, or an accomplice would know…If you want more, search her home, search her car. Bring her in and give her an old fashioned grilling,’ Jeff said.
Max shook his head. ‘I’m not convinced she’s involved. Think about it logically. Only an idiot would come forward and implicate herself in something she’d got away with. It’s illogical and she doesn’t strike me as an idiot.’
‘Maybe she wanted to watch her work get recognised on the evening news after all this time. Who-the-hell-knows what these psychos think.’
Max lifted Emily’s list and read from it. His eyes lifted to photo number four on his whiteboard. ‘Take this Lance Edwards…’ Max said, gesturing to the photo. ‘Left his home in Corio on 8th of April, 2017 to go for an evening jog. Never been seen since.’ He lifted Emily’s list. ’This list says, Lance Edward’s ghost apparently told Emily his body is in a disused factory in North Shore. Why don’t we go and see if this list remains credible?’
‘I can’t believe I’m even asking this but, does this so called ghost give a street name for this factory?’ Jeff said.
Max re-checked the list. ‘No. The list just refers to a disused factory in North Shore.’
’That area is a huge industrial ‘haystack’ filled with factories,’ Jeff said. ‘Good luck finding that needle.’
Max slowly rolled his car along Bayview Circuit in North Shore, an industrial street that snaked around the shores of Corio Bay, in Geelong’s North. Factories of all sizes lined both sides of the lengthy street, each one secured at its boundary by a high cyclone wire fence and gate.
These days, a head barely turned at the presence of a police car in the northern suburbs Industrial Estate, it was so commonplace. The area was notorious for chop shops, drugs, fencing stolen property and numerous other criminal activities.
A couple of streets over, the fortified clubhouse of a Geelong based chapter of a notorious outlaw motor cycle club sitting nestled between factories, also brought regular heat to the area.
During his previous visits to this Estate, it was not unusual for Max to stare helplessly through a cyclone wire fence at the snarling jowls of a ferocious guard dog, when trying to enter a property where unannounced visitors were not welcome.
But Max wasn’t there because of the area’s preceding crime reputation. None of that interested him today. He was there in search of the factory located at number ninety-eight.
After convincing his boss last week that the next course of action was to follow up on another name on Emily’s list, Max visited the offices of the Geelong City Council.
Lance Edwards had been missing since April 2017. According to Emily’s list, Lance’s body was dumped in a disused factory in North Shore.
All he had to do was search council records for factory ownership and tenancy in the North Shore industrial estate, searching for any factory that closed prior to April 2017 and remained closed today.
With access to data bases and up-to-date technology, he assumed it would be a straight forward process. How wrong he was.
He soon found out over three hundred factories occupied the North Shore Industrial Estate, spread across several street blocks.
After hours of visiting the relevant records for each property, then calling the property owner to check if the factory still operated, Max struck gold. The two hundred and seventy-sixth property he checked — a factory at number ninety-eight Bayview Circuit — matched the criteria.
The factory used to operate as a motor mechanic work shop. When the owner unexpectedly passed away in February 2017, the factory was left to the eldest of his three adult children. A sibling dispute over the will resulted in challenges to the factory ownership, which had seen the factory remain closed to this day.
Following a recent amicable settlement among the siblings, the factory was due to be listed for sale and would be managed by Northern Suburbs Real Estate Agents.
To facilitate his access to the factory, Max arranged to the meet the managing real estate agent at the property at 10am this morning.
As Max rolled along Bayview Circuit searching for number ninety-eight, he noticed a black BMW SUV parked up ahead, outside a factory with a large ‘For Sale’ sign attached to the front cyclone wire fence.
Max pulled up behind the Bimmer. This was the factory he sought. The entire cyclone-wire front boundary fence was lined internally with light green opaque plastic.
With the brief introductions out of the way, the Real Estate Agent moved to unlock the cyclone wire gate, secured by pad lock and chain. The Agent lifted the padlock. He paused. ‘This padlock is open…unlocked.’ He held the padlock for Max to examine.
The padlock looped through the heavy chain links, but had not been secured shut into its housing.
‘Have you, or any of your team been inside the factory recently?’ Max asked.
‘No. No-one. I only just put that For Sale sign up while I waited for you. I will inspect the factory for listing purposes when we are finished here today.’
‘So you haven’t been into the property yet…?’
‘Not yet, no.’
‘OK. Let’s go in…’ Max said.
The Estate Agent unhooked the heavy chain and shoved opened the gate. The single-fronted, corrugated iron clad factory had a high pitched roof line. A wide, twenty metre long driveway stopped at a large roller door. To the left of the door was an office. Parking spaces occupied the property’s front area.
To the side, a two metre wide opening accessed the side and rear of the property. Max made his way down the side of the building. The Estate Agent followed.
‘Are you looking for anything in particular, Detective?’
‘No. Just looking.’ Max was intentionally brief. He also focussed where he trod as they navigated the uneven grounds and rusting car parts down the side of the fifty-metre long building.
When he reached the rear, Max paused to scan the back yard. The large area was scattered with rust-riddled engines, various car parts and derelict car bodies, devoid of windows and wheels.
‘What a mess…’ Max blurted. ‘Where do I start?’ He asked himself rhetorically.
The Estate Agent watched on as Max conducted a methodical search of the rear junk yard, checking anything that could likely contain the body of Lance Edwards.
After checking through, under and around piles of rusting junk, he moved to one of the car bodies; a maroon Holden Commodore. The bonnet was missing. The doors were either ajar, or missing, and all glass from the windows was smashed or removed.
Max moved to the boot. The boot lid sat slightly ajar. He lifted it and glanced inside. Nothing but rusting junk metal parts.
He moved to the next car located to the side of the yard. This too was an early model Holden Commodore. Like the previous car, it was a rusting shell, with brick stacks where the wheels used to be. He fumbled for the boot latch. This lid was also unsecured.
Max lifted the lid and glanced inside. Four wheels with bald tyres took up most of the boot space. He dropped the lid.
Max stood back and surveyed the junk yard, mentally checking off each area he had searched. Thirty minutes of rummaging through car parts and under piles of rust-riddled junk, failed to locate anything. Maybe the offender had access to the workshop, there’s nothing here, he thought.
He flipped open his folder and read from Emily’s list. The list recorded Lance Edward’s body was in an abandoned factory in North Shore. Max’s eyes lifted from the notes. ’In an abandoned factory,’ he said to himself, processing what he read. ’Does that mean inside the factory, or inside the factory’s boundaries…?’ he said, thinking out loud.
‘Are you looking for a particular car part, or something Detective?’
‘No. No it’s all good. I had information that something may have been stashed here, but I’m not having any luck.’
‘Is the item sizeable, or small?’
‘I only ask because you didn’t check the boot of that car over there,’ The Real Estate Agent said, gesturing towards a derelict Toyota Camry.
Max glared at the car. He frowned. There were three car bodies in total spread across the yard. ‘Didn’t I check that one...?’ He asked with a puzzled gaze.
‘No. Definitely not. You checked the front and back seats and boot of those two,’ he said flicking a finger at the Holden Commodores, ‘but skipped the boot of that one,’ he said gesturing to the white Toyota, nestled deep in the yard, against the rear fence.
Max flicked his chin stubble. ‘OK,’ he said. ‘I was sure I checked it.’ His focus shifted to the white, heavily rusted Toyota Camry, the last of the car bodies in the rear yard.
When he tried to lift the rear boot, the lid was secured. He moved to the driver’s door and lifted the floor lever. The boot lid popped. He returned to the rear and lifted the lid.
Max startled slightly when he noticed the large, black industrial garbage bag that filled the boot space. The top of the bag had been sealed with grey duct tape.
He gently prodded the bag to get a feel through the plastic for what was inside.
‘Do you think that’s a body?’ The Estate Agent asked.
‘I’m not sure,’ Max said. Truth was, Max was certain the body of Lance Edwards was in the garbage bag.
‘We’re going to have to move back out to the street,’ Max said. ’This is now a crime scene.
‘OK…So you do think it’s a body?’ The Real Estate Agent asked, as they made their way to the street.
‘Could be. I need to get the experts down here to safely open the bag.’
Within twenty-minutes, police vehicles had lined the industrial street. Uniform police secured the factory entry with crime scene tape. A lone, bored cop stood like a sentry at the gate.
Inside the property, Forensic officers dressed in full body HazMat suits, looking more like Astronauts than cops, worked to recover the body from the car boot.
Out front, Max impatiently leaned against the bonnet of his vehicle, with his arms crossed, while he waited for an update. It would be thirty minutes before he learned anything.
One of the Forensic officers exited the property and approached Max. His HazMat hood had been removed. He carried a digital camera.
‘You probably already know, but we recovered the body of a male. No ID. The remains are in advanced stages of decomp,’ the Forensic cop said. He pushed some buttons on the rear viewing screen of his camera. ‘In order to preserve potential evidence, the body has to be transported in the garbage bag. But this is the guy in the bag.’ He turned the camera to Max. ‘Is he known to you?’
Max glanced at the close up photo of the body’s head exposed from the bag. He opened his folder and lifted the photo of Lance Edwards and compared it to the camera image.
‘Looks like him, doesn’t it?’ The Forensic cop said.
‘Yeah. It does. I think you’re right,’ Max said.
‘Good. I’ll let transport know it’s good to go. We’ll get these photos to you when we’re done,’ the forensic officer said.
Three hours after arriving at number ninety-eight Bayview Circuit, Max was clear to return to his office. His mission was accomplished. Emily’s list had once again bore fruit, boasting two from two. More importantly, the second of his long-term missing persons had been located.
Max rested his head on a hand while he scrolled through the photos of Lance Edwards on his computer screen. The crime scene officer who sent them to him via email, also included morgue photos taken after transport.
The advance decomp hindered his visual assessment of the extent of any injuries. From what he could discern from the images, Lance had been stabbed multiple times, front and back. An autopsy would ultimately determine the cause of death.
Max lifted his eyes from his computer screen to glance at the two photos on his whiteboard with the branding, “LOCATED DECEASED” above each one. With these two being located, the elephant in the room needed addressing. Was Emily Davis really a Psychic Medium who spoke to dead people, or a murderer?
His heart said the former, his experienced police investigator brain said the latter.
He rolled his eyes when he saw his boss marching over to his desk. ‘Here we go…’ he mumbled to himself.
Jeff approached the whiteboard and stood with his hands on hips while he regarded the photo display. ‘Two out of seven located,’ he said as he moved to rest himself on the edge of Max’s desk. ’Now do you agree it’s time to bring her in…?’ Jeff said.
Max fell back in his chair and locked his fingers behind his head. ‘You’re probably right,’ Max said. ‘But I’m wondering if we should try one more name on Emily’s list, first.’
’And then what? You’d have located three, all because she told you where the bodies were. It wouldn’t matter if you checked five, or the whole goddamn list…’ Jeff said. ‘You would still be back here at the same spot you are now, realising you have to bring her in for questioning.’
He couldn’t argue with his boss’ logic. He just didn’t share his boss’ beliefs that this was a fait accompli.
‘If I bring her in…’ Max began, ‘she will just stick to the same story…’ he said. ‘The ghosts of these people visited her and told her where their bodies were located.’
‘Good.’ Jeff pushed himself away from the desk. ‘Good,’ he repeated. ‘That’s what we want her to say. Then we’ll say, prove it…and when she can’t, she’s stuffed. Put a fork in her, mate, she’s done.’
The Criminal Investigation Unit’s admin officer approached Max’s desk. She mouthed the words “excuse me,” to Max, then dropped some mail onto his desk and walked away.
Max nudged the letters to spread them. He lifted the letter with the Victorian Coroner’s Court branding. He read the front, flipped it over and tore it open. ‘Ah, Sarah Moon’s autopsy report,’ he said to Jeff. Max reclined back as he read the report.
‘Multiple stab wounds to the back, ah…three in total, with a twenty centimetre, one-sided blade, and one to the chest,’ he announced as he read. ‘COD was from the knife rupturing her heart.’ Max turned the page. ‘No defensive wounds, or any other injuries or markings…Suggests a blitz attack, probably from behind, given the frontal strike was the one that killed her,’ Max said.
Jeff accepted the report from Max and read it.
‘Three in the back and one through the heart in a blitz attack…’ Max said. ‘I’m not so sure that’s something the Emily Davis I met, could do. It seems fairly cold… fairly brutal. Then she had to transport the body to Winchelsea, weigh it down with car batteries and toss it far enough into the centre of the dam, so it remained below the surface, should the water levels drop.’ Max shook a disbelieving head. ‘I’m not so sure boss.’
‘Clearly she had a male accomplice, or a strong female. Never can tell these days,’ Jeff said. ‘Regardless, you’ve gotta bring her in. Let her tell you what she did.’
‘I told you. I know exactly what she will say. She will say she had nothing to do with the murder. She’ll say these friggin’ ghosts told her where the bodies were located. She’ll stick to that story. Then what? We have no evidence linking her to the murders.’
Jeff waved the back of hand at Max. ‘Charge her anyway…’
Max fell back in his chair, defeated. He slowly shook his head.
‘Excuse me Higgo. You got a minute?’ A uniform Senior Constable approached Max’s desk. Max was too invested in his argument with his boss to notice the cop’s approach.
Max lifted his chin to the cop. ‘Yeah mate, what’s up.’ Max said as he watched his boss step away and return to his office.
‘We recovered a red Mazda 626 on a property at Maude, under thick trees and growth,’ the uniform cop said. ‘When we did a check for the owner, there was a notation on the VicRoads data base to contact you. So, here we are.’
‘Who was the owner?’
The cop read from his notes. ‘The registered owner is a Malcolm Denyer.’
Max’s eyes instinctively flicked to the photo of Malcolm on his whiteboard. The cop’s gaze followed. The cop approached the whiteboard and read from Malcolm’s photo. ‘Is that him there…?’ The cop asked. ‘He’s a missing person…?’ He said as a question.
‘Ah, I see.’ The cop said. He held an iPhone to Max. ‘This was on the front passenger seat of the Mazda,’ the cop said. ‘You’ll probably be interested in it.’
The cop held the phone in a disposable glove, loosely sitting in his hand. ‘But it’s not the phone that I thought you would be interested in. Look at this.’ The cop activated the phone. ‘It was unlocked and these were open on the display.’
Max accepted the loose glove and phone and viewed the photos open on the screen. He frowned at the uniform cop. ‘What the hell is this?’
‘There’s about sixty more of them in a hidden folder. The dates go back as far as three months,’ the cop said. ‘Just watch the battery. It’s pretty low…about 5%.’
Max checked the model of iPhone. He heaved open a drawer and removed his phone charger and connected the iPhone to a power socket. ‘Same phone as mine,’ he said.
He rummaged through his top drawer and removed a pencil with an eraser on the end. He used the eraser to slide through the naked photos. ‘These look like they were taken through a bedroom window…’ Max said. He shook a disapproving head. ‘This guy was a primary school Principal…’
‘Looks like your missing school teacher was a sex offender…’ the cop said. ‘D’ya reckon it could have something to do with why he went missing…? Someone caught him…?’
‘Who knows…anything is possible at this stage,’ Max said. ’So this was on the front passenger seat and it was unlocked…? Max said, rubbing a contemplative had across his mouth.
‘Yep. I checked the settings and the phone lock was disabled.’
This anomaly was not lost on Max. A pervert who stored naked photos of his victim on his phone would not disable his phone lock. It was the combination to his safe and he would protect it, and his reputation.
‘Someone unlocked this phone and left it to be found…’ Max said. ‘Which suggests they knew about the photos…’
‘How do you figure?’
Max ignored the question. ‘Where in Maude was the car located?’ Max booted up Google Maps satellite image on his computer.
‘Under heavy foliage just off Steiglitz Road…about fifty metres south of Ingot Road,’ the cop said.
Max followed the directions on his computer screen. ‘Around these trees here?’ Max asked, gesturing to his monitor.’
The cop checked the screen. ‘That’s exactly it…It’s parked under this group of trees here.’
‘OK. Great. Get the Crime Scene team out there to photograph and process the vehicle. When their done, arrange for it to be towed back to our holding garage.’
‘Will do,’ the uniform cop said, then departed the office.
Max lifted the iPhone in the loose glove and examined it. He expected it to be clean, but he would still have to arrange for it to be dusted — no stone left unturned.