Breaking Point

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Chapter 18

The next morning Fife was marched screaming into the Kingscliff Magistrates Court, charged with possession of an illegal drug. Creed and the team also wanted to pin the Ferguson murder on him but their evidence was light. Fife would be kept in custody for a while longer before the Magistrate passed sentencing for his drug conviction, which hopefully was enough time for Creed to cement his case.

Creed called a quick meeting with the team, advising them of the conviction for Fife on drug charges. Boston-Wright was publically congratulated for her hard work on the case, although she didn’t fully accept it. Creed had given her enough bollockings over the past few weeks that she was close to quitting. However, it was nice to hear something positive from Creed. Creed retired to his office, calling Boston-Wright in and motioning for her to close the door.

“I meant what I said out there. You have contributed well to the team. I can be a cranky old bastard at times but I usually have people’s best interests in mind,” Creed said his voice adding weight.

“Thank you, sir. I do appreciate it,” Boston-Wright replied.

“Now one other thing; we did get a trace on your prank call. It came from Talbot’s place.”

“Hmm, so Mrs. Talbot turning up with a newspaper article was no coincidence then,” Boston-Wright remarked.

“No. It appears not. I’ve decided to put a permanent tap on your home phone until this whole thing is cleaned up. I suggest you don’t answer unidentified calls from your mobile at night. I’m also going to have the boys do hourly drive-bys at night as well. We can’t be too careful.”

“What about the budget, sir?”

“Fuck the budget, Boston-Wright. We have a police officer’s life possibly in jeopardy and no officer is getting killed on my watch. O’Halloran can shove that in his pipe and smoke it,” Creed let off with gusto. Boston-Wright appreciated Creed’s concern. Maybe she was making inroads after all.

The van from Nerang Correctional arrived at around 2pm and Fife was brought into the interview room via the rear of the station. He looked remarkably well, although the orange prison overalls weren’t flattering. A good night sleep, a clean shave and a meal seemed to have done wonders for him.

Creed and Boston-Wright entered the interview room, sitting down opposite Fife, who was still restrained with handcuffs. As Creed introduced Boston-Wright to Fife and his new legal aid solicitor, since the last couldn’t handle the case any further, Creed ordered the constable to remove Fife’s handcuffs. Fife shook his wrists, rubbing them to get the blood flowing more freely and showed his appreciation by nodding to Creed.

“Where’s your other cranky mate? This one is a lot better on the eye though,” Fife commented, giving Boston-Wright his best smile, although his missing side tooth didn’t make it flawless. Boston-Wright wondered to herself how losers seem to gravitate toward her. She took a deep breath, looked down and then to Creed to start the interview.

Creed referred back to his notes from the day earlier, getting Fife to go over the same story just in case some vital points aired themselves from Fife’s loose flowing lips.

“One thing that did stick in my mind was Mrs. Talbot,” Fife recalled, drawing on his cigarette.

“How so?” Boston-Wright asked.

“She looked like she had just seen a ghost. She was as white as a sheet when the coppers cordoned the place off.”

“I suppose she was horrified by the news of Ms. Ferguson’s death,” Boston-Wright added. “Where was Mr. Talbot? Wasn’t he comforting her?” Boston-Wright asked.

“No, I saw the old prick at Woolworths in Cabarita Beach about 15 minutes earlier,” Fife replied, breaking out into a sweat and lightly puffing and blowing. Creed asked if he was okay.

“Just the booze, brother. Haven’t had a drink for a couple of days. Really need one about now,” Fife commented, his hands starting to shake.

Creed wound up the interview, deciding it would be best to send Fife back to Nerang. No new startling evidence had come forward from their chat.

“Strange Mr. Talbot wasn’t around, Jack, but Fife just happened to turn up when the body was found,” Boston-Wright commented to Creed.

“Not really. Darlene Ferguson had been dead for over five hours before her body was found. Mick Talbot is still in my frame,” Creed responded as he walked back into his office, wondering what tonight was going to bring.

As Jo said her goodbyes to the team, Pratt walked in and gave his update to Creed. Talbot had spent most of the day home except for a mid-morning walk to the newsagent to grab the daily paper. Mrs. Talbot was seen hanging out her washing at around 1.30pm. Creed reminded Pratt to ensure the patrol boys passed Jo’s house regularly.

“Who’s on tonight?” Creed asked.

“Thomas and Benson,” Pratt replied, looking at the roster. “Good lads,” he said, giving Creed an assuring nod.

Boston-Wright called into the supermarket to grab some essentials for an easy-to-cook dinner. Jamie Oliver’s butterfly chicken breast in lemon and thyme seemed right up her alley; 45 minutes in the oven and a garden salad and dinner would be served.

As Boston-Wright packed her groceries into the boot of her car, her mobile rang. She pressed the green button, cocked the phone between her chin and shoulder, and placed the bags carefully in the boot, tying the handles so the groceries wouldn’t spill.

“Hello,” Boston-Wright said with a sigh as she lifted the heavy bags off the car park floor into her car. There was no answer. She released the grocery bags and viewed her phone. It read, ‘No Caller ID.’

“Hello? Hello?” she repeated in a louder tone.

“Oh, Detective Boston-Wright, it’s me,” the old male voice responded. Boston-Wright knew exactly who this was, but how did he get her mobile phone number?

“Mr. Talbot, why are you calling me?” Boston-Wright asked, her heart racing a million miles an hour. She rubbed her chest, trying to calm herself.

“I just thought I’d see how your case was coming along?” Talbot asked.

“Mr. Talbot, you know I can’t discuss a case I’m working on.”

“Oh, it’s okay to question me, but you’re not willing to share anything back?” Talbot fired in an annoyed, almost boyish tone. “The papers say you’ve arrested somebody?”

“Yes, that’s right, but I can’t discuss it any further,” Boston-Wright replied.

“Is it that Fife chap I told you about?” Talbot enquired.

“Yes but that’s all I can say. I must go,” Boston-Wright said.

“Okay, Detective Boston-Wright. Woolworths can be a busy place at night,” Talbot said as he hung up.

Boston-Wright hit the hang up button on her mobile as she nervously looked around, scrolling through her contacts for the Kingscliff Station number. How did he know she was at Woolworths? Lucky guess? She could have been at Aldi.

Pratt answered the phone at the station. Boston-Wright asked for Creed without the obligatory hello. He could tell it was serious.

“He’s gone home. Try his mobile. Everything okay?”

“Talbot just phoned me on my mobile. It’s freaked me out. How did he get my number? I need to get hold of Creed,” Boston-Wright said with a shaky voice.

“Stay put. I’ll call his mobile. Just stay calm. I’ll call you back,” Pratt replied, trying to give Boston-Wright some assurance that everything would be okay, although his voice didn’t actually reek of confidence.

Greg Pratt momentarily became Boston-Wright’s father figure and feverishly rang for Creed without luck. Creed always picked up; why not tonight? Not sure what to do, he telephoned Boston-Wright and gave her Creed’s address.

“Get yourself over to Creed’s place and let him know what’s going on. I’ll contact the patrol boys to be extra diligent tonight.

Boston-Wright pressed the buzzer for Unit 1 at the Seaview Motel. It was a modest establishment with great views over Cabarita Beach to the ocean. She unwittingly left her finger on the button longer than normal. The security door clicked open and Boston-Wright climbed the stairs to the first floor apartment. The door was slightly ajar as Boston-Wright knocked and walked in, hoping not to be confronted by any surprises of Creed in a bath towel.

A young 20-something blond girl wearing just a bathrobe, her hair tied up into a bun with a towel greeted her and showed her through the kitchen onto the balcony. The apartment was tiny, magazines tossed on the coffee table and dishes stacked in the sink.

The young girl called out to Creed. “You have a visitor,” she shouted toward the closed bedroom. Boston-Wright didn’t know where to look. She felt awkward walking in on Creed’s private life. Boston-Wright smiled at the girl, finding it hard to believe Jack could be so unfaithful to his wife, although she could understand if he was.

“Who is it?” Creed’s booming voice came through the bedroom door.

“What’s your name?” the young girl asked.

“Jo Boston-Wright,” she replied, still having difficulties coming to grips with what she had just walked in on.

The bedroom door flung open, almost coming off its hinges. “Boston-Wright! What are you doing here?” Creed bellowed. Before she could answer, the young girl spoke.

“Dad, that’s not a nice way to speak to a work colleague,” and with that Melissa walked back through the apartment to the bathroom to dry her hair.

Creed nodded his head and sat down at the outdoor setting. His bathrobe was frayed on the lapels and could do with a good soaking in Oxyfresh. His white slides weren’t much better, obviously stolen from a 5 star hotel a long time ago. The ‘S’ insignia was a dead giveaway.

“Talbot phoned me while I was shopping at Woolies,” Boston-Wright explained. “It freaked me out. I thought he must have been watching me.”

“What did he want?” Creed asked with his business head on, not showing one ounce of interest in how Boston-Wright was feeling. She was clearly rattled.

Boston-Wright explained that Talbot was basically after an update. She reiterated that Pratt had mentioned this was something serial killers did; they wanted to revel in every detail of a case.

“We’ve got him rattled,” Creed chimed in. “Go home but don’t answer your mobile. He knows you will be home. He’ll ring you. Make him do it on the house phone. We have it tapped.”

Boston-Wright checked that every window was locked, then doubled checked just to be sure. This had been her home since she was a child. It was the one place where she felt safe, but not anymore. Every creak or rattle unnerved her. She had the place lit up like a Christmas tree.

Boston-Wright paced around like a cat on the hunt. Her appetite for dinner was completely gone; adrenalin was fueling her now. Her mobile rang. She almost jumped out of her skin. It had been set to receive nine rings before going to voicemail. They seemed to take forever. She stood over the phone on the kitchen benchtop looking at the screen. There was no caller ID showing. It must be Talbot. Even telemarketers don’t work this late.

The mobile rang another three times. Boston-Wright gripped her top, looking at the screen and hoping it would stop. She was being driven to the point that she just wanted to pick it up. Her left hand hovered over the phone and then it stopped ringing. Boston-Wright felt immediate relief but still was none the wiser as to who had been ringing.

The house phone rang. She took a deep breath. After her third breath, she picked up the receiver.

“Hello?” she asked timidly.

“Hi, Jo, it’s just Mick Talbot again. Don’t you answer your mobile at night?” he asked.

“It’s been playing up, Mr. Talbot. Something’s wrong with the battery. How can I help you?” Boston-Wright asked.

“Have you eaten?” Talbot enquired.

“Yes, just had something light,” Boston-Wright replied.

“Kay’s made up a great beef stroganoff. Thought I might drop it off,” Talbot said.

“No, that’s okay. I’m sure it’s great. Perhaps another time.”

“It’ll be better than that slop Fife will be eating tonight,” Talbot went on.

“I guess so but I’m really tired and need an early night, Mr. Talbot.”

“Did you charge him with the murders yet?”

“We are looking into it. We got him on the drug charges,” Boston-Wright responded, hesitating to carry on. “You know I can’t discuss the case, Mr. Talbot.”

“Oh come on, Detective. Fife is as guilty as sin,” Talbot bounced back, a tone of annoyance entering his voice.

“He’s pretty smart. He’s hired himself a top notch lawyer from Sydney.”

“Smart? Fife? He’s as dumb as dog shit,” Talbot said, raising his voice. “My Kay can’t stand him either. Says he’s a creep. Undresses you with his eyes, she says.”

There was a knock at the door. Boston-Wright felt relief that she had company but not wanting Talbot to go either so the call could be recorded longer, she invited him to stay on the line while she answered the door.

“Coming,” Boston-Wright screamed out as she approached the door. Even though her heartbeat was still pounding in her chest from her call, she put on her best Oscar winning smile as she opened it.

“Evening, Jo,” the guest said, pushing past her as he entered the lounge.

“Mr. Talbot, what are you doing here?” Boston-Wright said with astonishment, thinking it was one of her fellow officers who had been knocking.

“I brought you the beef stroganoff,” he said as he placed the warm container on a chopping board on the kitchen bench.

Boston-Wright unlatched the deadlock and closed the front door. She quickly scampered down the hallway to the kitchen, not wanting Talbot to get out of sight. Mick Talbot noticing the receiver was off the hook on the benchtop, replaced it back in its cradle and thereby cutting Pratt off from listening in on the conversation.

Pratt immediately telephoned Creed, telling him that Talbot was inside Boston-Wright’s house. Thomas had apparently stuffed up and missed Talbot leaving. The surveillance team was at least forty minutes away as they had been called to a pub brawl between two rival bikie gangs in Byron Bay. Creed, wearing just his tracky daks and a t-shirt, descended from his flat two steps at a time and quickly hightailed it to Boston-Wright’s place.

Boston-Wright was uncomfortable. Her heart was almost bursting through her chest, her hands clammy and wet. She noticed Talbot had replaced the phone receiver; her lifeline to the outside world was now cut. She was hoping the surveillance team would come by soon and notice Talbot’s car, but little did she know that wasn’t going to happen.

“We couldn’t have you not eating well, especially since you’ve solved the case,” Talbot said, his voice cold and creepy.

“Thank you, Mr. Talbot, but you can’t stay,” Boston-Wright responded.

“I’ll only stay for a minute. Aren’t you going to offer me a coffee after my drive down here?”

“Mr. Talbot, you really must leave,” Boston-Wright said, raising her voice as she walked backwards into the kitchen, the knife block just in vision from her right eye.

The front door swung open, its back hitting the umbrella stand, almost knocking it over.

“Jo, it’s Jack,” Creed said as he strode down the hallway to the kitchen. The relief on Jo’s face was priceless.

“Mr. Talbot, what are you doing here?” Creed demanded, cutting him a stern look.

“Just dropped off a stew for Detective Boston-Wright. It’s getting late. I must be off.” Talbot brushed past Creed on his way to the front door. The sound of the Toyota Land Cruiser leaving her property calmed Boston-Wright’s nerves and immediately brought some color back to her cheeks.

“What the fuck are you doing, Boston-Wright? You allowed Talbot into your house. Are you completely nuts?” Creed barked. “Put the kettle on and grab me a pillow and blanket. I’m sleeping here on the sofa tonight.”

Boston-Wright stormed down the hallway to the linen closet and retrieved a spare blanket and pillow. She was seething under her breath that once again Creed hadn’t asked her how she was but rather highlighted the mistakes she had made. Her grip on the pillow tightened as she entered the lounge visualizing it was Creed’s head she was crushing.

Boston-Wright tossed the pillow and blanket at Creed and headed to her bedroom, closing the door with a spiteful, “Good night.” But she was glad he was in the house.

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