assignation in the Marlborough
was sitting in the sun outside Customs House at Circular Quay on Friday
morning when three FA 18s screamed overhead in formation, wingtip to
wingtip, banking sharply towards the east. What the hell were they celebrating,
I wondered. And then I remembered that Hitler had suicided on 30 April
1945. The Third Reich must have capitulated only a few days later, so
this must be VE Day. The war in Europe had ended 54 years ago.
have to play these mental games to keep myself from going crazy during
long stakeouts. Get too engrossed in reading the paper, for example,
and you're liable to miss the moment, blow the job ... blow the job
... blow job. I thought about Alexandra Long and Bob Ellis again and
started to get the giggles. A bunch of young koories, who were shooting
a grab for TV nearby, looked around. I pretended to be laughing at something
in the paper.
time passed. I double-checked the Nikon and scanned the square for any
sign of my targets. The Ellis-Long-Cooper paternity business was turning
out to be a nice little earner.
it wasn't just the Bob Ellis affair. Fat times come along only once
in a blue moon for a cheap detective like me. The Phil Coles imbroglio
had paid off handsomely when I trundled up a sackful of documents to
the Sydney Morning Herald.
on the mobile phone is another thing you can do to kill time and cover
lingering in a public place. You can keep watch and kill the conversation
quickly if the target turns up. The trouble is, it's expensive, so I
normally just pretend to talk to people. I find the more animated you
get, the less people look at you. There's nothing more embarrassing
than a merchant banker gabbling on a mobile phone.
I didn't have to abase myself with these devices because at 11.05 the
mobile rang of its own accord. It was Tommy, calling from somewhere
morning, Tuan Nick", he said, "We have some arrangements now
for the shipment. Can you meet our sales manager to talk with her of
about Sunday night, at Newtown, in a hotel called the Marlborough?"
I gave him the details.
"She will not have trouble recognising you?"
probably be the only old grey possum wearing a trenchcoat", I said.
laughed and hung up.
gave up at on the stakeout at 11.45. It was obvious that neither Carl
Scully nor Alexandra Long were going to turn up. It just was another
lucrative false lead. Fuck these people. Dealing with them is like living
in some dated play by David Williamson while ugly deals are going down
in Timor and people are being done to death with machetes in roadside
ditches and buried in shallow graves.
a quiet Sunday night in the front bar at the Marlborough Hotel is noisy
enough to cover a conversation from all but the most sophisticated of
electronic snooping. The Nightwalkers were playing to a subdued audience
as I sipped a cider, waiting for the "sales manager". When
she arrived I was mildly surprised. She was a worn-looking dark-skinned
Timorese woman of maybe 40, dressed in rumpled off-black, so as to blend
in with the locals.
exchanged codes disguised as pleasantries, and I bought her a beer.
"We have two hundred units and spare parts which must definitely
be delivered next weekend to this address. They are very urgently needed
to cover orders. To catch the client at home it will have to be in the
evening, rather late I'm afraid", she said.
handed me a business card which described her as 'Maria', the sales
manager of an import-export agent specialising in Indonesian teak furniture.
On the back a grid reference was carefully printed in biro, disguised
as a phone number.
nobody's home, we'll just drop them on the porch. Do you have a contact
scribbled a radio frequency under the grid reference.
sure you have a good memory for figures", she said.
went to the toilet, memorised the numbers, burned her card and flushed
the ashes down the toilet bowl.
I went back she was gone. Why did I let myself in for this, I thought.
I'm much too old for this desperate stuff.
in Whispers from the mean streets
-- Best of 1999