stakeout in the night
moon shone weakly through a rainy mist and water started to trickle
across the concrete slab under the milk crate. My tail was wet and my
bum hurt and the dim glow of a distant street lamp was only just enough
to read by.
was Monday night and I was hunkered down in the doorway of a locked
public toilet on the edge of the park. I had a pile of newspapers and
a bottle of cider in a brown paper bag and I was packing death. In both
senses. Some bastard was going around bashing homeless old people to
death in their sleep and the cops had hired me to help with the case.
Something between an undercover job and decoy work.
with the budget cuts, we can't put one of the boys on overtime, but
we can afford to hire you as a 'visioning consultant' -- you know how
it is with the Carr Government", Detective Superintendent "Shag"
me?" I asked.
you're a night animal. Great night vision they say. And if the bastard
does you in, the paper work will be easy. We'll just hand it over to
the Wildlife Service at Hurstville. Gilligan will write you off as a
roadkill". He laughed so much his toupee nearly fell off.
funny, arsehole. What exactly do you want me to do?"
so, we reckon this jerk probably scouts out his turf, studies his victims
before he strikes, so you're watching for some sort of loner, a midnight
jogger maybe. They lock the toilet here at dusk, so you can camp in
the doorway", he stabbed his finger at the big wall map.
your shooter and keep in radio contact. There'll be a patrol car within
a couple of minutes drive 'till 4 am. If we don't hear from you every
five minutes we'll come around".
first I entertained myself listening to Brian Wilshire on my little
derro's radio. His show goes well with long-shot stakeouts. It opens
the mind to every shadow, every movement, every possible coincidence,
but too much of Brian through one earplug and the police two-way through
the other can be dangerous. By 11.30 paranoia was creeping up on me
and I switched to the Saturday Herald.
nearest street light fizzed out at 2.38, so I turned the radio back
on to listen to the amiable Peter Hand.
then I saw a figure in a dark tracksuit on the other side of the park.
He was carrying what appeared to be a white stick in his hand and he
moved furtively from power pole to power pole.
a minute or two he moved out of my field of vision, behind the toilet
block. I called the patrol car and told them to move in discreetly.
Three long minutes went by. Was that the cops I could see a couple of
hundred yards away? Then I heard footsteps over the sound of my heart
banging. My mouth went dry and I clutched the Browning in my right paw,
eased it out of my trenchcoat pocket, and slid it under the newspaper
on my lap.
the man walked back into my field of vision. He was only ten metres
away. Dark hair, dark complexion. He looked fit and dangerous. He stopped
in the shadows and looked at me, then he slipped out of sight behind
a big fig tree. I uncovered the Browning, ready to wave it at him.
came slowly down the street. A couple of patrol cars stopped and the
coppers got out. The man didn't run away. The cops walked over and stood
in the shadows talking to him, then they bundled him into the patrol
car and drove away.
who did you pick up? Anybody interesting?" I asked Pile on Tuesday
it was only Frank Sartor, pasting up election posters", he replied.
"We let him go with a warning. First offence, good character, no
publicity. You wouldn't want Katherine Greiner as Mayor would you?"
was a fine distinction and an ugly choice, but I had to agree with him.
in Whispers from the mean streets
-- Best of 1999