The Dunbar Case(10)
Author:Peter Corris

    Call me self-interested, but my first thought was that this gave me something to work with against the Tanner brothers. The mention of Megan and the sly placement of the coke had pissed me off and countering the threat had become my first priority. But I was still working for a client and I next had to consider how this affected Wakefield’s approach to Twizell. I played for time.

    I said, ‘I thought cavers always worked in pairs.’

    ‘They do. That’s another bit of the ... hassle. Johnnie said he went down with a young Pommy backpacker he ran into at a pub. The Pom said he’d done a lot of caving at home and was keen to have a go here. Johnnie said this bloke helped him move the money but apparently he was caught when the cave roof fell in. He’s still in there, buried. That’s another reason they needed Hec and Joseph—to deal with the body.’

    ‘Are they good at that, too?’

    Since she’d described the matter of disposing of a body as nothing more than a hassle, I wasn’t surprised at her reply. ‘I think they’ve had some experience.’

    ‘It’s all very interesting,’ I said. ‘Not sure I believe it, but you seem to. All I can tell you is that it’s the first I’ve heard of hidden money. My business with Twizell relates to something else entirely.’

    ‘Which you won’t tell me about.’

    I shrugged. ‘No, and no need. Nothing remotely to do with what you’ve told me, but I’m left with a question.’

    She was playing with her empty glass, moving it from hand to hand. ‘What question?’

    ‘Suppose I was concerned about hidden money, what was the point of you coming to me?’

    ‘You’re supposed to tell Johnnie bygones are bygones and that they’ll help him in return for a share of the money.’

    ‘They didn’t spell it out quite that clearly, but I suppose that’s what they had in mind, once I’d convinced Twizell they were dinkum.’

    ‘I want to ask you to tell him the opposite—that they’d rip him right off.’


    ‘I don’t want them to have the money.’

    I was getting tired of the question/answer format. ‘Because you want it—you and Rog, say?’

    ‘Forget it.’ She grabbed her coat and took two steps towards the door before I grabbed her.

    ‘Better let me go,’ she said. ‘Roger’s just outside.’

    ‘Let’s have him in.’ I grabbed the .38 and threw the door open. He stood there, big and dark, tense, but not alarmed by the gun. ‘Come in, Rog. We’ve got things to talk about.’

    He ignored that. ‘You all right, Kris?’

    She retreated back into the room. ‘Yeah, he’s an arsehole but he didn’t hurt me.’

    He nodded and came in, shutting the door behind him. His composure threw me a little. I let the hand holding the gun drop to my side but brought it up as he opened his leather jacket.

    ‘Easy,’ he said. ‘I’m not armed. Rod Templeton, Central Coast Serious Crimes, undercover.’

    ‘Oh, yeah.’

    ‘It’s true,’ Kristine Tanner said.

    ‘He’s convinced you. Let’s see him convince me.’

    ‘I can give you some names and numbers.’


    He rattled off three names. One I knew, Ted Power; he’d worked with Frank Parker, my friend who’d retired as a deputy commissioner of police a few years ago. I knew Power had worked undercover in his time and was very likely to be in a supervisory role in that shadowy world now.

    I put the .38 on top of the TV. ‘I’ll check with Ted later. Might as well hear your story now, for what it’s worth.’

    ‘You won’t believe him,’ Kristine Tanner said.

    ‘I might. We’ll see. At least I’m willing to listen. Sit down, Ms Tanner, and Rog ... or Rod, why don’t you bring a chair in from outside.’

    He knew I was testing him all the way—provisional about believing him and giving him instructions. He handled it well, shot a quick nod to the woman, opened the door, grabbed a plastic chair and brought it in.

    I opened the mini-bar and offered one of the little bottles of gin to Kristine, who glanced at her companion and shook her head. I tossed a can of VB to him and picked up my can.

    ‘Let’s hear it,’ I said.

    ~ * ~

    It wasn’t surprising to learn that the Tanners were a major preoccupation of the Central Coast Serious Crimes unit. The father and sons and several cousins were involved in much of the criminal activity over a wide area stretching up towards the Northern Rivers district, west to Orange and south towards Sydney. They were into drug importation and distribution, armed holdup, protection rackets and a lot more. In fact the criminality had extended back two generations and, while several members of the extended family had served gaol sentences, the Tanners had enjoyed what looked like a charmed life,

    ‘Mainly due to police corruption,’ Templeton said. ‘But that’s changed lately and they’re under pressure. And when crims come under pressure things tend to happen. You can’t provide something, you can’t protect someone, you can’t settle a dispute. Cracks appear. You’d be aware of that, Hardy.’

    I was, and with every word he spoke I was more convinced he was the genuine article.

    Templeton went on, ‘Hector and Joseph are in trouble. There’s no green light, not even yellow, and funds are drying up. They badly need that buried money.’

    ‘What about Jobe?’ I said.

    Kristine said, ‘That’s part of what’s happening. Dad’s old and he’s got religion. He was baptised a Catholic and it’s sort of come back to nag at him.’

    I finished my beer. ‘Bit late from what I’m told and from what I’ve just heard.’

    She looked distressed, almost out of her depth. ‘Catholics can be forgiven.’

    ‘Jobe knows the old days are gone,’ Templeton said. ‘Hector and Joseph, him particularly, either can’t see it or don’t want to. Jobe’s trying to ease out of all the crooked connections— the drugs, the payoffs, the money-laundering scams through the clubs. He’s trying to keep himself out of gaol and protect Kristie and save Hector and Joseph from themselves.’

    ‘Big ask,’ I said.

    Templeton hadn’t opened his can. He put it on the floor. ‘When I said cracks are appearing, I meant it. It was much too easy for me to get on the strength with them. I had the mocked-up credentials all right, but if they’d really checked properly they’d have backed off

    ‘Still might,’ I said.

    Kristine looked alarmed but Templeton shook his head. ‘No, they’re feeling the heat. A few of their heavies have sloped off to other parts.’

    I rubbed the arm where he’d hit me. ‘You’re convincing.’

    ‘I had to let them make the play.’

    ‘So what do you want me to do? Always supposing I believe all of this.’

    Kristine looked tired and stressed. ‘Like I said, don’t tell bloody Johnnie that Hector and Joseph are on his side.’

    Templeton shook his head. ‘This is where Kristie and I think differently.’

    ‘What is it between you two?’

    Kristine’s attitude to him, in her looks and body language, which had been wholly supportive, was now half accusatory, half submissive.

    Templeton clasped and unclasped his big hands. ‘Look, Kristie came to us with the story, about Twizell and the money and everything. It made sense.’

    ‘So the money’s real?’

    ‘We think it is.’

    ‘You think.’

    ‘There’s been a rumour around for a while that a big shipment of cash being sent from a finance company to who knows where went missing. The word is that it was an inside job and the security firm hushed everything up and wore it, because they had a huge contract about to come their way and didn’t want any black marks on their record.’

    ‘What about the people who took the money?’

    Templeton shrugged. ‘Don’t know.’

    They hadn’t answered my question about their relationship but it wasn’t too hard to work out by this point. The undercover guy and the informant fall in love. It happens.

    ‘So,’ I said, looking at Templeton, ‘what do you want me to do?’

    ‘Go along with what Hector’s asking you to do.’

    They’d obviously had this out before because Kristine’s voice was resigned. ‘If Hec and Joseph get their hands on that money they’ll bugger up everything Dad’s trying to do. They’ll finance a bloody crime wave.’

    ‘You know Twizell’s got a parole hearing next week?’

    Kristine looked alarmed. ‘You didn’t tell me that.’

    ‘He won’t pass it,’ Templeton said. ‘They never get anything out of the first hearing and we can delay the next one if we have to.’

    Well, I knew something he didn’t know.

    Templeton went on, ‘We won’t let them do what Kristie says. They’ve already started to borrow money and make promises to people you don’t break promises to. If they think they’re close to getting the money, they’ll get themselves in deeper. When they don’t get it, and everyone knows they haven’t got it, they’ll be finished.’

    ‘Ms Tanner,’ I said, ‘have you got a deal with the police about your father?’

    ‘She has,’ Templeton said.

    I looked at Kristine. She nodded. ‘Rod’s way’s safer for Dad and for me.’

    Templeton picked up his beer can and lifted the tab. ‘It’s safer all round.’

    ‘I don’t know about that,’ I said. ‘From what I’ve seen of undercover cops they don’t always know themselves what side they’re on.’

    ‘I know,’ Templeton said.

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