Whodunit #1: Fully Dead
Welcome to the my online Tara Sharp whodunnit which was originally written and posted on the Tara Sharp facebook page. When I wrote it there was still a limit on the amount of text you could put in any one Facebook post, so the story is delivered in numbered entries.
It’s meant to be read in a breathy, shorthand kind of way. 103 posts written over 16 weeks in 2010, none of it planned ahead, simply imagined as if it was happening here and now. Enjoy!
1. A three vanilla slice day. Reasons? Hunger – I had nothing in fridge or cupboard. Consolation – I’m broke and had to borrow $50 from JoBob. Celebration – Nick (gorgeous, NBA tall, but married) Tozzi rang me with a potential job. I – feel – sick!
2. *Yawn* Tired. Met Tozzi tonight at The Cocked Dog. Wanted to rub up against his smooth caramel aura. Would’ve looked too weird though, so settled for conversation. Got introduced to cousin Veno from Sydney. Tozzi wants me to mind Veno for a few days. Haven’t found out why yet. Wish Tozzi didn’t make stupid heart go pitter pat and incey wincey.
3. Why am I awake, you ask? #*@%& (gorgeous)Tozzi rang me at 7am. Said he’d pay me $400.00 per day plus expenses to keep Veno out of trouble for a week.
‘Why,’ I asked?
‘Veno needs to lay low until some things quieten down, Tara.’
‘What things?’ I can be dogged.
‘Things you’re better off not knowing. Be at my place at 10am.’
4. Got to the Tozzi mansion half an hour late due to Mona (beloved HQ Monaro) and me needing fuel. Hers was petrol; mine was a Perky’s chicken pie thanks to JoBob’s rapidly depleting cash. At least there was no Antonia (scary, snobby, cokehead wife) in sight. Arranged to take Veno to the beach, so up early again trying to find swimmers in the walk-in robe (my couch). MUST do washing.
p.s. Edourado (the young and beautiful) called. Date Friday night. I didn’t tell him there’d be three of us.
5. Veno’s a horny little toad. And way too hirsuite to be allowed to take his shirt off in public. He kept wanting to rub sunscreen on me. Only the thought of 400 smackeroonies stopped me from burying him below the tideline. Gotta get changed now. Taking The Toad to dinner. Oh… and Smitty rang. Xavier broke his arm pretending to be Hell Boy. It’s not my fault. Just ‘cos I gave him the movie for xmas…
p.s. I think someone followed us from the beach back to Tozzi’s.
6. Dinner sucked. The Toad hit on the waitress, the woman at the next table and her 13 yo daughter, all while he was trying to rub his shoe up my leg. $400 never came so hard. Tozzi’s gonna owe me for this. Literally. I ordered oysters and wagyu beef on the expense tab.
p.s. The tail followed us to the restaurant in a Hertz hire car. Amateur! Ordinary looking guy. Sat four tables away and pretended to email from his phone. Toad said he’d never seen him before.
7. Kept dreaming about wrestling octopi after dinner with Toad. Going to Hertz this morning, see if I can find out who hired the car that’s been tailing us. Then picking Toad up for a day at the races. Making Bok come with me, so Toad has someone else to grope. That’s what best friends do for each other. Right?
8. Confused the Hertz lady into spilling who hired the white subaru that was tailing us. Guy named Jamie Marriage. Googled him. Came up as a PI from Sydney. Tossing up whether to tell Tozzi yet. His aura was so burning hot when I picked up the Toad for the races, I thought I might melt if I hung around. Toni (cokehead socialite wife) was in the vicinity, so grabbed Toad and skedaddled. You should see my hat!
10. Left Toad with my bestie, Bok, in the Moet tent at the races while I went to the loo. Returned to find Bok surrounded by grrls and Toad gone awol. Frantic search! Found Toad breathing all over a girl in thigh high white (uggh) boots outside the Turf Club. Before I could drag him away her boyfriend came to claim her. Meet Johnny Vogue, aura the colour of pus. Bad-ass big-time gang man in little-time city with maximo grudge against me. Breathe deep,Tara.
11. Vogue spoke one word into his phone, and a moment later Someone grabbed my arm. A thug with ‘I work for Johnny Vogue’ stamped on his forehead. Another one had hold of Toad. They began to edge us away from the door towards the lane. Do I shout or do I fight?
‘Veno darling,’ tinkled an ice-plum voice.
12. Toni (cokehead, socialite) Tozzi strolled up, arm-in arm with a diehard redhead, ahead of a trail of photographers. The thug let go and Johnny Vogue smiled for the cameras. I dragged Toad’s lecherous arse out of there before we both ended up as plankton.
13. Conversation between Toad and I in the car on the way back from the races.
Me: ‘What’s your frickin’ problem with women?’
Me (trying another angle): ‘what did you do in Sydney?’
Toad: ‘nuthin’. Well… I gambled a bit…’
Me: ‘you owe money? who too?’
Toad: ‘No one… well… like… someone…’
Damn his blue eyes, blonde-hair and leery lips. Toad’s in trouble with the mob.
14. My conversation with Tozzi is far less composed.
‘*#&*% enough!’ says I.
‘Calm down, Tara,’ he says back. ‘Look, I’ve nearly got it sorted. Just take him out tonight. Keep him entertained but out of trouble. I’ll give you a bonus and he’ll be out of your hair tomorrow.’
I take a pearl-divers breath and count.
‘You still there?’ asks Tozzi.
‘One more night, Nick. That’s it!’
15. I watched him walk to the toilet door. I did! Should have followed him. Didn’t know anything was amiss ‘til a bunch of girls started screaming. Crowd on the balcony. Pushed through them. Toad there, waving a knife. Bloody strapless white-dress girl at his feet. Dead.
16. I watched him walk to the toilet door. I did! Should have followed him. Didn’t know anything was amiss ‘til a bunch of grls started screaming. Crowd on the balcony. Pushed through them. Toad there, waving a knife. Bloody strapless white-dress grl at his feet. Dead.
17. Cops were there in light-secs. Cravich and Blake, on secondment to city police. Just my luck! I rang Tozzi and we followed the paddy wagon down to Central. They wouldn’t bale Toad on account of it being a murder, and the girl being daughter of the Police Minister. Got out of there after 4am. Tell you more tomorrow.
18. I’ve never seen a dead person before. Not like that. All blood-mess and fresh. And the screaming. Kept waking up with flashes of it. Toad told Cravich and Blake that he followed her out to the balcony, then she just fell back into his arms, knife in her throat. He pulled the blade out on instinct. ‘She was fully dead,’ he kept saying, over and over. ‘But I didn’t do it.’
20. ‘Someone must have seen what happened, T?” I’ll do some asking around,’ I sighed.
He breathed out hard with relief. ‘Thanks. Retainer stays the same. But there’s a bonus, if you can help me.’
‘Forget it,’ I said. ‘It happened on my watch. Just cover expenses.’
He gave me a funny look. ‘Deal.’
21. Toad’s still squealing innocent from jail. Insists the girl fell against him already stabbed. He didn’t see who was near her. It was crowded and he was pissed. Cops are still interviewing witnesses. I’m tailing Cravich and Blake; re-interviewing’ patrons after they go. No luck so far. One guy asked me out. Another set his dog on me. This PI shit verily sucks.
22. No one saw anything! How’s that possible? Tozzi says the cops are going to charge Toad after the weekend. That’s all the time I’ve got left to find out what’s going on. Been digging around about the girl-in-the-white-dress. Lucy Lund, one party girl, likes a snort and a shiver. Her daddy’s got cops crawling over Tozzi’s house after blood.
23. Met Tozzi at Cafe Ole. Told him about the PI that’d been following Toad. Demanded some facts. Learned that Toad owed over a million to a lender in Sydney. Tozzi thinks the lender might have set Toad up. That didn’t make sense to me. With Toad in jail, he’ll never get his money back. Something’s not adding up.
24. Tozzi grabbed my hand, and drew tiny, sensuous circles in my palm. He looked so worried, and so delectable that I wanted to lean across the table and fix my mouth to his. Then I noticed his aura flickering. He was lying about something and hiding it with distraction.
25. Did another call-by on the witnesses. No luck again but I spotted the Sydney PI, Jamie Marriage, as I was leaving one of the houses. Scooted ’round the block and snuck up on him. Open window, so I grabbed his car keys as he bit into his Maccas. Burger and sauce spilled all over his pants and mobile.
26. I walked around and jumped in the passenger seat. Pulled my fake Taser (courtesy of Smitty’s kids policeman’s showbag) and barked, ‘That stuff’ll kill you!’
27. PI Jamie wouldn’t tell me who he was working for, only that it wasn’t a money lender. We gabbed a bit and he gave me his mobile number. We figured we might be able to help each other, if I put the Taser back in my handbag.
28. ‘Why are you staking out the witnesses’, I asked, as I slipped my lethal toy away.
‘My client doesn’t want Veno to go to jail,’ he said.
‘Oh.’ I left more confused than before, and headed for the lock-up. Veno had to be able to tell me something that would help.
29. I itemised possibilities as Mona growled her way down the highway. 1. Veno was in the wrong place at the wrong time. 2. Veno was set up. If 2 then by who? 1. The Money Lender 2. The PI Jamie’s client 3. Johnny Vogue (Viaspa) – long shot, but he was pissed that Veno hit on his girl. And Veno was in my company. 4. Unkown
30. Veno says he remembers being surrounded by women only on the balcony. The girl-in-the-white-dress, Lucy Lund, had her back to him, talking to someone. He couldn’t see who. He walked up and squeezed Lucy’s arse. Then she collapsed back against him, knife in her. That’s all.
31. ‘So the killer’s got to be female then,’ I said. He gave me a pitiful smile. ‘Fully ironic, huh?’ Fully deserved, is what I thought. But I kept that to myself.
32. Here’s the thing… Veno’s aura was a steady mellow yellow, no quivering, spasms, or streaks of other colours. In my book, (and according to Mr Hara’s manual) that meant he was telling the truth. The only one I’d talked to so far that seemed to be lying, was Nick Tozzi.
33. That didn’t make sense either. Nick wanted me to save Veno from jail – why would he lie to me? Or did he? I left Veno and drove home. The birds were screeching in their Versace cage, so I let them out on the lawn and went over everything again while I watched them grub for roots.
34. The birds got bored soon and crawled over me, vie-ing for attention. I marveled at how much they looked alike to everyone else, but to me they were so distinctly different. Brains had a smaller head and her feathers weren’t as glossy. Bono had a sharp, white beak and walked more proudly. Then it struck me. Veno looked nothing like Nick. I flipped the birds onto my shoulder and hurried into my flat.
35. I did something that I should have done at the start… I googled Veno Tozzi… and came up with zip. I slapped myself across the head. How stupid am I? Veno had blonde hair and blue eyes, and a pain-in-the-arse attitude just like Ms Antonia-Hoity-Tozzi.
36. The name ‘Veno Vincent’ came back with 12k of hits. The Toad was Antonia’s (Toni’s) cousin, not Nicks.
37. I rang Tozzi straight away.
‘Why did you lie?’ I demanded.
He didn’t even ask who it was. ‘I wanted to see how long it would take you to work it out. And…’
I waited. ‘Well, I thought you’d object to babysitting him if you knew he was Toni’s relative,’ he finished.
38. I took a deep, deep, DEEP breath. ‘You’re freaking right I would have. Crap, Nick. Now the guy’s on a murder charge. And I’m looking in all the wrong corners.’
39. I had one of those moments . . . when the guy you’ve been so hot for suddenly develops feet of clay (or warts and bad breath). I wanted to smack Tozzi around the ears for playing with me but he wasn’t in the room, and I had other things to do.
‘I have some questions, and *this time* you better answer them honestly.’
40. When I got through with Tozzi, I rang PI Marriage.
‘You’re working for Veno’s girlfriend, making sure the money lenders don’t rough him up.’
Marriage was silent, then he sighed. ‘Yeah. But I didn’t say that.’
I grinned at my phone. ‘Lemme buy you a coffee,’ I said. ‘Why not,’ he said. ‘Veno’s not going anywhere.’
41. ‘How did you find out who I was working for?’ Marriage asked me.
‘I asked the right questions,’ I said.
He nodded into his long black. He looked a bit rough around the edges; red eyed and sallow. ‘When’s the last time you slept in a bed?’ I asked.
He perked up. ‘You offering?’
42. I took the last cupcake and licked the icing first.
‘No. So if Veno’s girlfriend didn’t set him up for murder, and the money lender’s want him alive, who does that leave?’
Marriage shrugged. ‘I’ve tailed every single witness. Even followed Nick Tozzi for a bit. Nuthin’.’
44. It came by way of a floaty Alannah Hill shift. Who could afford such things, I wondered enviously, as its wearer wafted by leaving a trail of expensive scent.
‘Antonia!’ I said. ‘Have you followed her?’
Marriage stared at me blankly. ‘Why would I?’
‘She’s his cousin. He came to her for help.’
45. On the way to the Tozzi mansion, PI Marriage drove-through Perky’s Pies and grabbed two steak and mushroom and two caramel creams. We staked out Devil’s Elbow and the Tozzi back lane and waited in food-heaven silence.
46. Antonia left the mansion about 10pm, right about the time I thought my bladder might burst and, coincidentally, the moment I though I couldn’t stand another moment of PI small talk.
‘Lemme drive,’ I said, remembering his appalling tailing technique.
He shook his head. ‘Your name’s not on the lease.’
47. We followed Antonia down the H’way to a discrete building behind a BP station.
‘Rehab meeting,’ I said, recognising the stucco and red-tiled home.
As Jamie settled in for another wait, I took to the back lane looking for a place to pee.
48. Nice dark spot, next to a wire fence, view through to the stucco house. Knickers ’round my ankles when the back door opened. Antonia Tozzi on the verandah smoking, staring in my direction. I eased my knickers back up and tried to look like a fencepost.
49. Worse then, car turning into the lane. Antonia turned to watch it coming and I performed a movement worthy of an 11yo gymnast. Leapt the fence, landing in a vege patch. Tomato plants. Yeuch.
50. Split tomatoes all over the arse of my best jeans seemed meaningless when I saw who got out of the car. Johnny Vogue. Antonia slipped off the verandah and ran down to the fence. They barely spoke. He just handed her a packet and got back into the car.
51. When the car left the alley and Antonia disappeared back inside, I hightailed it back to PI Jamie.
‘Did you see that?’ I puffed.
‘See what?’ ‘That statesman!’ ‘Oh, yeah, he said. ‘Nice model. Been wishing I could afford one for years.’
‘N-not the f-freaking model,’ I spluttered. ‘That was Johnny Vogue. Antonia’s buying drugs from him in the alley of the rehab centre.’
52. ‘Ballsy?!’ he noted.
I stomped around to his side and reefed him out of the drivers seat.
‘Get in the other side,’ I said. ‘I’m driving!’
Jamie didn’t utter a squeak as we careered in the direction Johnny Vogue had headed. I caught the Statesman on the highway near Perky’s Pies, and dropped back a length or two until there were a couple of cars between us.
53. Ten minutes later we were parked out the front of Coke Road, Johnny Vogue’s mansion. I’d been to party there once and gotten caught in a drug bust. If it hadn’t been for a friendly female cop, I’d have been strip-searched by Constable’s Cravich and Blake. I still had nightmares about Coke Road.
54. ‘You seem edgy,’ said PI Jamie.
‘You think?’ I couldn’t help the sarcasm, being in the vicinity of Johnny Vogue made me nasty. ‘I’m going for a snoop. Give me fifteen minutes. If I’m not back ring this person.’ I gave him Constable Fiona Bligh’s mobile number. ‘Tell her I… we think that Johnny Vogue’s involved in Lucy Lund’s murder. And that I’ve gone inside Coke Road and haven’t returned.’
55. ‘Is that really wise?’ said PI Jamie. He was the one looking edgy now. ‘Going in there, I mean. Isn’t he… like… a gang lord?’
‘I’m not going *inside*. I just need to check a coupla things.’
PI Jamie reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a Taser. ‘I’d feel better if you took this.’
I took it and wedged into the band of my jeans. ‘Don’t mind if I do!’
56. I knew the layout of Coke Road on account-of-having-gone-to-the-loo-there-once-and-snooping-around. Crawled past the bay windows of the lounge, ditto the kitchen, and found my way to the patio outside Vogue’s office.
57. Crouched amongst a huge jasmine creeper, I called Wall Grominsky – ex-roadie and 80’s tragic and my current bodyguard-for-hire. I was twice his size but he had guns.
‘Wal,’ I said. ‘I think I need back up. Where are you?’
58. He took a few moments to answer. ‘Hairdresser,’ he said, sheepishly.
‘What?!’ I spluttered.
‘I know.’ He sounded miserable. ‘Liv made me do it.’
Liv was my bohemian aunt – but that’s a story for another time.
‘Can you come now?’ I asked. ‘I’m in a jasmine bush at Coke Road.’
He gave a happy snort. ‘You betcha!’
59. I sucked in a lungful of Jasmine and duck-waddled across the paving to the French doors. Open. You gotta love Perth! Nobody locked their doors before going to bed. I slid in next to a wall unit and wondered what to do next. There had to be something in here that’d tie Vogue to Lund’s murder.
60. Desk. Computer. Drawers. I created a list and an order. Go!
61. Sweaty fingers, legs shaking I rifled though the desk. Nothing. I skirted the room and scanned the bookshelves, ‘Get Rich Quick for Dummies’ and Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ – not sure which one worried me more.
‘Oi,’ whispered a voice.
PI Marriage in the jasmine bush. I made furious signals at him to go back to the car but they were cut short but the door opening.
62. Seems I needed to work on my signing. Next thing he was crouched next to me behind a leather armchair.
‘What bit of *that* don’t you understand,’ I said, making get-out-of-here gestures.
63. ‘Shh,’ whispered Marriage.
We listened. Voices in the corridor, getting closer. The door to the study flung open and I pressed so hard against Marriage, I might as well have been ironing him.
64. For some reason the smell of salami on his breath filled me with an insane desire to giggle. Seeing my nervous reaction, he eyeballed me. That made it worse and I bit my finger to stop a guffaw escaping.
65. Two men entered the room. Johnny Vogue and piece of muscled meat.
‘You found her?,’ asked Vogue as he settled at his desk. ‘We think she’s in the Riverview apartments in Crawley, boss. Been watching it. You want us to do something?’
66. From the sliver of view I had of his desk, I watched Johnny Vogue pick up a biro and chew the end. After a moment he slammed it down.
‘Filthy bitch,’ he said. ‘This is my turf.’ he stared up at his muscle man. ‘Get rid of her.’
67. Vogue unlocked a desk draw from a key on a chain around his neck. He handed his goon a wad of cash.
‘Should be enough to get the job done.’ He re-locked the desk and got up. ‘I’ve got a kids party to go to. Magician’s and stuff. Let me know when it’s done.’
They walked out of the room, leaving Jamie and I squeezing each others hands.
68. ‘But we don’t even know who he meant. This might have nothing to do with Veno.’ Jamie protested in a whisper.
I stared at him. ‘Someone’s about to be killed. I’m calling the cops.’
He let out a breath of relief. ‘Well that’s the most sensible thing you’ve said since we met.’
69. Somewhere between the jasmine bush and the car we collected Wal Grominsky creeping about. My ex-roadie, current narcoleptic security chief was dressed all in black and palming a knife.
‘Put it away,’ I whispered. ‘Places to go.’
70. I took the back streets to Crawley in Bathhurst style, flat out on the straight, and flat out in the corners. PI Marriage speed-dialled Constable Bligh under my instruction, and held my phone to my ear. I told her the score in jerky phrases, which also brought Wal up to speed.
‘Where are you now?’ Bligh asked.
‘About to cross into Kings Park,’ I was panting from tension.
71. ‘Sharp, DON”T enter the building. I repeat myself, DON’T ENTER THE BUILDING! I’ll send the duty boys past to have a look.’
I made a strangled noise. ‘Have a LOOK! What? At the dead body? This is serious, Bligh. Someone’s going to be killed.’
72. ‘Who?’ Bligh’s voice was dead calm, forcing me to think.
‘Maybe it’s one of the witnesses from the club where Lucy Lund was murdered,’ I said. ‘None of them were listed as living at that address. Tell me EXACTLY what Viaspa said.’ I went through it again, panting a little less.
‘Tara, LISTEN to me. Park your car now and go no closer. I’ll be there as soon as I can pick up Bill.’ Bligh hung up abruptly.
‘What did the cop say?’ Marriage’s face was ghoul-pale and anxious under the street fluoros.
‘She said to proceed with caution.’
74. Wal leaned across from the back seat and waved his pistol under our noses. ‘Lemme introduce you to Mistress Caution.’
75. ‘Jees, Wal,’ I said. ‘Put it away before you scare someone.’
He shrugged and slipped it in the inside pocket of his coat. We hunkered down and watched. Within minutes a dark blue statesman cruised the block and pulled up around the corner. Two guys with ponytails got out, both headed for the stairwell entry. Their coats were like Wal’s; bulky enough to hide a weapon.
76. My stomach shrivelled into a prune and buried itself under my bladder. I had a sudden and profound change of heart. ‘Wal, come with me. And bring Ms Caution.’
77. ‘No!’ said PI Marriage. ‘The cop said to wait.’
78. ‘What? ‘Til she’s dead?’ I shook my head. ‘Uh-uh. You talk to the cops when they come. Tell them what we’ve seen and heard.’ I was out of the car and at the stairwell entrance in a flash.
Wal chased me. ‘Jees, you’re quick,’ he puffed.
79. ‘I’m a runner,’ I said. ‘Shhh.’ I cracked open the door and looked up. Caught a glimpse of trouser legs three floors up and heard light footsteps. The footsteps stopped and a door squeaked. I turned my head to Wal.
‘Third floor. I’ll go this way. You take the lift.’
80. I reached the 3rd floor as Johnny Vogue’s men were half way down the corridor. They stopped outside a door and knocked. One of them reached inside his coat. Crap! They were going to kill her when she answered. No time to think. I grabbed the fire extinguisher from the stair well wall. As the door opened I hurtled down upon them and brained one with a well aimed throw.
81. The other guy pulled pistol on me as I baseball slid beneath his feet. We went down together and I wrestled him for the gun. He was as big as me and stronger so I played my only card. A violent and well placed knee to the groin.
82. He screamed and his fingers slackened on the weapon, enough for me to prise it from his grasp. I pointed at him with shaking hands.
‘It’s OK,’ I said to the young woman in the doorway. ‘The police are coming.’
83. ‘Police?’ she said. I glanced up at her. Snappy dresser, executive type without a hint of fear in her face. Somehow that seemed pretty wrong right now. I, for one, wanted to puke from nerves.
‘Who in f***’s name are you?’ she said, ungratefully.
84. ‘I’m Tara. These guys were going to kill you.’
The ungrateful Snappy Dresser took a step closer and rammed her sharply pointed shoe into the man’s throat. He began to gag.
‘Are you working for Viaspa?’ It didn’t take many stabs from her stiletto to get a nod from him.
85. ‘Shit.’ She ran back into her room and swept some things into a bag from a table. In the time it took me to get to my feet, she was out the door and headed down the corridor. The lift chimed as she got close, so she changed direction scooting into the stair well.
Wal dashed out of the lift and ran to help me. ‘You ok?’ he asked, as he took the pistol.
I gave him a dazed stare. ‘What the hell just happened?’
86. The lift pinged open again before Wal could answer: two uniforms with pistols out and tense expressions. Shouts and footsteps echoed up the stair well. ‘Put the gun down’ roared one of the cops. Wal did as he said and spread-eagled against the wall without being asked. I put my hands up but my mouth went into overdrive.
87. I was still blathering explanations when Constables Fiona Bligh and Bill Barnes huffed up the corridor. Bligh took one sweep of the situation and radioed for an ambulance.
Then she dragged me aside. ‘Tara, stop chattering and tell what she looked like?’ ‘Who? The woman in the apartment?’
88. Bligh sucked in a deep and impatient breath. Her face was flushed and sweaty from the run up the stairs.
‘Yes.’ I gave her a detailed description, down to the brand of the stilettos.
89. She grabbed my arm and squeezed. ‘Where did she go?’ I didn’t like the pressure but she looked rattled.
‘Down the stairs. Why? Who is she?’ I asked.
‘They call her Lady Venom. She’s a contract killer.’ My mouth did the fish thing for a second or two while Bligh barked some instructions into her radio. ‘We think she did the hit on Lucy Lund,’ she explained.
90. I wet my lips. ‘But What about these guys?’
She shrugged. ‘Seems like Vogue had business with her too.’
91. ‘You mean that I just saved a killer from being killed?’ I wailed.
‘Tara,’ said Bligh, ‘Get in your car and go home. We’ll talk later.’ This time I nodded obediently.
92. Wal, PI Marriage and I swapped theories all the way home. But it wasn’t ’til Bligh and Barnes turned up at Lilac Street three hours later that we knew for sure.
93. Bligh and I took a tour of JoBob’s garden while Barnes and Marriage swapped Melbourne stories. Wal was asleep.
94. ‘This is off the record Sharp. But I know that you want let it rest until you’ve got some answers.’ I waited while she broke the stem of an agapanthus and absent-mindedly sniffed the flower.
95. ‘Veno Vincent owes a lot of money to a lender in Melbourne,’ she said.
‘So it is them!’ I cried.
Bligh gave me a stern look. ‘Wait and listen. We think his debt and reputation as a ladies man didn’t appeal much to his prospective in-laws. Seems they hired Lady Venom to set him up for a murder rap. Put him away long enough that his lady-love would grow tired of waiting.’
96. I thought for a moment. ‘So Veno’s intended family hired a contract killer to set him up, but unknown to them his girlfriend – their daughter – hired PI Marriage to keep an eye on him.’
Bligh nodded. ‘Looks like the parents knew what they were doing.’
97. ‘Can you prove it?’ I asked.
She shook her head. ‘Not yet.’
‘What about Johnny Viaspa?’ I tried to keep the wishfulness from my voice.
‘He had other scores to settle with Lady Venom. You just lucked on it.’
98. I kicked at a rock in the border around the hydrangeas. ‘Crap.’
98. Part of me so wanted Viaspa to be responsible for Lucy Lund’s murder. As it stood, he wasn’t, and no doubt the cops wouldn’t be able to pin anything on him this time either. I felt like an idiot.
99. Bligh gave me a tight nod. ‘Yeah, you are.’ As if she knew what I was thinking. ‘I better get going. Bill will take a full statement from you.’
100. ‘What about Veno?’ I asked her.
‘It’ll go to trial. I expect Tozzi’s lawyer will get him off on ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’
My shoulders sagged as I anticipated my next conversation with Nick Tozzi.
101. In the end, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Tozzi heard me out in a distracted kinda way. My guess was he’d worked out the Antonia was back on the gear. I don’t think he actually cared too much for Veno, he was just doing his wife a favour, trying to get the little toad off the hook. From what Bligh had said, it sounded like he’d be acquitted anyway. So maybe I hadn’t made things that much worse.
102. Tozzi transferred money into my account and I didn’t send it back. I’d had a couple of near misses with Johnny Vogue and Lady Venom could have taken a pot shot as well. Come to think of it, I knew what she looked like. That couldn’t be a good thing.
103. After we dropped PI Marriage at the airport, I took Wal out for beer and pizza. He fell asleep after the beer, so I ate his share. I was getting deeper into a side of life I didn’t like or want to know about, but I now had enough money to buy petrol and phone credit and… a family size double cheese and pepperoni. You gotta look on the bright side.
Keep checking back to the website where we’ll announce the next whodunnit!