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Tomorrow I Remembered. PART ONE. The Hole. Chapter 7, 8, 9. Sir James Masters. A Peter Stevens book

Dilluns 10 Abril 2017

I was somewhat apprehensive that this interview might be more difficult than the other two. I needn’t have worried. As soon as I walked into the meeting room I got the impression that this was just a formality, and I was correct. I usually am. It was a secret meeting.

It had been explained to me that the press was clamouring for answers. The public was discontented with the ridiculous state of affairs which existed. Three Chief Commissioners in a few short years was not a good look for any government, and they were struggling to maintain the confidence of the people.

“James, welcome aboard,” the premier smiled broadly, but I was astute enough to know that in his mind, I was here to improve his reelection prospects. That was fine with me. I had done my research and during my interviews had made sure that I presented myself as the answer to their policing problems. An increase in violent crime and a new gang war were in the press regularly, and the government was copping the blame. They had inherited a soft community policing approach; worked for a while, like it did back home in England, but really, it just gave a massive opportunity for a new breed of crims to establish themselves. I was successful in helping to fix the English problems. I would be successful here. Next was the Police Minister; a weak character. I worked that out in my initial contact a year or so ago. As long as he remains the minister, then I am in a safe spot. I need to make him look good, and I’m good at doing that. We shook hands, ‘a limp fish if I’ve ever met one,’ I smiled at my thought; he thought it was a thank you smile. This is the sort of occasion one could quite easily sneeze ‘arse hole,’ and everyone would be too polite to think badly of you. This was my third trip to Australia to nail this job, and now it’s mine. Yes! Mine!

“Sir James,” it was the minister again, “we will be making an announcement within a week. Can you arrange to start duty in two weeks?” “No, impossible, I have projects to wind up and handovers to conduct. A month maybe at the best,” I was direct in my answer and it caught him on the back foot. There were some tracks I still had to cover back home, but he didn’t have to know that. “I have some formal engagements too, I can’t just back out of those you know.” “I understand,” the minister sounded a little despondent, “we’ll manage. Our Acting Commissioner is competent; he just doesn’t have the charisma that we need. A few more weeks won’t matter I suppose.” I knew I was boss now. This was my game.

I had the rest of the day free. The elation that comes after a sweet victory is second to none. I was floating. Man! I was in control and I loved that feeling!
A driver had been appointed to show me some houses. I settled on an apartment in Docklands, just a short drive to the Police Headquarters, and close enough to trendy restaurants and clubs.
Later, I thought, I would find somewhere else to use as a hideaway, maybe in the mountains. This was my last opportunity to remain anonymous in this city. I was alone and I needed to celebrate.

Chapter 8. William

It was dimly lit in the bar, and not crowded at all, mid-week. I didn’t frequent these places, it wasn’t my style. I was lonely. It was a month since Larry had left. He is a landscape gardener, I am a psychiatrist, not a good mix. He ended up spending more time walking with his kelpie Bob in the parklands around Docklands than with me. Bob loved to chase the rabbits up under The Bolte and Larry was always talking about it. We grew apart, for the best I think. I saw the man from behind, he was at the bar ordering a drink. Yorkshire accent, tall, well-built. He had the barman melting away with just a few well-chosen words of flattery. As he half-turned towards me, I caught a glimpse of his face. A glimmer of recognition, a skipped heartbeat. ‘No! It couldn’t be!’ My brain scrambled.

The last time I saw him I was twelve. He had finished, rolled me on to my back, looked me in the eye and told me that it was over. He didn’t need me any more. He was getting married to Mary from the next village. He reminded me of the secret that he had told me: that he knew my dad was an embezzler, and warned me never to tell anyone about what we had been doing, week after week for five years. And I went home next door, and pretended everything was alright. But it wasn’t. He scanned the guys and chose me. I needed to run, but I was fixed to the chair. He sat next to me and struck up a fairly lame conversation.

It was him, definitely, just much older, at least sixty. The other side of the world, more than twenty-five years, but my crap-meter told me it was him. I was safe, I knew, he wouldn’t recognize me. My Aussie accent was perfect and my piercings were off-putting enough. I was over six feet. I was thankful that I regularly changed my hair colour, a hangover from my Goth days.
It was a short conversation. He said he was here for a job interview and that he would be back in a month. “I can’t tell you what it is,” he said with more than a touch of smugness, “but you will be seeing a lot of me, it’s a high profile job.” “Well good for you mate,” I said. I had already worked it out. I had followed his career from a distance.

“Here’s my card,” it was an out for me. He wasn’t getting any pleasure from me tonight. “I have to get going, but mate, make contact when you get back, OK?” I made my exit, glancing back to see him studying my card: Dr William Buckland, Forensic Psychiatrist. I was never so glad to have changed my name. Once through the door, the pillars of strength that Liz had helped me build, crumbled. No longer was I crying for myself though, I was crying for the others. I knew I wasn’t the only one.

Chapter 9

“I saw the man last night, Liz,” it was hard to say, and the tremor, even though I tried so hard to control it, was a dead give-away. She immediately assumed the role she had so many years ago, when I was first in her care. She took both my hands in hers and looked me straight in the eyes. “Spill your guts,” she got straight to the point in her customary style. “He was cruising,” I said. “It was all I could do to not launch myself across the table and kill him.” “You know,” she said, “You never told me his name. He still had you under his control. Did he recognize you? Are you sure it was him?” “It was him,” I repeated. “I know,” she said, “I can tell. Now, what are we going to do about it, Billy?”
No-one had called me Billy for decades. In an instant I was back in Mum’s arms. There was blood on the sheets and my pyjama pants. Her finger was drawing invisible circles on my brow, then running down the length of my nose. “It will be alright, Billy,” over and over again. Knowing what I know now, she was trying to convince herself more than me. Dad was there too, looking down at me, trying hard not to cry. “Don’t worry son, no-one will know about this.” The only comfort in his words, was that he wouldn’t ask James next door what to do. He was a policeman.
So the secret stayed with me and Mum and Dad; they thought it was a once-off, they didn’t know it had been happening for five years, and it wasn’t over yet. “When I first met you, you couldn’t even talk about it. It was months before you opened up,” Liz paused for effect, “and even then it was only one tiny bit of information at a time.” She paused again, giving me time to catch up with my thoughts. It crossed my mind that she was once my saviour, then my teacher. She had shown me only tough love. She stood by me when I changed my identity and left England. She had encouraged me to study medicine. She hadn’t changed; she could still read my mind.

I looked at her and smiled, “I owe you my life. Liz, you brought me back from the brink. I was dead and you made me live again.”
“You did all the hard work Billy, and you have one last thing to do now,” Liz was direct, and this one statement cornered me. She was right.

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