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A DOZEN REASONS


a dozen reasons

When the body of Benny Hardy is found on the   Flinders Golf course with what appears to be a small bullet hole in his chest, Senior Inspector Adam Baron heads the investigation.

Benny is the owner of The European Jewellers, a shop in South Melbourne far away from the Mornington Peninsula.

Evidence suggests a few possible reasons one of which seems outrageous until more is revealed. With powers that could end his career, Baron digs his heels in and follows it through to a bitter end that leaves no winners, only victims.   

In Store Price: $AU25.95 
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AMAZON

ISBN: 978-1-921919-10-7 
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 207
Genre: Fiction/Crime
 

Cover: Sandra Coventry

By the same author …
Lunch to Die For
(Zeus Publications, 2009)

Author: Geoffrey Dryden
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2011
Language: English

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About the author

 

Geoff Dryden was born in 1945 in a coal mining and steel town in the north of England. He was educated in local schools before spending seven years working in a steel plant.

As a young man of twenty-three, he left England for Australia as a ten-pound migrant to settle in Melbourne working in the automotive industry.

After six years in Australia, he returned to England briefly for personal reasons, before finally returning to settle in Melbourne permanently.

He has spent most of his working life in manufacturing management in many industries from large corporations to boutique companies. An inquisitive traveller and lover of cooking, fine food and architecture, he has visited a number of countries to exercise these interests.

Although maintaining a holiday house on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula since 1985, it was not until 1999 that he settled there permanently with his second wife Julienne.

Geoff has been an avid reader of crime fiction for as long as he can remember and in the last few years he has wanted to write the type of story that he loves to read and hopefully that others will also enjoy.

READ A SAMPLE:

Even at 7.00 a.m. it was hot and it would get hotter as the day went on. Summer on the Mornington Peninsula was for the tourists, not for a senior detective inspector, particularly on a Monday morning. As he reached for the ringing phone, instinct told him there was a problem.

‘Adam Baron.’

‘Good morning, sir.’

The voice on the other end he recognised as Sergeant Billy Williams who manned the desk at the Rose Bay police station and the formality suggested that there was indeed a problem.

‘We’ve got a body in the coffin, sir. Reported in about an hour ago.’

‘Isn’t that where a body should be, Billy?’ replied Adam.

‘Not when ‘the coffin’ is the name of the fourth hole at the Flinders Golf Club, sir. And the members aren’t sure whether to call it an unnatural hazard or GUR – ground under repair.’

When Sergeant Williams was not stressed he had a good sense of humour, which you needed being a desk sergeant. Over a couple of beers, he would tell you stories about his early days in country Victoria as a young PC.

‘Well, it wasn’t there yesterday morning, Billy. I’m sure I would have noticed and if I hadn’t, Dr Philip would have.’

Dr Francis Philip was supposed to be semi-retired but his expertise as a doctor and surgeon were in demand. Plus the fact that his easy-going manner meant he got put upon. As well as his medical qualifications, he was Adam’s golfing partner and a devotee of the grape, especially the heavy, red variety.  

‘Dr Philip is on his way there now, sir. He said much the same as you did.’

‘Alright, sergeant. I’m on my way.’

Adam picked up his jacket, put a tie in his pocket, hoping he wouldn’t have to wear it and went downstairs to the garage. He backed out the Volvo, set the air conditioner and headed out of Cape Schanck.

The twenty-minute drive to the golf course was a pleasure, not a chore. The road hugged the waters of Bass Strait for much of the way and the sea sparkled in the strong, early morning sun. Passing through the village of Flinders, which was quiet, probably recovering from a weekend of demanding tourists, Adam didn’t enter the golf course gates but instead took the road that goes around and through the course, giving access to a beach. He hadn’t gone very far before his path was blocked by a crowd of people and he had to use his flashing light to clear a path – something he always felt embarrassed about doing. One patrol car was set across the road and Dr Philip’s station wagon was parked opposite the first crevasse that cuts across the fairway; which is what makes the fourth hole so interesting. PC Garret was the first to approach. He was very tall and seemed to have filled out since the last time they’d met.

‘Good morning, sir. I’m sorry we can’t keep these people away. At the moment we have dog walkers, beach walkers, golfers and to cap it off, one very upset club captain. I can hardly understand a word he’s saying.’

‘That’s alright, constable. Who’ve you got with you?’

‘PC James, sir.’

‘Right get on the phone to Sergeant Williams and get some extra help, let’s see what I can do in the meantime.’

Adam walked straight over to Jack Campbell, the club captain.

‘Jack, I want you to get on to the head greenkeeper and ask him to lend me a couple of his lads with their trucks so I can set up a barrier to keep these people out until I get some more assistance.’

Jack Campbell was a small man of about mid sixties who stood with his legs and arms apart to try and make himself look bigger. He was a pugnacious Scot. Adam thought this pugnacity was to compensate for his lack of stature.

‘I’m not fucking here to help you set up a base camp. I’m here to tell you to piss off. Do you know we’ve got a group of players representing the golfing team from every bank in the state who paid good money to play here? They tee off a 9.30 and I want you people off this golf course, now!’          

Without another word Adam turned back to PC Garret, who was striding back to his patrol car.

‘Constable, take your car round to the front gate and stop any unauthorised people coming in until I say so.’

‘Just a bloody minute, mister. You can’t do that! This is private property, don’t come storm-trooping in here! I’m not just anybody you know, I can have you reported.’

The club captain had puffed himself up to the maximum and was as red as a beetroot.

Adam took one quick step closer that made Jack Campbell flinch and he looked straight down onto the top of his head and quietly spoke.

‘I am not your ‘mister’. I am Senior Detective Inspector Baron and I am currently investigating a possible crime. I have the right to close off this golf course as a suspected crime scene and if I don’t get some co-operation from you it might not reopen until Wednesday.’

There was a steely silence, the onlookers watched quietly. PC Garret stood mid stride, frozen to the spot. It was Dr Philip who broke the silence.

‘Adam, you’d better come and look at this.’

Adam turned without another word and followed the doctor back to where a canvas sheet had been discreetly raised over the obvious shape of a body. The body of a male was laid out, as if to attention, arms down by their side dressed in what had probably been an expensive three-piece suit. With the legs set together the feet had splayed making them look like that of an oversized clown. As Adam bent down to look under the canvas he immediately drew back.

‘Benny Hardy! What are you doing outside of South Melbourne?’

The doctor’s eyebrows lifted as if he wanted to hear more so Adam continued. ‘Benny Hardy is, or was, the proprietor of The European Jeweller, a shop in Little Collins Street. He lived with his mother in South Melbourne and rarely strayed from a well-worn path between the two. But that was a long time ago now. Francis, what can you tell us so far?’

‘Well, when I first looked at him I couldn’t see any marks on him so I thought some sort of seizure or a fall. But you couldn’t fall as neatly as that. Even when I rolled him I couldn’t find a mark on him but as I was undoing his waistcoat, look what I found.’

As Adam bent over the body the doctor opened the waistcoat and revealed a small, red stain on the white shirt just below where the heart would be. The doctor continued to open the shirt and there was a tiny hole in the skin. The hole itself was dark coloured and around it the skin looked an angry red.

‘If the hole wasn’t so small, Francis, I’d say that was a bullet wound.’

‘Adam, if it looks like a bullet wound and it smells like a bullet wound … check the waistcoat … and it feels like a bullet wound. Touch the skin around the wound. Then, my friend, it is a bullet wound.’

‘But it’s so small,’ said Adam, ‘and why haven’t we seen more blood?’

‘My guess is, and it’s only a guess so don’t rely on it, that a small calibre bullet from a not-so-powerful weapon was fired into the heart from a very close range. The heart stops pumping immediately therefore little-to-no blood leaves the body. The body was placed here after death. Look at the marks on the grass and the marks on the heels of his otherwise immaculate shoes. They lead from the road to here. From that we can deduce he was delivered here by person, or persons, unknown, as you would say.’

‘I would never say that, Francis. That phrase is for media releases. I’ll call in the crime-scene people and as you’ve done my job for me, I might as well leave, but can you wait till they get here?’

As Adam walked back towards his car he could see two patrol cars coming around the course and also that three of the groundsmen were talking to PC Garret. Jock Campbell was standing with his hands in his pockets and his head down looking like a defeated man as Adam approached him.

‘Thanks for your co-operation, Jock. It looks like I’ll have a team here for some time but we only need to secure this one hole. I’ll close the road at both ends and tape off this area. If you get your players to play the third then cut through those trees to the fifth then they only miss out on one hole and if you tell them about the body you’ll add a bit of excitement to their day – which, considering you say they’re bankers, can only be a positive.’     

 Jock Campbell turned round, got back into his buggy and rode off without another word. Adam talked to PC Garret and filled him in on the details before driving out through King Street and back on to the Boneo Road, heading to his office in Rose Bay. He knew he wasn’t going to get any useful details to work with for some time but there was plenty of preliminary work to be getting on with. If this was to be a murder investigation he needed to clear his desk of any peripheral tasks.

Back in the office, Adam’s first job was to put DS David Wales in the picture, David was the ringmaster for the major crime unit. He pulled the teams together and set up the incident room, whether in their offices or at a crime scene. He collated all incoming material and allocated tasks to the foot soldiers. He was the best in the business because his idea of good policing was to gather evidence and piece it together bit by bit to build a clear picture of what had taken place. He was certainly not a kick-the-door-down or standover man. They’d worked together on and off for a long time. David knew what Adam expected and Adam let him get on with it. David agreed that it was too early to set up a full team until they knew a bit more especially whether this was the crime scene or just the dumping ground. In the meantime David got into his computer to see what he could dig up on Mr Benny Hardy.

Meanwhile Adam went to see Superintendent Rich, his immediate superior, who as long as he was kept in the picture rarely interfered. The super had supported Adam’s idea of setting up serious-crime units in regional centres of Victoria to take advantage of using officers with local knowledge of the area and the people in it. This contradicted the theory that all knowledge come out of the police headquarters in St Kilda Road, otherwise known as the Glass Menagerie. The super was a good listener and Adam quickly filled him in on the events of the morning. The super’s usual proviso was that all media contact was made through his office, he might have been a policeman of the old school but he had learnt the art of diplomacy and the value of good media relations.

 Adam took the opportunity to get a bite of lunch which meant a simple sandwich. At this time of year Rose Bay was awash with holidaymakers so a quick sit-down meal in town was out of the question.

The local newspaper always boasted about the population explosion at this time of year. This police station didn’t have to be told, every uniformed officer was working at least a twelve hour shift. This was summertime and for the petty criminal the living was easy, drinkers started early to avoid the rush and domestic disputes on caravan sites were legendary. People were going to have a good time if it killed them and it often did.

When Adam got back to his office, on top of his usual pile of never ending paperwork a thin manila folder sat. The writing on the cover said, “Benny Hardy” in David’s long hand. Adam opened the folder revealing three sheets of A4 paper. He read the top sheet:

Subject: Mr Benjamin (Benny) Hardy

D.O.B: 15th October 1934

P.O.B: Tatabanya, Hungary

Address Private: 86 Union Street, South Melbourne, Vic 3205

Address Business: 511A Little Collins Street, Melbourne, Vic 3000

Parents: Deceased

Brother: Joseph Hardy

The top sheet continued with the profile including contacts and telephone numbers of people and places that Benny had used as references. The second and third sheets gave a chronological account of dates and times that Benny had been interviewed starting in 1976 with the last entry being in 2001. Against each entry the line read, “In relation to stolen property”.

There was no notice of conviction against any of these entries and during this twenty-five year period Benny had been either innocent or clever, or a combination of both. After reading through the report twice the only thing that did seem unusual was that whenever the interviews had been conducted at a police station – usually South Melbourne – the acting firm of solicitors had been Bracken, Meldstein and Farthing. Why use a major legal firm for an interview where Benny was merely helping police with their inquiries? The officer’s name against the 2001 entry was Detective Sergeant Warren Steel. Adam rang the South Melbourne station and asked if DS Steel was still there. The phone was answered by a meaty voice and Adam could hear him in the background.

‘Anybody seen the Rabbit?’

Adam didn’t hear the response but the voice came back to him. ‘Sorry, pal. He’s out for most of the afternoon, who did you say you were?’

Adam gave his name and rank again and in a more polite exchange got the mobile number of DS Steel. On the third ring a voice answered. ‘Yeah. Warren here.’

‘This is Inspector Adam Baron from Mornington Peninsula Serious Crime Unit. I’m looking for some information on Benny Hardy.’

‘That old bugger? I haven’t seen him for a long time, what’s your interest, sir, if I may ask?’

‘He was found dead this morning on the Flinders Golf Course.’

‘Really? What’s he doing out of his little world? I suppose you wouldn’t be asking if he just slipped on a banana skin.’

‘Shot in the heart with a small calibre gun.’

‘Bloody hell! He didn’t deserve that. How can I help you?’

‘I knew Benny years ago, probably the same way you did and I need to get up to date and see if I can get a lead from somewhere. When I knew him he never stepped out of his area, he lived with his mother in Union Street and kept the shop in Little Collins Street. Has anything changed from then?’

‘Apart from his mother dying, he sounds about the same. He still lives at that address and the shop hasn’t changed. But I’ve always had this funny idea about him. As you probably know he’s never been convicted of anything because frankly, I don’t think he ever did anything. I just think he liked the idea of being on the edge of the criminal world. When we brought him in I think he enjoyed it. He liked to be mysterious and he played coy to anything we suggested he might have been involved in. Got to be a bit of a pain in the end.’

Adam thought for a while and then said, ‘If I can get his possessions back, say, by tomorrow late morning, that will give me his keys. Can we meet at his place and have a look about? I’d rather one of you local boys was with me. If you need authority I can make some calls.’

‘That’s all right, sir. Superintendent West is a good bloke he gives us plenty of slack as long as we get some results.’

‘You don’t mean Allan West do you? A pommy bloke?’

‘That’s him. You know him then?’

‘Know him! We came out together, I thought he was in Mildura.’

‘He’s been here about eighteen months, a good bloke.’

‘Is he still missing his Somerset cider?’ asked Adam.

‘No, found a good brew in Mildura and has it sent down regular.’

‘Alright, I’ll ring you tomorrow. Thanks for your time, sergeant.’

There was only one thing Adam had left to do for the day and he was going to do that from home. So before he left he went round to David Wales to tell him he was off and asked him to check up on Benny Hardy’s possessions.

 

There was no shade in the car park and his car was as hot as hell. With all the windows open he drove onto the main road and set off for home. There was a light breeze at Cape Schanck as he opened the sliding French doors to let the trapped heat out of the house and he looked across the golf course longingly. It was still busy and would be until after 8.00 p.m. The plants on the deck were looking a bit limp but it was still too hot to water them. He took a light beer out of the fridge, picked up the cordless phone and went to sit in a corner of the deck that was just coming into shade. Adam’s first call was to London and as Angela Day’s voice came on the line he smiled to himself and let her Cockney accent drift into his ear.

‘This is a nice surprise on a Monday morning. Are you feeling guilty about something?’

Angela had a way of disarming Adam with her frankness and wicked sense of humour. It was those traits that got them together in the first place. Angela had been contracted to do upgrades on the police computer systems, this was the work her company did in the UK, parts of Europe and North America. They met at a time when both of them had long forgotten what a relationship could mean and they had been surprised at the intensity of their feelings.

‘My only guilt is sitting here on the deck looking at the water across Bass Strait and thinking of you.’         

‘And I suppose you are going to tell me how wonderful the weather is while I freeze my tail off here.’

‘Please don’t freeze your tail off, I’ve rather got to like it.’

There was a silence before she answered.

‘What are we going to do, Adam? It’s only six weeks since you were here but it feels like a lifetime ago.’  

‘Angela, we’ve already talked this through. You can sell your business and I can retire but neither of us at this time could live in each others country full time. Even though I was born there, I couldn’t live in England all the year round.’

‘Why are you so practical?’

‘Because we’ve both made mistakes before and we can’t afford to make any more. We’ve found something together we don’t want to spoil.’

The subject was closed for the moment and they each discussed what they were doing before they finally, and reluctantly, hung up. Angela was right, of course. Adam had spent a month of his holidays – of which he had plenty to spare – seeing Angela again. After their first two weeks together here neither of them was sure if the magic was still there. They needn’t have worried. As soon as they saw each other at Heathrow airport’s terminal 4 nothing had changed. They spent the first week in London and Angela showed Adam her life and proudly introduced an embarrassed Adam to her friends and the people who worked for her. He, in turn, took the opportunity to catch up on some theatre which surprised Angela – she couldn’t even remember being around Shaftsbury Avenue before. Then they tried to outdo each other, Adam took her for breakfast at the Waldorf Hotel near the Aldwych Theatre while Angela took him for lunch at Fortnum and Masons.

The second week was spent in his old stamping ground in the North. While there were no relatives left and few friends he showed her the county of Durham where he came from and where he had spent his early years. They toured the cities of Durham and Newcastle and the countryside of the Derwent Valley. The next ten days were spent in the Lake District for the pure pleasure of being in each other’s company. They scrambled about old ruins and took long walks in the fells, they stopped where they fancied and found some hidden gems to stay at and eat in. Although Angela was starting to miss her London town Adam couldn’t resist but to take her home via Whitby on the Yorkshire coast. A place she immediately fell in love with.

Practical or not Adam knew that sooner rather than later he and Angela had to decide what to do or their relationship would wither on the vine. He got another beer before his next call. This second call was to Joseph Hardy using the number that was entered on Benny’s file. The phone was picked up after the forth ring.

‘Hi, this is Joe Hardy.’

The words were American but the accent wasn’t.

‘Mr Hardy, my name is Inspector Adam Baron calling from Australia.’

The long silence was followed by, ‘What can I do for you, inspector?’

The voice was guarded, almost as if he knew what was coming.

‘It’s about your brother sir. I’m afraid he’s dead, his body was found early this morning, our time.’

Another long silence.

‘Are you guys allowed to tell me what happened, over the phone?’

‘Yes, of course. He’d actually been shot, sir. A single bullet wound to the chest, he would have died instantly.’

‘Hell, are you serious? That’s supposed to happen here in New York not way down there. Jesus, how did it happen?’

‘I can’t tell you for the moment, sir. It’s not clear yet and our investigations have only just started. This call is to notify you as next of kin.’

‘Next of kin? I’m the only kin. It wasn’t a heist gone wrong in that damn shop of his was it? I told him to get rid of it years ago. He called it the family business. Family business my arse.’

Joe Hardy was getting angry now, it often happened in these situations. It was as if the victim should have been more considerate before going out and getting themselves shot.

‘As far as we know it was not directly related to the business. As I said it’s too early to say what the circumstances were. This call is to advise the next of kin and to ask you if there someone who could formally make an identification?’

‘Hell no, that’s my job, inspector. I’ll get the first flight I can, give me your number and I’ll call you when I get in. Is that okay?’

‘That’s fine, sir. One last thing though, I want to go through your brother’s home and business premises as soon as possible to try and establish a reason for what’s happened.’

‘Inspector, you do whatever it takes and I’ll get there as soon as I can.’

The call ended and Adam knew that the business-like attitude that Joseph Hardy was displaying would soon evaporate when the impact of his brother’s death hit home.       

There was nothing more to be done today.

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