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 ELEPHANT SPEAK 

ELEPHANT SPEAK — RANDALL LONGMIRE

‘LISTEN…..CAN YOU HEAR IT?’

When Detective John Morton’s closest friend is murdered, he and his partner Regina Gardner find themselves dragged into a deadly game by a sadistic killer bent on revenge. A close friend and reporter receives threats from the killer and becomes another victim as the body count rises…With every move they make, their tormentor is always one step ahead. Everglades Psychiatric Hospital on Sydney’s North Shore holds the key and its secrets run deeper than Morton and Gardner could ever imagine. The suspects are numerous—the twists unexpected.

A gripping page turner from a brilliant new crime writer.

 

In Store Price: $AU21.95 $USD11.95
Online Price:   $AU20.95 $USD10.50

ISBN: ISBN 1 920699 198
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 332
Genre: Crime/Thriller
 

Author: Randall Longmire
Imprint: Zeus
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: October 2002
Language: English

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About the Author

    

Randall Longmire was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1973. He moved to Sydney with his immediate family in 1976. Elephant Speak is his first novel.

Read a sample chapter:

Chapter 1

 

Twelve hours stranded in the same seat was definitely not John Morton’s idea of a good time. He’d woken to the constant humming of Rolls Royce engines that had carried him this far home from LA and he still had two more hours of leg cramps and stale air conditioning to endure. His nostrils ached because of the dry air and he’d all but lost his sense of smell. He felt hot and uncomfortable and had sweated during sleep, staining the armpits of his shirt and leaving a damp feeling in the seat and crotch of his pants. Waves of heat flashed through his body and the dry air gave him an almost unquenchable thirst.

A glass of scotch sat in front of him and he threw the lukewarm liquid down before he could gather any thoughts of how it got there in the first place. He waited for the warm sensation down his throat and in the pit of his stomach but he was disappointed because the scotch had been watered down. He presumed it had ice in it at some stage, as that’s the way he usually ordered it. He was quite weary; the Stillnox his doctor prescribed was doing wonders. He couldn’t believe that a tablet less than half the size of a tic-tac could render him unconscious for so long. He’d considered taking two when he saw how small they were and thought that with his six-foot frame he would need more than one but he was glad he’d followed doctor’s orders. He last remembered looking through brief details of the two murder cases Detective Sergeant Thomas had faxed to him. Now it was at least seven hours later.

Business Class was the only standard of travel Morton could fathom, he couldn’t stand being couped up in economy class for so long when it has even less leg room than he was currently experiencing. He’d only travelled economy class once previously with his friend Oliver Berger. Olly, as he was affectionately known, beckoned Morton to London for the trip of a lifetime 25 years ago. Ironically, it was Berger who beckoned him to return home today, this time for a completely different reason.

 

Morton walked through the departure gate into a sea of people patiently waiting for their loved ones and he felt slightly overwhelmed at all the faces staring at him. He was feeling light headed and just wanted a place to rest his body. He switched on his phone and it responded immediately with a resounding beep. He always tried to put a face to the voice that indicated how many messages he had, the same voice that offered help to use menu options, the voice that explained how to retrieve messages and the voice that this time told him he had two messages, one that had been left at seven AM, which according to his watch was half an hour ago, and the other left overnight.

“John, It’s Regina,” came the static voice of his partner, “I’m on my way to collect you. We’ve got another homicide. Happened overnight. See you at the arrivals lounge. Be there at oh eight hundred.”  Detective Regina Gardner had been Morton’s partner for almost seven years and he couldn’t remember a time that she enjoyed leaving messages. It was as if she read out the details in point form. He remembered her telling him that she had some commitments at the Goulburn Academy for a few weeks, she must have finished there already.

The second was from Gail Friend, a reporter with The Australian. She’d left her message a few days previously and asked Morton to contact her on his return. He guessed it must have been about Berger. Morton and Gardner had known Gail Friend for years and had been interviewed by her on many occasions during homicide investigations. He wasn’t going to return her call because he wasn’t in the frame of mind to speak with the media about Berger’s death. Friend was very resourceful and he was sometimes bewildered as to how she found leads and obtained information. Someone had obviously told her that he was coming home.

He was relieved to be spared another abusive message from his ex-wife’s prick of a boyfriend. Morton had endured a year of harassing calls from Aaron Goldman who had some definite rage issues especially when it came to jealousy and he often wondered what sort of shit Nicole was spinning for him to get so upset. On more than one occasion Nicole had called him for comfort after a fight with Goldman because he’d either hit her or abused her verbally. In Morton’s mind Nicole was weak, unfaithful and an attention seeker, but she was also still legally his wife and that was something he intended to change.

He hadn’t thought about Nicole or Goldman the whole time he’d been in LA and he didn’t want to start now. He was exhausted from the fourteen-hour haul and went straight to the bathroom to change his shirt and pants before heading to the arrivals lounge where he slumped in the seat, his huge frame sinking deep into cushioned comfort. He took in his surroundings; marvelling at the openness of Sydney International and watching people walk by. He loved to watch people and couldn’t distinguish whether it was a hobby or a habit; he was just good at it. The morning sun had started to take its stranglehold on the city and light peered through the windows into the terminal. Perfume and coffee swam around in the air while the crisp sound of freshly printed newspapers rustled its way around the lounge area, travelling businessmen trying keeping up to date with life.

The Daily Telegraph sat on the table before him. The headline read:

Killer in our city; Police baffled

            The first murder had occurred on the 27th July, and now it was almost seven weeks later. The story contained a brief description of the second homicide, as much as the medical examiner would divulge, which usually was a scaled down version of the truth. This news was a week old, however the media were still running the story. The Coroner had appointed Forensic Pathologist Rob Ambrose as Chief Medical Examiner and he was quoted as saying, “We are working very closely with the Crime Agency and will release further information as it becomes available.” He’d declined to comment extensively on the second murder because details of the autopsy were still being withheld and Morton was relieved because Berger’s murder was a little too close to home. The latest murder was too early for the morning news but it would most likely make headlines in the afternoon edition.

            Morton cast his mind back to the last case he’d been working on with Ambrose. It was a pub brawl where a fatality had occurred with one patron being stabbed through the eye by what seemed to be a sharp object. Vince Curtis lay in a coma for three days before he eventually died, and what was originally a case of assault turned into a homicide investigation.

            There had been at least fifty people in the bar on that evening and although ten of them were in the direct vicinity of where the fight had occurred, no one wanted to talk. The case was handed to Morton after the victim died and Ambrose completed the autopsy. On removing Curtis’ brain, Ambrose found a blue powdery substance, which was found to be the chalk used on pool cues. In a reconstruction of the scene and after further intense questioning Morton discovered that a fight had erupted over the waiting time for the pool tables. Curtis argued with another patron, Marcus Hicks, and then punches were thrown. Grant Hawker, who was a bouncer at the pub, stepped in to end the fight when Curtis turned on him with his pool cue. In retaliation Hicks tried to push the bouncer out of the way and the cue he was holding was rammed forcefully into Curtis’ face, penetrating his skull through his eye socket and lodging in his brain before being withdrawn. Curtis fell to the ground instantly.

            Both Hawker and Hicks were well known by the staff and patrons of the pub and no one wanted to turn their friends in to the authorities. As a result of Morton’s investigation along with Ambrose’s post mortem findings, both men were charged with involuntary manslaughter and were waiting to be sentenced when Morton left for LA. The pub staff members were also still being questioned, as were other patrons, and charges were expected. He made a mental note to ask for an update.

            “Detective Morton, you’re under arrest,” came a familiar voice. He snapped out of his daydream and looked up with a dazed expression on his face. His partner stood before him wearing her trademark dark pants and smart looking suit jacket. From Morton’s angle she looked taller than she was because he’d almost sunk to the floor in the chair. She still wore her sunglasses, a mistake she commonly made running indoors from the glare. She was quite flustered and her cheeks were slightly pink indicating to Morton that September was turning on its warm beauty outside. She had her keys in hand hinting in her own subtle way that she was in a hurry.

            “That was quick.”

            “I thought I was running late.”

            Morton looked at his watch. “Shit, I’ve completely lost track of time. I flew in forty minutes ago.” He realised the paper was open in his lap on the same page he’d started twenty minutes earlier.

            “Let’s go, I’m parked out front,” said Gardner, almost ignoring the fact Morton was jet-lagged. “I might get a ticket, inspectors don’t recognise unmarked cars.”

            “That’s the whole reason they’re called unmarked,” he responded in his smart tone as he gingerly got to his feet. “So people don’t recognise them.”

            Gardner glared at him. Although they’d worked closely together for a long time, she hated his dry sense of humour. He was a rough cop always willing to do what he thought was right even if he had to break the rules. He had a very strong presence and this gained a few enemies in the force but he’d also gained a lot of respect, especially that of his partner.

            “Finished at Goulburn?” he asked as they headed towards the exit.

            “Well, sort of for now. I cut my stay short and came back up to Sydney because of the murders. I got back yesterday and Thomas told me what flight you were coming in on.” She walked briskly to keep up with him. She was only five and a half feet tall compared to Morton’s six foot three frame and her legs were much shorter, hence she had to take three steps to his two.

            “Are you up to date with the Murders then?”

            “I met with Ambrose and Sergeant Thomas and we went through the files. The police were conducting most of the investigations after the first murder but when the second occurred and the same pattern showed they decided to call in the Crime Agency.”

            The warm outside air smacked Morton in the face as they headed for the car and he dreaded getting back into the swing of wearing a suit and tie once again. He would have to make do with pants and a polo shirt today, but this didn’t bother him because of the heat. It was out of season to have weather so warm at this time of year, he could understand the clear sky with no hint of a cloud but it usually wasn’t this hot until December. No ‘sticker lickers’ were present so Gardner was spared the frustration of a parking fine.

The tiredness still showed in Morton’s face as they pulled out of Sydney Airport. From the passenger seat he gazed out the window and a billboard caught his eye, advertising Volvo’s latest European design, guaranteed to create sex appeal and take away from the old ‘white hat brigade’ image that the car was so laughed at for during the eighties and nineties. It was the image that had an elderly couple sitting behind the wheel in their dark blue box and not being able to see through the rear vision mirrors for the white wide brimmed hats they wore to stop them from getting skin cancer. He recalled the sign that used to be there years ago that said, “Welcome to Sydney, now get stuffed”. He couldn’t remember who was responsible for the ad, he thought it may have been one of the big pizza companies, but it gave his friend Berger such a laugh. He still wished his mate was with him to admire the sleek looking car in the picture.

The Wednesday morning traffic was hectic.

“Shit, Sydney traffic never changes,” said Morton, contemplating what it would be like had he still been in LA with his mother. Betty Morton lived in Beverley Hills caring for her sister. Betty had moved there two years ago, not long after Morton’s father died. Her sister May had fallen ill and she was diagnosed with bone cancer six months later. Morton loved his Aunt May dearly, she was married to American Jack, as he called him, who made a fortune in the stock market and they lived a comfortable existence. May was Betty’s only sister and the two were very close so it was no wonder that Morton had a great relationship with her as well. They were Morton’s only weakness.

He was about to speak again when Gardner interrupted him. “John, I’m so sorry about Oliver.”

“So how bad is it?” he asked, evading talk about his friend. He sheltered his life from the public eye basically because it was no one else’s business what he did with his spare time, that he was an only child, that his father was dead or anything else irrelevant to anyone but himself. Many times he’d almost confided in Gardner about matters that affected him but he decided in the long run that he’d have too much to lose. His family and private life was one thing but his feelings and thoughts were another. He was never afraid to tell anyone what he thought.

“The Finlay murder?” She said referring to the latest homicide. “It’s worse than the previous two. Ambrose thinks it may be the same killer.”

“Was his tongue missing like the others?”

“It was.”

“It’s probably the same guy otherwise we’ve got a copycat on our hands.”

Gardner pointed to a box on the back seat indicating two files on the top that belonged to the first two victims - Collins and Berger.

He reached over awkwardly and grabbed the files then sat back comfortably with them on his lap. “The first victim, Jason Collins. He lived in a unit,” he said reading over the detailed information before him.

“He did. A neighbour said she saw a man delivering a package the evening of the murder, so presuming he’s the killer that’s how he must have gained access. There was no evidence of forced entry and no evidence of a struggle so this guy is very careful.” She brushed her dark brown hair away from her eyes as she looked in the rear vision mirror at the traffic behind her.

“Was the neighbour able to get a good look?”

“Yeah right,” she said sarcastically. “She saw an outline, didn’t see his build or what he was driving, if in fact he had driven to the scene. We believe he may have stolen a vehicle because we’ve had stolen cars turn up within a two kilometre radius from each of the scenes.”

“So much for community watch,” he droned. “Well he’s smart then I’ll give him that.” He continued to shake his head at the traffic, it seemed like it would take all day to get to the murder scene. “There’s no better way to hide your identity than stealing someone else’s.”

“I wouldn’t say stealing a car is stealing an identity but I get your point.”

“Did this neighbour see anyone leave?” he asked.

Gardner almost laughed, she thought the lady next door to Collins must have been living in a glass vacuum, she really hadn’t offered much help at all. “She didn’t recall seeing anyone leave. She lives in the unit directly across the corridor and only saw the deliveryman enter the building, she never saw him leave. The other tenants confirmed that they didn’t receive any packages on that day.”

“So was there a package at the apartment at all?”

“No there wasn’t, whatever he carried in with him, he left with.”

“Probably his murder kit.” John thought it sounded awful to call it a murder kit but in reality that’s exactly what it would have been.

“Most likely that’s what it was.”

In their years together as Detectives they had shared many conversations about current cases and Gardner always thought of other drivers on the road, oblivious to the fact that in the blue unmarked car next to them another person’s murder was being discussed. Young teens driving past with the bass thumping, mothers driving their children to school with the Wiggles on the stereo and businessmen listening to Alan Jones and John Laws. She almost felt abnormal, whilst the rest of the population drove and idly chatted or listened to the radio, she spoke of death. She turned her mind back to the conversation.

            “No hard evidence has really been discovered either. A few fibres from Collins’ unit had been checked out by forensics but they were all linked to the scene. As for the Berger murder, it was as if he was literally wearing a plastic suit.” She reached forward and turned the air conditioning up a notch, motioning Morton to direct his vent away from the window towards him. She placed her hand back on the wheel and her knuckles turned white as she gripped the steering wheel tighter. The traffic was trying both of them.

            “Well certain fabrics like nylon don’t shed much so he may be careful in what he’s wearing. Rubber gloves keep prints from being left. You’d think he’d have some knowledge about forensics to leave no trace.”

            Gardner wondered whether she should bring up the details of Berger’s murder but she didn’t know how to go about it. Morton spared her the pain. “How did the killer get into Berger’s place?” Although he usually referred to his friend as Olly he decided to treat the case the same as any other and call him Berger, at least that way he could attempt to keep emotion out of the investigation.

            “By picking the lock at the back door. Forensics studied the lock after we couldn’t find any other method of entry. They found proof that the lock had been tampered with, scratch marks inside the barrel.”

“He must have strong hands.” Morton knew damn well that picking a lock wasn’t as easy as the movies depict, he’d been lucky enough to be taught how to do this by some crims in the trade. Most doors, as he was aware, had pin tumbler locks that contain a series of small pins which are held together by a series of other pins, drivers and springs. A person needs a great deal of dexterity to use the pick and tension tool required to turn the lock, holding the pins at the correct pressure in their open position. This guy definitely wasn’t a novice.

“The neighbours didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary the night of the murder.”

            “It sounds like he’s done his homework. You wouldn’t pick a lock in a block of units for fear of being seen so he’s gone out of his way to conceal his identity to gain entry and it worked. I’m presuming he canvasses the unit before the hit, meticulously planning when to strike. In the second scenario he’s aware that he can effectively work on a lock without being seen or heard. In any case it looks like we’ve got a serial offender. It sounds like a lot of planning has gone into the killings, which would lead to the fact that he’s some sort of contact with the victims. We’ve got to get people talking if we haven’t got any evidence.” He was sounding more awake.

“Well Finlay is the only victim who’s been killed while there’s been another person present. I want to speak with the wife, she may have some vital information. To my knowledge she hasn’t been properly interviewed yet.”

“Two people present. How did he manage that without killing both?” Morton thought aloud.

“Same as Collins and Berger I suppose, they’ve all been drugged with chloroform and restrained before being murdered.”

“Chloroform. That’s reason enough to wear the protective clothing. It’s quite poisonous so he must know what he’s doing. Maybe we should be looking at the medical field.”

Gardner knew by the tone in his voice it was only a suggestive remark but the more she thought about it he might have been right.

“Is it possible he’s got an accomplice?” he asked. “I mean in Finlay’s case, one to subdue his wife while the other has time to carry out the murder.”

“That’s a theory Ambrose came up with. Anything’s possible at this stage.”

“Just because Collins and Berger were alone when they were attacked it doesn’t mean there’s only one killer.”

“True.”

A car ahead swiftly braked and pulled into a driveway making Gardner hit the brakes and swerve, her hair falling in her face again. Morton was forced forward in his seat watching the dashboard approach his face with lightning speed, his seatbelt catching in seconds. Gardner looked in the rear vision mirror, a reflex action to make sure the driver behind her was awake and wasn’t going to rear-end her. “Bloody Sunday drivers.” Her heart skipped a few beats before it settled down which sent a wave of dizziness through her.

“And it’s not even Sunday!” Morton replied after a few seconds of silence. His heart was pounding as well. He didn’t want to complain about Gardner’s driving, she’d been kind enough to pick him up. Instead he put the conversation back on track. “What time did the call come through?”

“I got the call at about oh five hundred. Ambrose was pretty quick to the scene. I had a look at the body with him before interviewing Miller, he was the first to the house.”

Morton rolled his eyes. “What did he have to say?”

Of course Miller was first to the scene, he was always trying to outdo Morton, even though they were meant to work with each other. Miller had a vendetta against Morton, for what reason he didn’t know. Maybe it was Thomas’ respect for him, whereas Miller had to constantly fight for his superior’s attention. Miller worked closely with Preston Scott, a Detective that Morton had a lot of respect for, and also a man who owed him a few favours. He was sorry that Scott worked with such an arrogant jackass.

Gardner pulled down her sun visor where she’d placed her notebook and handed it to Morton indicating which page he needed to turn to, all the while keeping her eye on the road. “The wife, Mrs Finlay, opened the door when he arrived and she became hysterical. She was almost as pale as a ghost, shivering, almost incoherent. He’s shaken up pretty bad himself and said he’s never seen anything like it in his life. He didn’t really look happy when I asked him for the details, he must have realised you were returning.”

“Damn prick.”

Gardner ignored the comment and said, “It’s important you see the scene before heading to the office.”

“Thanks for thinking of me,” Morton said drolly. The tiredness was showing on his face and Gardner knew he needed rest. “I hadn’t intended on visiting the office today but maybe now I’ve got no choice.”

                        

 

 

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