Blood on the Rocks Chapter 3

‘The only reason you’re here, Diamond, is so that we can appear to be doing due diligence and keeping local politics out of it. I have plenty of excellent officers who could do this in their sleep, but if it does turn out to be anything other than a tragic fishing accident, we need everything above-board. Brent Turnbull was well-known and well-liked.’

Frank nodded, although he wondered at his new boss’s choice of words: if the deceased was such a local hero, why worry about local influence not being above board? But as usual, Frank kept his thoughts to himself.

‘So, you can see, Diamond, we’re holding off a potential media shit-fight. We can’t afford a murder. Tourism is a big industry round these parts and we don’t need you getting famous on our reputation, so don’t jump to conclusions and check with me before you say anything to the press other than no comment. Apart from the reputation of Coffs, Brent Turnbull was a mate. He did a lot of good in the community, with surf school and charity work. I’m thinking it was a fishing accident, but because of his profile we need to be scrupulous.’

Frank drew a breath to respond, but Mike Henderson was already on his mobile.

‘Mac, Rhonda here yet? Good. Join us in my office.’

Frank was pleased at the prospect of a more orderly interaction with Constable McFadden. 

‘I’ve invited Probationary Constable McFadden to join us,’ Mike informed him, needlessly. ‘She was the one who spotted the vehicle anomaly. Sharp. Local kid. Known her forever, her folks are friends. Could have done anything, but went into law enforcement, which is great – we need more Indigenous officers.’

Henderson shuffled through the case file they’d been reviewing. Frank nodded and was about to express his admiration for the way the constable had restrained him, when she herself appeared.

‘Sir?’ Bec McFadden stood to attention a metre inside the door.

‘Take a seat, Mac. I’ve filled Diamond in on what I know. Any joy with getting on to Freak?’

‘No, sir. Phillip Turnbull has not returned our calls.’

‘Did you go over to his place?’

‘Last night and this morning.’

‘Any ideas?’

‘No sir. The neighbours reckon he goes away a bit, but they don’t talk much. Got an AVO out on him, actually. Dave saw him at the surf club last weekend and Smithy said he was at the pub on Thursday night, but zilch otherwise.’

‘You said an AVO ‒ what for?’ asked Frank.

Mac glanced at him and replied to Henderson.

‘Threatened them on numerous occasions after they put in noise complaints ‒ it’s a bit of a party house. Sir.’

‘The Turnbull’s are local identities,’ said Henderson. ‘Celebrities.’

‘What do they do?’ asked Frank. Mac turned to look at him at last.

‘Brent and Freak Turnbull,’ she said, like it meant something. Frank shrugged slightly and waited.

‘You’ve never heard of Brent and Freak Turnbull?’ Mac made a face and added, like it hurt to say: ‘The surfers?’

‘No, sorry, I don’t surf.’

There was a moment of shocked silence.

‘Well then,’ said Mike Henderson, closing the case file and standing. ‘You have some fun in store for your stay with us. You’ll have to show him the ropes Macca ‒ like I said Diamond, she could have done anything and pro-surfing was one of them.’ He walked around his large wooden desk, holding out the file. ‘But she chose us.’ He grinned down at the constable like a benevolent uncle as he passed Frank the file. ‘You look after her, Diamond. I’ve heard you know your stuff, so take Macca here under your wing. She has the makings of a fine officer. Right then. Any questions?’

He walked past them to hold open his door. Probably a rhetorical question then, thought Frank, as he followed Macca out of Henderson’s office, then out of the station via a back door to the station carpark. And Constable McFadden didn’t look like she needed anybody’s wing to shelter under, least of all Frank’s. She pulled a set of keys from her pocket and unlocked an unmarked Commodore, moving with assurance to the driver’s door.

‘I’ll take you to the beach.’

Frank was a little taken aback, but unwilling to alienate her any more than he already had.

‘Um, perhaps the surf lessons should be after hours?’ he asked.

Constable McFadden looked at him with a face like she’d swallowed something nasty.

‘I’m not teaching you to surf, Detective.’

‘Oh, of course,’ said Frank. ‘I’m sure someone else could do it.’

Mac snorted. ‘It’s not all Bondi Beach and lattes here. We work. If you want to go surfing, there are plenty of tourist places open on the weekend.’

‘Oh, of course. And no ‒ I don’t want to surf ‒ not a great swimmer ‒ ah, it’s just you mentioned taking me to the beach…’

‘The crime scene. A dead man, remember? Sir.’

She slid into the driver’s seat and snapped the door shut, leaving Frank standing lost for words in the middle of the car park, trying to work out exactly where he’d blundered. Then the car reversed out and around him. The window rolled down.

‘We need to get going, sir.’Frank decided not to correct her with ‘possible crime scene’. Or tell her he liked to drive. It couldn’t be too far to the beach from here and if the road was straight and he concentrated on the horizon, he could probably get there without suffering the crippling motion-sickness of a bad passenger. Probably. He opened his door and slid in. It could only get better from here.