Blood on the Rocks Chapter 6
Both Chaplain Daniels and Constable McFadden stood waiting, looking at Frank expectantly. Brent Turnbull lay on the hospital trolley, still quite dead. Frank could not delay the inevitable.
‘Mr Daniels, Chaplain, could I have the room for a few minutes, please?’
As soon as the door closed behind Daniels, Frank turned to Mac.
‘Constable,’ he said. ‘I asked you in the car why you’d called the beach a crime scene if this death was a fishing accident. You didn’t answer so I’m asking you again, with respect for your local and professional knowledge. Do you think a crime has been committed?’
Mac squared up to him. ‘Yes, I do.’
‘Brent Turnbull loved that ute of his. He wouldn’t lend it out and he wouldn’t go out without it. Also, Brent was a beach fisherman ‒ he wouldn’t have been swept off the rocks because he wouldn’t have been on them. Plus, Brent was mad for fishing, loved it like he loved surfing. He had kit – serious gear. Did that get washed away too? And he would have been drinking – where’s the bottle?’
She stopped and glanced quickly at the body as if expecting Brent to sit up and argue with her.
‘Right,’ said Frank. ‘And if he’s on the beach, why the rock abrasions that are premortem. And if, by chance, he decides to go for a rock walk and slips, why no abrasions on his hands where he reaches out to stop his fall? Plenty of scrapes on his knees and a nasty bruise on the right kneecap – could be cracked. There’s also bruising on his left hip bone. It’s like he was unconscious before he fell. I think that when we examine his clothes we may find small tears in the chest and hips, where the body hit the ground.’
Frank picked up his two evidence bags.
‘Plus, we have a sliver of shell from a sea-dwelling animal in the front wound, but a sliver of what looks like bark in the back head wound. How heavy do you reckon Turnbull is?’
‘About 90 kilos,’ replied Mac, without thinking twice.
‘Too much for one guy to lift. We’re talking two guys; no more or they’d be noticed by locals. On dark. Knock on the head to render Turnbull unconscious, then a drop onto the rocks to make it look like a fall. I reckon the Coroner will find rock pieces in that front wound.’
‘Explains no car, no gear.’
‘Yes, it does.’
‘He was killed Sunday night, body found Monday morning,’ Franks said, running the timeline in his head. ‘He was a keen fisherman. Was this his favourite spot?’
Mac grimaced. ‘Maybe.’
‘Who was familiar with the deceased’s habits?’
‘Everyone knew Brent would go fishing Sunday arvo. Everyone,’ she replied. ‘If you’re done here, sir, the deceased’s personal effects are back at the station.’
‘Frank, please call me Frank.’
Frank followed Mac back to the carpark. He could sense the tension in every step she took, her slight body taut, shoulders squared, head moving almost imperceptibly from side to side as if scanning the terrain. Was that the job, or the woman? She’d relax, he hoped, as she got to know him and settled down. For him, Probationary Constable was 15 long years ago but Frank could still remember the strange mixture of anticipation and fear that had coloured his own start as a police officer. Fear of stuffing up and the sure knowledge that there were no second chances in police work. Mac was right to take it seriously, on the understanding that experience would teach her more than anything at the Academy.
As Frank and Mac approached their car a tall, rather glamorous woman slid out of a shiny BMW parked nearby. Without warning, she raised a camera and fired off a succession of shots.
‘Jesus Karen, give it up,’ called Mac, raising a hand to block her face in a move that immediately said something to hide, regardless of the facts. He could mention that to her another time.
‘Morning Probationary Constable,’ Karen replied, quickly checking her shots as she strolled over. However, she ignored Mac, walking straight past her towards Frank, a hand outstretched. He could not help but notice her long, curling mane of vibrant red hair, and how the breeze ruffled back the lapel of her shiny shirt to reveal a good portion of a black lace bra. He held up a hand.
‘Hi, covid-shake, no contact please ma’am. May I ask which publication you represent?’
‘Of course! I’m Karen White of the Coffs Coast Chronicle.’ She drew out the a-sound in Karen, making it sound more like a purr. ‘Impressive deduction. You must be the detective they’ve brought in to work on the Turnbull murder.’
‘Kaz,’ interrupted Mac, more bark than purr, ‘you know Senior Sergeant Henderson already issued a statement to the press.’
‘Yes,’ replied Karen, not taking her heavily kohled eyes off Frank, her finely shaped brows raised. ‘I know Mike has called it a ‘tragic fishing accident’, but I also know that Brent Turnbull was up to his eyeballs in something that his brother did not want me to talk about. It’s a small town, Detective, you’ll soon discover. And a fishing accident, no matter how tragic, would not warrant flying a Sydney detective into Coffs late last night. Or a visit to examine the body. Or a visit to the crime scene, if the detective’s boots are anything to go by. Has anyone managed to find Freak yet?’
Frank could only admire her deductions. He wasn’t so sure that he should admire the way she smiled at him, one shapely hip thrust forward, propping up a hand dingling with bling.
‘Whatta you say, Detective…you know it doesn’t add up. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?’
‘Detective Frank Diamond. I’m sure that if there are any significant changes Senior Sergeant Henderson will issue another statement.’ He opened his door. ‘Good to go, Constable?’
Mac nodded, backing away from Karen like a wary blue heeler expecting trouble.
‘So you don’t deny that this is a murder investigation?’ asked Karen, her hand whipping out to stop Frank’s door. She moved in close and looked up at him, lips slightly parted.
‘Ma’am, please observe social distancing or I will have to officially reprimand you,’ he said. She stepped back, looking more confused than seductive now. Frank slipped down into the car, closed his door and buckled his seatbelt. As he looked over his shoulder to reverse, he was rewarded by the sight of Constable McFadden smiling. A win, at last.