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Authors: Jon Cleary

Babylon South

BOOK: Babylon South
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The Scobie Malone Series

Jon Cleary


© 1989 by Sundowner Productions Pty Ltd.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.

First ebook edition 2013 by AudioGO. All Rights Reserved.

Trade ISBN 978-1-62064-793-6

Library ISBN 978-1-62460-109-5

Cover photo ©



















March 28, 1966, Sir Walter Springfellow, Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, left his home in Mosman in the city of Sydney to return to Melbourne and the then headquarters of ASIO. An ex-Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, he had been Director-General of Security for only a year. It was his habit to fly up from Melbourne each Friday evening, spend the weekend with his wife and return to Melbourne on the 8 a.m. Monday flight of TAA. A Commonwealth car picked him up at his home this Monday morning, as it usually did, and delivered him to Kingsford Smith Airport at Mascot at 7.45. He got out of the car, said his usual courteous thank you to the driver, walked into the terminal and was never heard of again.

It had been a stormy weekend, though not, according to his wife, in the Springfellow home. A huge storm had blown up along the New South Wales coast and there had been considerable damage north of Sydney; the sea had been such that big swells had rolled into Sydney Harbour and for the first time surfies had ridden their boards down Middle Harbour. The storm, however, had not got beyond the Blue Mountains fifty miles west of the city and out on the plains there were cloudless skies and one of the worst droughts in twenty years. Down in Melbourne there had been an ugly demonstration against the sending of draftees to Vietnam and the Prime Minister, Harold Holt, had suffered a barrage of eggs and tomatoes, something a little softer than the draftees would have to face. The report on the demonstration and photographs of the egg and tomato bombardiers were waiting on the Director-General's desk for him. He would have smiled at such criminal acts, but only to himself.

He was fifty years old, handsome, came of a wealthy established family and had made a considerable reputation as a Queen's Counsel before being appointed a judge five years before. His appointment as Director-General had been welcomed by both major political parties, but the public were not invited to comment: national security was thought, in those days, too esoteric for public intelligence
comprehend. Sir Walter, who had been knighted just before his appointment, was considered by his own organization to have no enemies except, of course, the hundreds of criminals he had prosecuted or sentenced and the countless foreigners, traitors and activists his organization was seeking.

He had been married for two years to a beautiful wife, twenty-five years his junior, and it seemed that he lived in the best of all possible worlds. Though, naturally, he did not boast of that during his five days a week in Melbourne, a city which thought
was the best of all possible worlds.

“We were perfectly happy,” said Lady Springfellow. “He must have been kidnapped or something. I just can't believe what's happened. When he took this job he warned me there might sometimes be trouble. But this . . . !”

The Commonwealth Police, who were in charge of airport security, had called in the New South Wales Police after consultation with ASIO. Scobie Malone was then a 21-year-old constable on temporary duty with the Missing Persons Bureau. Sergeant Harry Danforth, who couldn't trace a missing bull in a cattle chute, was in charge of the Bureau, but his men found that no handicap; a lazy man, he left them to their instinctive guesses and hunches. Missing persons usually leave fewer clues than murderers and the police assigned to trace them more often than not have to rely on guesswork. There were dozens of hunches as to the reason for the disappearance of Sir Walter Springfellow, but none of them led anywhere.

“It is some activist group,” said one of the two men ASIO had sent up from Melbourne. They were ex-Army Intelligence, middle-aged and military, and it was obvious they didn't have much time for the two younger men, recent university graduates, who represented ASIO's Sydney office. From where they sat the earth was flat, easily interpreted. “We'll get some outlandish demand pretty soon.”

The Commonwealth Police inspector shrugged. He, too, was middle-aged, with a countryman's face, gullied and sun-blotched. He had transferred from a bush division of one of the State forces and sometimes he longed for those other, placid days. “Could be. But three days have gone by and there's been nothing. They usually try to grab their publicity while everything's still on the front page. They're like politicians.” All the older men nodded: they had a common disrespect for politicians. Only Malone, who
never met one, kept his head still. “What's your opinion on this, Bill?”

Senior Detective-Sergeant Zanuch, of the NSW Police Special Branch, had been seconded to this case by one of the Assistant Commissioners. Ordinary voters who disappeared could be left to a lazy sergeant and a few junior constables in Missing Persons; a senior public servant, a knight and an ex-judge at that, had to be given better treatment. Zanuch, the best-dressed man in the room by far, shot his cuffs, a sartorial trick none of the others, especially Malone, would ever master. “Will our intelligence system suffer if we, h'm, don't get him back?”

The four ASIO men looked at each other, none of them wanting to be responsible for
sort of intelligence. At last the senior man from Melbourne said, “We haven't even entertained that possibility.”

Malone sensed that Zanuch was less than impressed by that answer; he got the feeling that the ASIO men, especially the two from Melbourne, resented having to call in outsiders. It was their job to find spies and now they couldn't find even their own boss.

Zanuch's voice was suddenly a little sour: “I take it you've seen Lady Springfellow? Good. But I think Constable Malone and I will go over and have a word with her. We can't rule out the possibility of personal problems.”

“The Director-General?” said one of the ex-military men, a happily married man whose wife knew when to stand to attention. “Ridiculous!”

Malone wanted to ask why it should be ridiculous, but he was too junior and, anyhow, what did he know about life and marriage? At that time he was on a merry-go-round with three different girls, jumping on and off to run for his life before one of them could tempt him into a commitment. The two men from Melbourne, as if reading the question in his mind, glowered at him. The two university men from Sydney knew enough about life not to argue with the men from headquarters, especially ex-military types.

“Do you vet each other's personal relationships?” said Zanuch.

Again all four ASIO men looked at each other, then the senior man answered, “That's

“Of course,” said Zanuch, but frowned when Malone made the mistake of smiling. “Well, we'll go over and see what Lady Springfellow has to say.”

“We'll come with you,” said the senior man from headquarters.

“No,” said Zanuch. “Our investigations are always classified.”


He and Malone drove over to Mosman, with Malone at the wheel. “Do you know this part of the world, Constable?”

Malone had never met Zanuch before today; but he had been warned of the senior man's regard for rank. He was known to be ambitious and had used the heads of junior men as stepping stones on his way up. His one handicap, in the police force of those days, was that he was totally honest, a character fault that didn't endear him to certain of his seniors.

“No, Sarge, I come from the south side of the harbour. I've played cricket at Mosman Oval, but that's all. I was born in Erskineville and so far I've only worked at Newtown and in the Bureau.” Even in his own ears it all at once sounded as if he came from Central Africa or some other remote region.

“You'll notice the difference here in Mosman. They invented respectability—they think they have the copyright on it. The Springfellows more than any of them.” Then he looked sideways at Malone. “If you're going to work with me, Constable, could you smarten yourself up a little? Where did you get that bloody awful tie?”

“My mother. She's Irish, she thinks green goes with anything.”

“That's not just green, it's bilious. I'm sure your mother is a wonderful old biddy, but she's colour blind.”

So was Malone, or almost; but he was not blind to snobbery. Zanuch was out to impress whoever lay ahead of them. As the unmarked police car turned into the short dead-end street, Zanuch looked out at the sign. “Springfellow Avenue. That's something, to have your own street.”

“My mum tells me there's a Malone Street in Dublin.”

BOOK: Babylon South
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