Authors: Peter Corris
PETER CORRIS is known as the âgodfather' of Australian crime fiction through his Cliff Hardy detective stories. He has written in many other areas, including a co-authored autobiography of the late Professor Fred Hollows, a history of boxing in Australia, spy novels, historical novels and a collection of short stories about golf (see
). In 2009, Peter Corris was awarded the Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction by the Crime Writers Association of Australia. He is married to writer Jean Bedford and has lived in Sydney for most of his life. They have three daughters and six grandsons.
The Cliff Hardy collection
The Dying Trade
The Marvellous Boy
The Empty Beach
Make Me Rich
The Big Drop
Deal Me Out
The Greenwich Apartments
The January Zone
Man in the Shadows
Beware of the Dog
Burn, and Other Stories
The Washington Club
Forget Me If You Can
The Black Prince
The Other Side of Sorrow
Salt and Blood
The Coast Road
Taking Care of Business
The Big Score
Follow the Money
The Dunbar Case
This edition published by Allen & Unwin in 2014
First published by Bantam Books, a division of Transworld Publishers, in 2001
Copyright Â© Peter Corris 2001
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian
Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to the Copyright Agency (Australia) under the Act.
Allen & Unwin
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Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
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For Rupert Thomson
For ideas and for help in the preparation of this book, thanks to Jean Bedford, Michael Brown, Bill Carroll, Michael Dilli, Les French and Caroline Hart.
âNothing ever happens in Lugarno.'
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â Michael Brown
âHow d'you feel about drugs, Mr Hardy?'
âI'm all for themâcaffeine, alcohol, paracetamol â¦'
âPlease don't be flippant. You know what I mean.'
I did know what he meant, but sometimes I just can't help being flippant. Sometimes too, it helps to give me a handle on what sort of a person I'm dealing with. Flippant back is one thing, serious and impatient is another. Martin Price was serious. He'd phoned mentioning the name of a client who'd mentioned my name to him. Not a bad conduit to me, especially as I remembered the client and he'd paid well. We'd set up this meeting at the coffee shop on Glebe Point Road next door to the Valhalla Cinema. He'd seemed a bit surprised at the venue, but then again I'd been a bit surprised at his chosen timeâ8 a.m. on a Monday morning. I'd explained that the place was closer to where I lived than my office and that I wasn't what you'd call an early morning person.
So there we were at a table out on the street with two long blacks. He was in his expensive
but slightly wrinkled business suit, and I was in my jeans and leather jacket where wrinkles don't matter. He was tallish like me, in fair physical condition like me, with a full head of hair and clean-shavenâagain like me. There the resemblance ended. We'd only been there a couple of minutes and he was on his second cigarette. My last cigarette had been back when they cost about a quarter of what they cost now. Price had an almost full packet of Camels. He put it on the table along with his lighterâall loaded up and ready to fire.
âYou mean hard drugsâcocaine, heroin, speed, maybe ecstasy, although I'm not sure the last two qualify. I'm not all for themâdangerous, and life's dangerous enough as it is.'
âExactly. Well, I believe â¦ no, I know that my daughter's selling them. And I mean heroin.'
He stubbed out his cigarette and drank some coffee. I drank some as well and bet myself he'd light up again as soon as he'd swallowed and put his cup down. He did. That seemed to invite me to speak.
âHow old's your daughter, Mr Price?'
He exhaled a cloud of smoke. âEighteen.'
âNot really. She lives at home, doesn't work, is totally dependent. On the surface.'
âI get the picture. I think you need professional help of a different kindâcounselling â¦'
âNo, you don't understand. It's a matter of who she's selling the drugs
I had a vision of pimples and school uniforms,
knee-length shorts and skateboards even, caps worn back to front, and was still less happy. âSelling to children is a serious offence,' I said. âBut if she hasn't been caught and charged you can still â¦'
For a smooth, apart from the smoking, prosperous-looking type, the bitterness and harshness of his laugh came as a surprise and got my attention. He drew deeply on his cigarette, blew out the smoke and seemed to have forgotten about his coffee. âShe's not selling to kids,' he said. âI could deal with that in some way or other. She's selling it to my wife!'
After that I got the full story, chapter and verse. Eighteen-year-old Danielle was the only child of Price's first marriage. His wife had died young of cancer when Danielle was eleven. Five years later Price, who was in his early forties by then, had married Samantha, a model who was twenty years younger than him.
âI â¦ ah, met Sammy a couple of years after Annette was killed but we waited a few years to get married. I wanted Danni to be old enough to understand and accept it.'
Sammy and Danni,
Chummy as all get out.
âAnd did she?'
Price shook his well-groomed head. âNo, not at all. She hated Sammy on sight and there's been nothing but trouble since.'
I was making notes, being professional, although I wasn't sure I wanted any part of this. âSo your wife's what age now?'
âDoes she still work?'
That bitter laugh again. âDid she ever? No, I shouldn't say that. Sammy worked for a while after we got married. Then she got pregnant. I thought Danni might like the idea of a brother, or a sister. No chance.' Price heaved a sigh and lit another cigarette. Suddenly he looked older than the middle forties. He looked at the cigarette in his stained fingers. âI gave these bloody things up years agoâwhen Annette was pregnant. Took it up again worse than ever when all this shit started.'
âUnderstandable,' I said. âSo there's another kid?'
A shake of the head and a waft of smoke. âNo. Sammy miscarried in the fifth month. She'd bought the baby clothes and all the gear, you know.'
I didn't know. I had a daughter I hadn't found out about until she was in her twenties, but I nodded sympathetically.
âIt rocked Sammy. Really tore her apart. She changed; got depressive, bored, sick â¦'
âHow'd Danni take it?'
It was soap opera stuff and I couldn't keep a note of that out of my voice, but Price didn't react. âShe lapped it up. I think that's when she moved in and got Sammy onto the drugs. I knew she'd been smoking dope herself since she was fourteen, but what can you say? They all do it. Turns out she'd got onto coke as well. I suppose her source could supply heroin too. Anyway, she got under Sammy's guard and got her hooked. Danni's got some money of her own and pretty
soon she's buying for both of them and Danni's dealing a bit and supplying Sammy steadily so that she's a hopeless addict. Danni's tougherâI suspect she's a user rather than an addict.'
âHow did you find all this out, Mr Price?'
âDanni has â¦
a boyfriend. A kid named Jason Jorgensen. Decent kid. She dumped him when he got worried about the drugs. He came to me. I think he was acting partly out of hurt, but he still cares about Danni.'
âMaybe not the most reliable source of information,' I said. âRejected lover and all that. But if he's right you seem to have all the facts. Why d'you need someone like me?'
He stubbed out his cigarette and dusted off his hands as if that was going to be his last one, but it wouldn't be. The Camels were still sitting on the table. âJason says that Danni's selling to a lot of people and that it's only a matter of time until word gets around and she's in serious trouble.'
I nodded. To my mind, drugs should be available to addicts on prescription. I've known wealthy professionals who've used drugs for years and have got on successfully with their lives because they've got the resources to buy clean product and shoot up cleanly. When I said that hard drugs were dangerous I meant that criminality made them that wayâvariable quality, contamination, unsanitary procedures and the vicious behaviour of corrupt cops, other dealers and desperate addicts. I spelled some of this out for Price and asked him again what he thought I could do.
Price's apparent resolution lasted less than a
minute. He lit another cigarette and fidgeted with his lighter as he spoke. âI'm going to get both of them admitted to a detoxification and treatment centre. I've put the legal procedures in train.'
âGood,' I said. âYou're doing the right thing there.'
He ignored me. I could see that he had something still more important on his mind that a pat on the back wouldn't help. âIt's worse than I've told you. Jason says there's a young woman in hospital in a coma from taking something Danni supplied. She's due to be questioned by the police. The doctors say she'll be out of the coma and able to talk inside a week. She's young and her family's wealthy and â¦ angry. Danni'll face some serious charges.'
âYou're right there.'
He killed the cigarette early and looked at me through the smoke haze. âI want you to find out who supplied Danni with the drugs and get solid evidence on him.'
âJesus, what a world. Yes. Or her. If I can present that evidence when the police act, help them get a conviction,
show that Danni's under treatment, my lawyer friend says there's a chance she'll get a suspended sentence and I can set about straightening things out. There's not a lot of time I know, but I hope you'll help me.'