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Authors: Michael Duffy

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The Tower

BOOK: The Tower
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Michael Duffy reports for the
Sydney Morning Herald
on crime and other matters. Previously he wrote for Sydney's other newspaper, the
. He has played in punk rock bands, written biographies of several Sydney characters, and is co-presenter of ‘Counterpoint', Radio National's challenge to orthodox ideas.
The Tower
is his first novel.




First published in 2009

Copyright © Michael Duffy 2009

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 Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Phone: (61 2) 8425 0100
Fax: (61 2) 9906 2218
Email: [email protected]

Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
from the National Library of Australia

ISBN 978 1 74175 813 9

Set in 12/15 pt Granjon by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For Max Suich,
who brought me back to crime

he woman was falling close to the building, down the face of the enormous, unfinished skyscraper. She fell in silence, turning slowly, through the mist and light rain.

The police car far below was creeping up the inside lane next to The Tower. It was moving tentatively because it was night, and because of the rain. The woman landed on top of the vehicle with a loud crash, the force of the impact partially crushing the roof.

It took the two uniformed officers a while to get out of the car. When they did, one of them was sick in the gutter. His partner took a few steps backwards, her eyes fixed on the dead woman on the roof. She had obviously fallen from a very long way up.






































































re you there yet?'


He slipped under the blue and white tape and approached the constable with the clipboard. ‘Senior Constable Nicholas Troy,' he said. ‘Homicide.' He thrust his ID at the man, then continued talking into his mobile.

‘I'll cancel tomorrow night?'

‘Go by yourself,' he said. ‘Get Aleisha to babysit.'

‘You just want her at home by yourself.'

‘Ha ha. We already bought the present. You should go.'


He reached the place and stopped. They'd already set up lights and you could see every detail. He'd been twelve years in the job, four in Homicide. But this was something new.

‘I've got to go to work now,' he said, and disconnected.

In front of him was a police patrol car with a woman lying face down on its roof. There was something strange about the body, which seemed to have been compressed to some state between three dimensions and two. Crime scene officers and police were walking around the car, unusually quiet. Troy could see that they too were marvelling at the odds of the woman striking a moving car, let alone one of theirs.

And then there was the building.

The place was called The Tower and it was still a construction site. The project was massive in every way. When it had been conceived it was to be the tallest building in the world, although it had been overtaken by a skyscraper in Dubai recently. Occupying an entire city block, its progress through conception, planning and construction had been dogged by controversy. Colourful characters, a bankruptcy, allegations of corruption: the story of the place had grown as big as the structure.

He turned back to the body embedded in the car roof. The woman had long black hair and her skull had partially disintegrated. Blood covered the top of the car and some of the windows, especially the windscreen. The most disturbing aspect was the woman's limbs, which had snapped and hung over the sides of the roof at disturbing angles. A young security guard was standing next to Troy, staring. Suddenly he clasped a hand to his mouth and ran away.

Troy looked some more. The woman was wearing a very short black dress and it had ridden up so that her buttocks were visible. Her knickers were minimal and lacy, and for a moment Troy thought of Anna. The thought came to him and for a moment he couldn't do anything about it. He hadn't seen his wife in anything like that since before their son had been born eighteen months ago. He turned to a uniformed sergeant and asked, ‘Shoes?'

No shoes had been found. No bag either. Nothing had come off the body, and the only jewellery the victim was wearing was a large bracelet on her left wrist. Troy moved around and examined the silver band set with glittering stones—fake, presumably. Anna liked jewellery, but he suspected she'd turn her nose up at something as gaudy as this.

He blinked and looked away, and saw McIver standing nearby. The sergeant hadn't shaved and was wearing a leather jacket over a black T-shirt and jeans. Troy wondered if he'd been drinking. The on-call team wasn't supposed to drink, but the sergeant did things his own way.

‘You got here quickly,' Troy said.

‘I was in The Rocks. Enjoying myself.'

They shook hands; the Homicide Squad handled murders all over the state, and McIver had been in Moree for the past few months.

‘Anna's well?' the sergeant asked. ‘And Matt?'

Troy nodded. McIver's third wife had left him last year, and as far as he knew there was no one else in his life to ask about. There were no children. He was wondering what to say when he heard a voice from behind.

‘Filthy McIver.'

A guy in a suit had appeared. He was about fifty, and had a moustache, quite a good effort. You didn't see many of those anymore.

‘Do I know you?' McIver said. The two men stared at each other and Troy watched patiently: the newcomer bloated and red-faced, McIver a bit younger, lean and tense. Finally McIver relented and said to Troy, ‘Detective Sergeant Bruce Little, City Central.'

They shook hands.

Troy asked if they had a name for the victim, and Little said there was no identification on her. ‘No room for any,' he said softly, looking at the half-naked body on the roof of the car. An inspector from City Central, Gina Harmer, was inside the building, he told them, organising a search. She was the local officer in charge of the scene.

Uniformed police had been arriving, pausing to look at the body before going into the building. Now crime scene officers began to erect a screen around the car, and one of them bumped into an onlooker.

‘Let's clear the area,' McIver said loudly. ‘I don't want anyone here who's not supposed to be here.'

The other people standing around ignored him.

‘Some of the blokes want to have a look,' Little said. ‘Anything to do with The Tower, big deal around here.'

‘And when I say not anyone,' McIver said slowly, raising his voice, ‘I mean no one.'

‘Crime scene's not here,' Little protested. ‘Up there.'

He gestured with his thumb.

McIver stared at him for so long without saying anything that Little looked at Troy for help. When none was offered, he turned to go.

‘Are you and I going to have an argument?' McIver yelled.

People were paying attention now. Troy took a step towards him and stopped, unsure of what to do. It was always hard to know how pissed the sarge was when he'd been drinking. Right now he was swaying slightly, but Troy knew this mightn't mean much.

Little kept walking.

Here we go, Troy thought. Here we go.

But after a moment McIver seemed to forget Little.

‘Anyone else here yet?' he asked Troy. ‘What about Vella?'

Troy shook his head. Don Vella, the inspector in charge of the team, lived in Mount Annan, nearly an hour south-west of Sydney's CBD; he'd be some time yet.

McIver walked around to the other side of the car, keeping his big hands in his pockets, as he always did at a crime scene. Usually he was the most restless of men, and Troy guessed this was his way of restraining his imagination, forcing himself to do nothing except observe. McIver looked at the car and then raised his eyes to the top of the building. ‘What are the chances?' Troy followed his gaze up; the skyscraper disappeared into the unseasonal mist after maybe ten storeys. It was clad in glass and stone as far as he could see, but he knew the upper section was still just a steel and concrete skeleton. Since the windows didn't open, the woman must have fallen from somewhere up there.

He wandered over to where Little was lighting a cigarette.

‘You ever been up there?'

Little nodded. ‘They show us around every few months, in case we get called in.'

‘How could she have come off? I thought they had some sort of steel screen around all the floors where the walls haven't been finished.'

‘Landing platforms, one on each floor until it's done. They stick out so the crane can unload stuff. Wall around them maybe so high.' He held a hand level with his waist. Then, ‘Ought to do something about McIver. He's not in a fit state.'

‘What?' said Troy, who'd been wondering if there were any platforms above the spot where the woman had landed.

Little's gaze shifted as McIver joined them.

‘So what are we doing here?' Mac said. It was a reasonable question. Homicide dealt with murders, and there was no evidence this woman had been pushed. He yawned, but Troy knew he was not as bored as he seemed. If he really thought it was a suicide he would have left by now. Something in the situation had caught his attention.

Little took the cigarette out of his mouth. ‘The problem is how she could have got in, just someone wanted to kill herself. This place has good security. Our super says it's likely she's brought in with a van.'

BOOK: The Tower
5.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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