Tuesday 16 April 2013
At full stride, Cameron Allsop looked a lot like a giant praying mantis on the run: arms and legs akimbo in a vaguely coordinated flailing action.
‘Get your crew, Grace. NOW. Charlotte Goulbourn has turned up,’ he breathlessly ordered the reporter.
‘What? She’s alive?’
‘I doubt it. My contact in the police department gave me the heads up. Her body’s turned up at Filmore Park out on West Street. You need to get there now . . . before anyone else gets a hold of the story. This is your exclusive.’
She didn’t wait for any further instructions, grabbing her handbag as she raced out of the office. Andy Britten and Banjo Paterson were hot on her heels, and raced out to the car with their equipment bags in tow.
‘So, this is it?’ Banjo asked.
‘Looks that way. Cameron said he’s got a heads up on the kid’s body in Filmore Park. Andy, you need to get us there fast.’ Grace buckled her seatbelt as she spoke. ‘Come on, Andy. Go, go, go, go, go!’
Within ten minutes, Andy had delivered the crew to Filmore Park. Police vehicles were concentrated in the northwestern corner of the park, along with a single ambulance.
‘That’s gotta be where she is.’ Grace pointed to the cars. ‘Get your gear boys, we’ve got an exclusive to shoot.’
As one of the most experienced film crews at Channel Four, Andy and Banjo wasted no time in exiting the vehicle, setting up the equipment and finishing with a quick dash to the crime scene. Grace followed behind as best as she could, running on grass in six-inch stilettos. Despite the run across the park, Grace was picture perfect when she arrived at the site. There was not a hair out of place, not a single bead of sweat on her face; only her slight breathlessness indicated that she had made the short journey at a quick pace.
‘Get in tight on her body, Andy,’ she instructed him, ‘before they kick us out of the way.’
She need not have told Andy what she wanted filmed, as he was already in the process of filming what Cameron referred to as the money shots.
‘Already there, Grace. Don’t worry about me, you just get the story,’ he replied without shifting his attention from the shot.
Grace sidled up to the tape that the responding officers had placed up to prevent crime scene contamination. Experience had taught her that breaching the ‘Do Not Cross’ crime scene tape did not endear a reporter to the police, so she stood as close to the tape as she could and waited for the detectives to step away from the body. Timing his move to the second, Andy joined Grace just as the detectives ducked under the crime scene tape.
‘Detectives, a few questions if I may?’
The two men glanced at each other then ambled their way over to Grace and the two-man crew.
‘What do you want, Ms. Fellows? To harass and harangue hard working employees of the local police department?’
She knew the senior detective quite well, having run across him on two or three other stories.
‘Well if it isn’t Detective Steven Solomon. Interesting . . . I believe that you owe me a favour or six, and I think I might just call in one of those favours right about now. What can you tell me about the discovery of Charlotte Goulbourn’s body?’
He shook his head in disbelief.
‘I owe you favours? Come on, Fellows, where did you get that from?’ he replied.
‘Oh, you’re going to make me name the cases that I helped you with?’
Detective Solomon caved in to Grace’s demand. ‘You’re not going to stop hounding me until I give you your story. Is that correct?’
Grace beamed from ear to ear.
‘Fine. We got the call about an hour ago. A jogger discovered her in amongst the reeds of the pond over there. He thought she was unconscious, dragged her away from the water, and commenced resuscitation to no avail. I’m not going to tell you how she died, but I will say there are indications that she was held some place prior to death. I will also tell you that the wounds causing death were inflicted today.’
‘Come on, Solomon, how did she die?’
‘I’m not prepared to go into cause of death, Ms. Fellows. That needs to be confirmed by an autopsy, you know that,’ Solomon replied and walked away from the reporter and the camera. His partner followed.
‘Did you get all that Andy? Banjo?’ Grace asked. Banjo gave her a thumbs up. Andy lowered the camera and walked back towards the car.
‘I’ve seen enough, Grace,’ he called back to her.
‘Get over it, Andy, because now we have to go around to the mother’s house and wrap up the story with her and the best friend.’
Her words stopped Andy in his tracks. He spun around, unable to control the emotions he now felt.
‘You’re a ghoul, Grace. A ghoul. You seem to be taking delight in this horrible situation. A young girl has been abducted and murdered and all you’re worried about is getting a story? What is wrong with you? You can’t go bounding up to her mother and say, ‘Oh, hey, incidentally, your daughter turned up dead today. How do you feel about that?’ Have some common decency.’
She strode up to meet him, and stood face to face with the cameraman.
‘You think I like doing this kind of story?’
‘No, I think you love this kind of story,’ he replied.
‘Let me tell you something, Andy Britten, I deplore these stories but I do them because I’m told to do them. I don’t love sitting in rooms with people who have lost their loved ones. I don’t love sticking it to homeless people for ratings. I don’t love this at all . . . but I do love my job and that’s all I’ve got. And at the moment, I’m lucky to have that because Bill Marmion, our esteemed boss, wants my ass in a sling and out of Channel Four as fast as it can happen. And Cameron needs this story more than I do because he put his job on the line to protect me. And if I get fired, who the hell are you and Banjo going to crew for? You’ll both be out as well, and I’m pretty darn sure that your wife and kids need you to keep your job. So don’t you dare come over all pious and righteous with me. Now get in the damn car and take us over to Beth Goulbourn’s house so I can finish this properly.’
The drive to the Goulbourn residence was done in utter silence.
. . . To be continued . . .