Friday 19 April 2013
With the footage edited and the story almost ready for broadcast, Grace Fellow, Andy Britten and Banjo Paterson were relaxing in the production office when their producer, Cameron Allsop threw open the door and strode in with a bottle of champagne and four glasses. Grace jumped to his assistance, fearing that either the champagne or the tenuously held glasses would end up in pieces on the floor.
‘Hand over the champers, Cam.’ She didn’t give him the option of refusing, grasping hold of the bottle and immediately removing the foil from around the top of the bottle. It didn’t take much effort for her to pop the cork, and not a drop of champagne overflowed from the mouth of the bottle.
‘Can see you’ve done that before, Grace.’
‘Yes indeed, Andy. I am highly proficient at champagne bottle cork removal,’ she replied, offering no further explanation for her skill.
‘I’ve just spoken to Bill Marmion,’ Cameron interrupted the banter, ‘and he said the story, our story, will be broadcast tonight as the lead news and current affairs story across the Channel Four’s news and on the Current Affairs Daily show. This is it, Grace. We’re back in favour with Marmion.’ He was clearly excited at the prospect of impressing the owner of the channel. Grace held the champagne bottle up to Cameron and he offered out the glasses that he was still holding. One by one, Grace poured four glasses of champagne and Cameron handed them around to the small production team.
‘A toast,’ the producer said, ‘to hard work, good luck, a helluva crew . . . to making the news.’
They raised their glasses and saluted in unison, ‘To making the news.’
‘Come on, drink up,’ Cameron ordered, filling their glasses before they were even emptied.
‘Meh, if you’d got us beer, I’d be on my second now. Just a note for next time,’ said Banjo.
‘Oh, sure, sure,’ replied Cameron and filled the sound guy’s glass in spite of his obvious hint for beer.
* * * * *
The incident room at the police station was quiet. The fervour of the officers involved in the Charlotte Goulbourn case had dissipated and the personnel had disappeared back to their desks and departments. Detective Steven Solomon sat alone with only the preliminary autopsy and forensics reports as company. The files sat in front of him, one near his left hand and the other near his right. He had read and re-read them at least a dozen times since they had been delivered but neither report had offered up anything new with each successive reading.
A uniformed officer walked past the room.
‘Larry. LARRY,’ Solomon yelled. The officer reversed and entered the incident room.
‘Sit down, Larry. I need a sounding board for a minute, and you’re the first person to walk by, so . . . surprise, you’re it.’
Larry sat down at the large table that during the previous week had been home to a multitude of police officers, detectives, and forensics experts. He noted the two files in front of Detective Solomon.
‘You needing a sounding board got anything to do with the preliminary reports?’
‘Yep . . . I’m bothered by the forensics report for a start,’ Solomon replied.
‘So, what’s the problem, sir?’
Solomon scratched his cheek; his three-day old stubble had been causing him grief all day, just like the gnawing feeling that something was amiss in the Goulbourn girl’s disappearance.
‘It’s the forensics report, Larry. There’s nothing there.’
Larry looked as confused as Solomon sounded. He slid the files towards him and opened them both.
‘That can’t be right, detective. There’s gotta be something.’
‘Nope, not a thing. No fingerprints, no fibres, no footprints, no hairs, no skin, no fluids – bodily or otherwise, nothing. It was a clean dumpsite, and a clean body. As in too clean.’
The uniformed officer considered Solomon’s words as he flicked through the forensics report for himself.
‘What does that suggest to you, Larry?’ Solomon asked.
‘Perhaps the perp has some knowledge of forensics? Knows enough to clean up after the fact.’
‘That’s what I thought as well. And where does that get us?’
‘Nowhere fast,’ replied Larry.
‘Exactly,’ the detective said. ‘But then I started to factor in something that had been bothering me since the discovery of Charlotte’s body. Aside from the passer by who called in the discovery of the body, and the police and paramedics who were on first responders and on the scene all day, who else unexpectedly arrived on scene?’
‘That reporter and her crew,’ replied Larry.
‘Exactly. And how the hell did they learn about the discovery so quickly when we had the passer by with us at the station making a statement about the discovery?’
‘Police scanner? You know what they’re like, detective. A bunch of blood-thirsty hounds who don’t care about the victims or the loved ones as long as they get their exclusive.’
Solomon smiled. It was possible that Grace Fellows might have a police scanner and be listening in for good stories. It was also possible that someone else who worked for Channel Four might have the unenviable job of monitoring the scanner, but there was always another option to consider.
‘And what if Grace Fellows has a line to our killer? What if she’s already made contact, or the killer made contact with her in order to get publicity, and she’s been milking this disappearance and now murder, for everything it’s worth?’
‘Then, Detective Solomon, would you like me to bring her in for a spot of friendly questioning with regards to the disappearance and murder of Charlotte Goulbourn?’ Larry suggested with a wry smile on his lips.
‘Yes, Larry. Yes, I would.’
* * * * *
Cameron and Grace sat alone in the production office. Andy and Banjo had gone home for the night, leaving producer and reporter to wrap things up after the story had been delivered to the head of news and current affairs.
‘A job well done, Grace. You didn’t let me down.’ Cameron beamed, and relief was evident in his face. He would keep his job after having gone out on a career-limb for Grace.
‘And clearly you, Cameron, will keep your job. I’m sure you’re relieved about that,’ she replied.
‘Can’t say that I’m not happy about that. Marmion would have had my head on a platter right next to yours if you’d cocked this one up.’ He snickered, albeit a little nervously.
‘I’ve been wondering,’ Grace said, ‘about something that you said to me the other day.’
Cameron nodded, urging her to continue.
‘What did you mean when you said we make the news?’
‘Exactly what I said,’ he replied.
An awful thought began to occur to her about Charlotte Goulbourn’s disappearance and murder. What if Cameron meant ‘we make the news’ literally? Here she was, alone, in a room with a man she was now beginning to suspect might know a lot more about the teenager’s disappearance than he was letting on. If she said the wrong thing and angered him, maybe she would be next. Her attention from the frightening thought was torn away by the entrance of two police officers, escorted by Bill Marmion, in to the production office.
‘Grace, these officers would like a word with you,’ Marmion demanded on behalf of the policemen.
Relieved to have been interrupted, Grace immediately rose and, without a word, left the room with them. When they had reached the parking lot and the police cruiser, Grace finally spoke.
‘Thank God you walked in when you did. I need to talk to Detective Steven Solomon about the Charlotte Goulbourn case.’
‘Excellent, Ms. Fellows, because that’s precisely where you’re going,’ Larry replied. ‘Grace Fellows, I’m arresting you for the abduction and murder of Charlotte Goulbourn. You do not have to say anything . . .’
* * * * *
When word reached Cameron Allsop that Grace had been arrested in conjunction with the abduction and murder of the Goulbourn girl, he was simultaneously excited and relieved. If the police suspected Grace of the girl’s murder, then they did not suspect him. He switched on the television in time to see the lead story on Channel Four’s ten o’clock news: Channel Four’s star reporter, Grace Fellows, arrested in relation to the disappearance and murder of local teenager, Charlotte Goulbourn.
‘We had hoped,’ came the voice of the anchor woman on Current Affairs Daily, ‘to bring you Grace Fellows’ chilling report about the Goulbourn case, but instead, we’re crossing live to the lead detective on that case, Steven Solomon, who is about to speak to the press regarding Ms. Fellows’ role in the girl’s disappearance.’
Cameron laughed as he heard Solomon explain that Grace was assisting the police with their enquiries. After Solomon’s press conference concluded, Cameron returned to cleaning. By the time the detective cleared Grace of any wrongdoing, evidence that proved Charlotte Goulbourn had been a guest in his basement would be removed or destroyed.
‘When I said, Grace,’ he spoke to her image being displayed on the television, ‘that we make the news, I meant it quite literally. I made the kid disappear. I made your exclusive story. And I’ll do it again in a heartbeat.’
He picked up the clear plastic mask he’d worn to distort his facial features to Charlotte Goulbourn and tossed it in to an open cardboard box in the corner of the basement. It would be safe there . . . until next it was needed.
. . . The end . . .