As the daughter of a policeman who died in the line of duty, Inspector Jane Doe, head of Melbourne Homicide, is single-mindedly driven to seek justice for all. But Jane is no ordinary detective. She can communicate with the ghosts of murder victims. Not wanting to be dismissed as mentally unstable, she must keep her secret from all but her husband and her senior officer, using each victim’s information to subtly direct her team in the right direction on each case. Jane realizes she’s the only thing standing between a killer being brought to justice and a monster getting off scot-free. But, with each case she solves, her fear that the police hierarchy will accidentally discover her secret forces her to walk a fine line indeed.
Chief Superintendent of the Cold Case Squad, Jane Doe has a formidable list of special, unsolved cases littering her desk. Taking a break is a luxury she doesn’t often allow herself. However, during a rare weekend off, she catches a news story involving a dead body wrapped in a plastic shroud. The gruesome discovery was made in the cliffs below the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse–directly near the entrance to the Port Phillip Bay in Victoria, Australia. Rough winter weather combined with unusually heavy, high tides washed away the grave, leaving it partially covered in rocks and seaweed. The coroner estimates that the body had been buried there for at least a year. The last thing Jane needs is another case to hit her already groaning desk, but something eerie took place in Cadavers’ Cave and she may be the only one who can solve a mystery equally troubling and tragic.
Genre: Paranormal Murder Mystery ISBN: 978-1-925191-63-9 ASIN: B07GDT6Z5V Word Count: 37, 736
Jane and Oliver were at home alone with their dogs, Spunky and Sassy. Sassy’s puppies had blossomed into delightful 16 week old bundles of joy. They had been sold to responsible owners, with the assistance of the Cavalier King Charles breeder’s club. Kylie and Khan, Steve Ho’s and Angela Nguyen’s twin children now had the two ‘pick of the litter’ puppies.
It was a quiet weekend, and a calm but cold winter’s morning. The doorbell rang.
Jane put down the Saturday newspaper she was reading and looked at Oliver, “That will be the Ho family and the puppies!”
Oliver smiled at her, and looked at his watch. “Right on time, as expected, my love. Let them in, and I’ll put the kettle on.”
Jane walked quickly to the front door, and thought; So much for the quiet weekend. But we love them coming. They are like our surrogate family, and we love them all dearly, including the puppies!
Jane greeted the Ho family at the front door. After big hugs from her two god-children, Kahn and Kylie, everyone…including the 4 month old puppies Kit and Kat… all entered the house.
“Make yourselves at home, everyone.”
There was a brief moment of chaos as the puppies were greeted by their parent dogs, Spunky and Sassy.
Angela sat down on the couch and said, “Tell Auntie Jane and Uncle Oliver how clever Kit and Kat are.”
Khan puffed his chest out and took a deep breath. “The puppies have just ‘graduated’ from puppy class at the local vet puppy school in Sunbury this morning. They are now ready to go to Doggie Primary School.”
Jane laughed. “What clever little puppies indeed. So which doggie school are they going to, Khan?”
“The one near here. It’s on every second Saturday morning, so we’ll be able to call in here afterwards and see you all.” He paused for a quick breath and added, “Um, that’s if it’s okay with you, Auntie Jane.”
“Of course it is, Kahn. We love having you and Kylie visit us, and your mum and dad too, of course. I’m so proud that you are both responsible owners. The puppies can socialise with other dogs, and learn good dog manners when out in the public, and at home too. Well done, you two.”
Kylie, the shy twin, finally managed to get a word in past her brother. “We only want to do beginners and grade one at this stage, Auntie Jane. But if they like it, we may go further…that’s if mum and dad want to drive out here every two weeks, ha, ha! But we all love to come to your lovely country home, Auntie Jane and Uncle Oliver, on the way home. Besides, I think it’s lovely for Kit and Kat to see their doggie mum and dad too.”
Oliver brought in some cups of coffee for the adults. “Would you like a soft drink, kids? Or would you rather take all the dogs outside for a play in the sun?”
Khan replied, “Thanks for the offer of a drink Uncle Oliver, but we’ll go outside and play with the dogs.”
“Let’s go!” replied Kylie. The two of them rushed out the door, the puppies following closely behind. In less than fifteen seconds, quietness descended upon the living room.
“Ah, a bit of peace and quiet for a short while,” remarked Angela with a wry smile.
The adults enjoyed a quiet coffee and occasionally peered out the back windows to check the children and the four brown and white furry Cavaliers running around the enclosed paddock adjacent to the house.
The talk eventually got onto some work chat.
“We’ll need to choose the next cold case file on Monday morning,” said Jane.
Angela sipped from her cup and responded, “Just a suggestion, but why not check on one of the missing people cold cases. It would bring some real closure to the poor families who have waited for a long time to find out what has happened to their missing family member.”
Oliver nodded his head. “That’s a great idea. One of those cases will be a good puzzle for us to tackle…and of course I can get stuck into doing some profiles for you all.”
“I agree too,” said Steve.
Jane smiled. “Okay. We’ll have a look through the missing person’s files and see what we can find on Monday, when we’re back at work. Now no more talking shop, it’s our weekend off, remember!”
The back door opened again, and in bounded Sassy and Spunky, followed by the puppies, the kids not far behind. They all looked a little tired and cold.
Oliver fetched two mugs of hot chocolate for the children. They immediately sat down and with their hands clasped tightly around the mugs for warmth, started to drink.
Finally, with morning tea finished, the Ho family got ready to depart.
Steve was the first to get up, saying, “Time for us to go home, methinks. It’s been a long morning for the puppies. I think they’ll sleep all the way back to Melbourne.”
There were more hugs around, and finally, the Ho’s left.
Jane and Oliver waved goodbye at the front door. By the time they got back inside, they saw Sassy and Spunky curling up on their dog mats for a quick nap.
“Right, Oliver, it’s time to enjoy the rest of our relaxing weekend.” Jane kissed him lightly and then grabbed her newspaper and sat down to read.
Early in the morning, down the southern coast at Point Lonsdale, an English couple, Mary and Frank Hudson, had finished a delicious country breakfast of bacon and eggs with baked beans and toast.
Frank stretched his arms over his head, “Well, love, it’s time for us to venture out into that cold weather and walk off some of this food.”
Mary laughed. “We’d better get our water proof parkas, scarves and gloves, dear. It looks like our weather back home in Liverpool…cold, wet and windy!”
“Right oh! Let’s go back to our room and rug up. I’m keen to explore the beach behind the lighthouse today. The manager said it’s a very rugged coastline.”
Ten minutes later, Mary and Frank stepped out the front door of the guest house.
A southerly icy wind swept around their faces.
“Brr, I reckon that’s coming straight of the Antarctic, love,” called out Frank, raising his voice to be heard over the howling wind.
“At least the rain has stopped and the sun is beginning to peek through those clouds. Time to explore the back beach, as requested, sir!” She grinned at her husband.
“Steady on old girl, we’re on holidays, not at work. No formalities needed here. The Police station in Liverpool is thousands of miles away.”
They walked up the road towards the lighthouse. It stood majestically at the top of the headland, overlooking the western side of the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. The entrance was commonly called by the locals as ‘the Rip’ and was a 3 kilometre wide entrance where the ships were guided through the dangerous narrow stretch of water by a local pilot.
“Ooh, look, Frank, an American tanker has just come through the rip!”
Frank looked through his binoculars. “It’s called the Virgo Sun…and it’s not American, it’s flying a Liberian Flag. She’s heavy too!” He looked at the App on his iPhone. “Destination Geelong, gross tonnage 59164…”
“I believe you, Frank,” giggled Mary. Her husband loved to watch ships going to and fro back home, using the app to identify the ships. “You’re a true ship spotter, love.” She put her arm through his and guided him down the pathway that led to the rugged beach below.
They were now sheltered by the large headland beside them. Mary opened her guide book. “Look Frank, if we go around the rocky beach ahead of us, we’ll be able to see the cave where a convict escapee, called William Buckley, was adopted by the local Aborigines and with whom he lived for 32 years. He is thought to have lived in this cave beneath Point Lonsdale lighthouse.”
“Trust you to find some interesting historical fact about this place, love. Okay, let’s go and explore the cave, or I’ll never hear the end of it!”
He put his arm around her and they stepped onto the hard sand as Mary continued to read aloud from her precious travel guide. “Point Lonsdale was named in 1837 after Captain William Lonsdale, the first police magistrate of Port Phillip. A pilot service for ships passing through The Rip was established beneath Shortland Bluff in 1838. A signal station was established at Point Lonsdale in 1854. The operator, Captain Preston, built a house there. His nearest neighbours were two kilometres away. After a stone lighthouse was constructed at Queenscliff in the 1860s, the old wooden structure it replaced was rebuilt at Point Lonsdale in 1867. It was superseded by the current structure in 1902.”
“Look up to the top of the cliff. Isn’t she a beauty?” He pointed to the imposing white lighthouse towering above them. “And she’s still operational too. I must book a tour of the tower later today. There are half hourly visits from 9 am to 1pm.”
“Why not? You like your lighthouses and ships and I like places with history…” Mary started to read from her travel guide again. “Did you know that during the construction of the current lighthouse over a century ago, a crowbar penetrated a thin layer of rock and ended up in the hideaway cave of William Buckley…?”
“You’re kidding, love… No, you’re not. But that’s really interesting… Ah, look, there’s the cave!” Frank pointed to the entrance nearby.
“Oh, Frank… we can’t go in. It’s closed with an iron gate!”
“Bloody shame, Mary. There’s not even a plaque relating to William Buckley. Oh well, love, there’s another nice cave for you to explore down there. Shall we have a look?”
“Of course! You won’t be able to drag me away from here until I see inside it.”
The couple struggled against the strong southerly wind that was blowing in from the south, straight off Bass Straight. Heavy rain had fallen overnight, leaving everything pristine. It was low tide, revealing a lot of rock pools, their water shimmering and rippling in the wind.
Frank approached the cave first. “It’s dark in here.” He pulled out his tiny travel torch. “Ah, that’s better. What an Aladdin’s cave this is.”
They both walked over the hard sand, dodging small sandstone rocks. The cave was protected from the wind by the adjacent headland.
Mary pointed with her travel torch. “Frank! What’s that over there? See, it’s half submerged in the sand. It looks like something large has been wrapped in lots of plastic… A large dog?”
“Or something half exposed, Mary. See, there is a pile of rocks on top of it, and the water from the high winter tides and wild weather has brought the water up into the back of the cave, undermining where it’s been buried.”
Jack got closer, then held Mary back, “Pew! Whatever it is, there are some torn sections in the plastic, probably made by natural predators… It’s beginning to pong!”
“Oh my God, Frank, it’s a body! Quick, let’s get out of here.”
“You’re right, old girl. Let’s go. Take care; the local police won’t like us messing up this crime scene.”
“Frank, we’re on holiday…and we’re not on duty!”
“Sorry, love, I can’t help it.”
“I’m calling 000.”
“Why not 999?”
“The emergency number in Australia is 000… Hello? Police please…thanks…hello my name is Frank Hudson. My wife Mary and I are currently standing near the base of the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse cliff. We have just discovered a partly exposed body, wrapped in plastic and tape, located in a large cave below the lighthouse. Am I sure it’s a body? Sir, I’m a Sergeant in the CID in Liverpool, England.” He spoke into the phone with an air of frustration, “The body smells quite decomposed too. I think it’s been here for quite some time. I can’t imagine why it hasn’t been discovered here before now. Mind you, I think it was buried a while ago and hidden by rocks on top of it. The very high tide this winter seems to have undermined the grave area. We can only partially see some of the plastic shroud showing from beneath these rocks. Yes. We’ll wait for you to come.” Frank finally hung up and looked at Mary.
“Well. So much for getting away from work for a quiet holiday Down Under, love.” He gave Mary a hug. “Let’s sit in the sun on that nice rock over there while we wait for the cavalry to arrive.”
* * *
The evening newsreader’s voice floated across the living room to where Jane and Oliver were seated on the couch, in front of the open fire, enjoying a pre-dinner whisky. Their two dogs, Spunky and Sassy were lying contentedly in front of the fire, both snoring softly. They looked up when the next news item was read.
“A body was discovered early this morning by tourists visiting the Victorian Southern Coast, at Point Lonsdale. The body was found in a cave below the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse, which has been cordoned off. The homicide squad has investigated the scene, and the body has been taken to the central morgue in Melbourne. A police statement will be made tomorrow morning after the autopsy.”
Jane and Oliver’s interest had been immediately aroused. When the news item concluded, Oliver looked at Jane and said, “I’m glad that it’s a homicide case and not a cold case, Jane.”
“Me too. I bet Angela is glad that Steve is now in our squad and not having to trek down to the coast. At least we get our weekends off. I don’t envy Jason Standing going down there today. It’s freezing!”
* * *
Earlier that morning, at ten o’clock, Detective Inspector Jason Standing had arrived at Point Lonsdale with his team, Detective Sergeant Mary Lamb, and Detective Constable Charles Chan.
The three homicide detectives walked down the pathway that led down the side of the lighthouse and the sandstone cliff to the rocky beach below.
Mary said, “Well, so much for your weekend off, love!”
Jason responded, “Nothing like a nice murder to keep us on our toes, Bah-Bah.”
Charlie added, “Could have been warmer weather to greet us, huh! Christ, it’s freezing down here!”
They joined the group standing outside a cave to their right. A middle aged couple, like everyone else, were rugged up in warm jackets, scarves, and beanies.
Jason noticed that the local police had already cordoned off the cave, and a temporary shelter had been erected outside the cave. The group were huddled under the tent away from the icy wind, sipping from steaming mugs from several flasks.
The local Senior Constable nodded at Jason, “Hello Sir, looks like a rather sad case for you. Would you like a hot tea, coffee or chocolate?”
“Morning, Senior Constable Strange. Thanks, but we’ll have a warm up drink after looking at the crime scene, mate. Not a nice find for our English tourists, eh? Although, by the information passed onto us, Frank and Mary Hudson are quite used to viewing dead bodies back in England.”
“Yes Sir, fortunately for us. But they are still in a bit of shock. It’s not what one expects to find on a holiday!” responded the Senior Constable. “Follow me, folks.”
They carefully stepped into the cave, walking along the temporary planks of wood put there by the local police to preserve the site. The only foot prints were those made by the Hudson’s an hour and a half earlier.
Mary was the first to speak once inside the cave. “By the smell, this body’s been dead a long while, eh?”
Jason replied, “Exactly. I have a feeling that this might be a case for Jane’s squad. This body has certainly been here, at the back of the cave, buried and hidden by rocks and kelp for quite some time. It looks as though the recent storm has brought waves into the front of the cave, which has undermined and weakened the grave area at the back. It’s just like Frank Hudson has reported in his call to the police. He’s obviously a Detective Sergeant who’s good at his counter-part job in England.”
Mary responded, “We all agree that it’s been here for quite a while, months or more. How long ago? Where did it come from? Who murdered it?”
Jason nodded, “Exactly my questions too, Bah-Bah. Missing persons could help, or perhaps Janes’ squad.”
“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned Jane Doe’s team.” Mary looked straight at Jason, and added, “So you think it could be a cold case, of a missing person or a missing murder body?”
Jason nodded at Mary, “Yep. Got it in one, love!”
Charlie Chan’s big frame came into the back of the cave, blocking out most of the light inside.
“Boss, can we let them take the stiff to the central morgue?”
“Eloquently put, Charlie. Yes, they can take the victim to the central morgue.”
Jason turned to Mary aka Bah-Bah and added, “After we’ve had a quick chat to the Hudsons, then head back to the office in the city to write down our official notes and set up for the tomorrow.”
“Right, Boss. Will do.” Charlie turned around and lumbered out of the cave.
Jason and Mary then followed and walked up to Frank and Mary Hudson.
Frank held out his hand first to Jason Standing, then Mary Lamb. “Hello, both of you. Thanks for coming out from the city so promptly. Not the sort of thing one wants to face first thing on a Sunday morning…even back home, when we’re working.”
Jason replied, “Thank you both, Frank and Mary, for giving such professional and accurate comments about your find. It has certainly helped us kick start this case. I can only say now, that I hope you can find a way to enjoy the rest of your holiday here.”
“We’re here for another month. I’ve given our mobile phone numbers to the officer here, and our itinerary, just in case you need to call us again.”
Jason handed him one of his business cards in exchange for one from Frank. “I don’t think we’ll need to contact either of you again. But thanks for your contacts. Now off you two go and enjoy yourselves. Why not visit the lighthouse? It’s a great view up there; I can vouch for that, having been up there last summer holidays. Hey, one day we might just call on you two when we go to the UK for a trip.”
They all shook hands again. Jason, Mary and Charlie watched the couple walk up the stairs which led to the roadway at the top of the cliff. They eventually disappeared from sight.
Jason turned to Mary. “Yes, I know…so much for our quiet Sunday off!”
They watched as the plastic-wrapped body was lifted from the rest of the sand and rocks that had covered it and was put into a sealed body bag. It was then strapped to a stretcher and taken up the cliff path to the awaiting morgue truck for its journey to the Central Morgue in Melbourne’s South Bank.
Charlie came up to Jason. “The autopsy won’t be done until tomorrow morning, when the full staff roster will be on duty, Boss. Mind you, I don’t think another twenty four hours will make much difference. The poor thing has been dead for quite a while already.”
The three colleagues finally went up the path to their car. Just as Charlie was about to start the engine, Jason said, “Charlie, just drive down the road a short way. There’s a lovely little cafe where we can take a short break, and have a coffee and something to eat. Then we can drive back to Melbourne. I still have a gut feeling that this case will be handed over to the special cold Case Squad tomorrow.”