It was a rather cool Autumn morning. The northerly wind rustled the leaves in the trees near Bridgewater Lake. A young mother and her two children were walking their Labrador dog along the street behind the retirement village, adjacent to the lake and the surrounding gardens. The boy was carrying a plastic bag with some bread scraps from their breakfast, to feed to the lake's two resident white ducks. He ran ahead down the path that lead to the lake and called out, "Hurry up, mum. The ducks are hungry."
His mother, sister and dog caught up with him as he started to toss the bread toward the waddling ducks.
"Save some for your sister to throw."
"Okay, mum. Here's the rest," he replied and handed the bag over to his sister.
Five minutes later the happy family strolled further along the path, and then stopped at a gap in the reeds. The dog paddled out into the water to the length of his extender lead, the water lapping up to his tummy. He tugged further on the lead, nearly pulling the mother into the water.
"Macca, stop! Come back." She tugged on the lead, but he kept straining; his nose pointing a something further out in the lake.
"Macca...come!" she commanded. Her order was ignored. Her son took off his shoes and waded out a short distance to see what the dog was so interested in. He spun around, grabbed the dog's collar and pulled him back to the shore, his face flushed with excitement.
"Mum, there's a man swimming out there!"
She shortened the lead, commanded the dog to "sit and stay," and then handed the lead to her son.
"Wait there, you two, I'll have a look."
She also took off her shoes and went out into the cold water to see for herself. Two minutes later she was back on shore. Pale-faced and with hands trembling, she dialled 000 on her mobile.
"Police? There's a body floating in Bridgewater Lake!"
* * *
An hour after the police had met and interviewed the frightened family at the lake; an urgent call came in to Detective Chief Inspector Steve Ho of the special Crime Squad.
"Inspector Ho, it's Senior Sergeant Jason Standing from Broadmeadows CID. We have a body in Bridgewater Lake in Roxburgh Park. But, after identification taken from the body, it looks like a murder case for your squad, Sir."
"What's so special about your body in the lake that needs the attention of our squad?"
"Sir, the wallet on the body indicates that the deceased is Professor Johann de Jong. The death is suspicious. We've deliberately left the body where it is until you get here, Sir."
Ho caught his breath. Johann de Jong, the eminent transplant surgeon and government consultant! God, his face has been all over the TV news and newspapers the last week. He's been condemning the possible illegal donor organs coming into the country!
"I'll be right there, Sergeant. In the meantime I'll alert the chief pathologist that there is a special case coming in." Ho slammed down his phone, and called out, "Charlie? We're wanted out at Roxy urgently!"
"Right, Boss," replied Detective Constable Chan, heaving his tall, burly frame up out of his office chair.
"Ready," responded Detective Sergeant Mary Lamb, as she flicked her frizzy blond hair into a ponytail and then grabbed her shoulder bag. They followed in the slip-stream of Ho, then left the St. Kilda Road headquarters and drove to Roxburgh Park, north of Melbourne.
* * *
At the time the body was discovered, Detective Chief Superintendent Jane Doe was walking her two dogs around the paddock at Wyndales, in Gisborne. Her mind was relaxed as she watched the two Cavalier King Charles' run gleefully around the short grass.
Heck, I'm beginning to feel nervous about this new job! It's three years since I've been at the pointy end of my job... Don't be stupid, Jane. Pull yourself together, it's another challenge that you need!
"Sassy, Spunky, come! Time for breakfast. Mum's got to go to work today." She smiled as the two brown and white balls of energy flashed past her and headed towards the back verandah, where Oliver was standing waiting for them.
"Hello, my love. You're all just in time. Breakfast is served!" He ushered them in like a proud rooster with his brood.
"Hmm! This looks delicious, Oliver. What would we do without you?" She went inside with him to the kitchen.
"Um...come on Jane, or you'll be late for your new job."
They ate in silence, enjoying the moment of peace before the rush of the working day.
"Got your team organized yet? Or am I not meant to know?"
"Yep! Bluey and Angel. What do you think?" She winked at him.
"Brilliant choice. Bluey Johnson has all the experience you need, and Angela Ho...err...Nguyen...well I'm thrilled she's been promoted to Detective. Does Steve Ho know?
"I told all three yesterday afternoon. Bluey will be a perfect backstop for me, and Angela Nguyen as she is known professionally, is super keen. Her Law/Arts degree will also come in handy. Steve is happy that his wife is working under me. The grandparents are only too happy to act as babysitters to the twins, doing the drop-offs and pick-ups from school."
"Those kids have grown up so quick, Jane."
"Yes! Steve and Angel will be great additions to the team." Jane sipped on her coffee for a few moments in silence, her thoughts in a whirl again.
Lucky things, having children... Stop it Jane, that's water under the bridge. We've got two adorable four-footed kids, and don't forget Oliver, my lovely husband.
She looked over to him and smiled, "What are you doing today?"
"I'm going to have a first contact session with a seven year old girl called Jenny Summers, who is having nightmares about being murdered."
"Hopefully she's not a future clairvoyant! We'll have a lot to talk about tonight over a glass of red." Jane glanced at her watch. "Heck, I'd better go or I'll get delayed by the traffic." She rushed to the bedroom and grabbed her bag, before rushing out into the garage.
Oliver waved as his wife drove past him towards the front gate and disappeared down the road towards the highway to Melbourne.
Jane drew in a deep breath before she opened the door marked, 'Special Cold Case Squad'.
Come on, Jane, don't be nervous.
She grabbed the door handle and walked in.
"Morning, Ma'am," said Detective Sergeant Stan Johnson, and stood up to attention.
"Hello, Ma'am." Detective Constable Angela Nguyen also moved out of her chair, "Coffee?"
"Morning, gang." Jane smiled, "Firstly, Angel, just call me, Boss, and yes, coffee with milk will be wonderful. Bluey, you can grab two more coffees and that tin of biscuits. We'll need them as I have to go through all the official rigmarole and formalities of the job that we have been selected to do."
Five minutes later, the newly formed 'Special Cold Case Squad' was seated around the large table in the conference room, pens and pads at the ready.
"We won't be the only people working in this office. Obviously, we'll be working in conjunction with police from the regular force in the suburbs, and liaising with the pathology department. As you've no doubt found, this newly renovated office has a special area at the back that looks like a cross between an office and a science lab." Her two staff nodded.
"Well, that's exactly what it is for. Obviously any autopsies will be conducted at Southbank."
"Will we eventually have a full time pathologist, Boss?" Stan dropped the biscuit he was dunking and it fell into his cup of coffee, "Crap! Sorry, I'll get a cloth from the kitchenette."
Jane and Angela grinned as he waddled over to the small adjacent room, ran a tap and came back, cloth in hand, his face flushed red.
"Trust me to make a mess on the first day, Boss," he laughed, "My late missus always complained about me leaving stuff on the table."
Jane smiled back at him while he cleaned up the coffee spill.
Good old Stan, we need a bit of life in here...after all, we are going to be dealing with the dead and unsolved mysteries.
"To answer your question, yes, I have someone in mind, but I haven't been able to ask him formally yet. Sorry, but I can't say until it's official." Jane shrugged her shoulders.
"I'm looking forward to this job, Boss," responded Angela, "It'll interesting seeing our special pathologist finding all sorts of things from the dead."
Jane grinned, "The Assistant Commissioner is sorting through some possible cases for us. He wants us to get ourselves organized today and set up files in our filing cabinets and cupboards, our desks. Obviously this unit won't necessarily be toting guns. We're named as the Special Cold Case Squad because we'll be focusing on a high profile case that has either not been solved or needs to be reopened due to the advances in modern pathology techniques, such as DNA. Our results should possibly give closure to some families, and also bring some people to justice." She looked at her watch and stretched. "It's time to get up and move before we fall asleep in here. Bluey, can you start setting up some physical files in our empty filing cabinets and Angel, you can organise getting the contacts of phone numbers of the CID units and Pathology unit, with relevant names ready to be scanned into our mobiles."
"Files, here I come!" Stan winked.
Jane went to her office to contact her favourite pathologist, and arrange a private chat as soon as possible.
* * *
Detective Inspector Steve Ho shook Sergeant Jason Standing's hand. "Hello Jason, this is Detective Sergeant Mary Lamb, and this is Detective Constable Charles Chan."
Standing smiled and visibly relaxed. He had been nervous to meet the famous Steve Ho, who had a fierce reputation in CID. Flicking his greying hair back from his face, he responded, "Sir, I took the liberty of contacting the Assistant Commissioner when I recognised the deceased. I believe Dr Fred Harvey, the chief pathologist, has been asked to do the autopsy on the victim."
"Yes he has, Jason. However, he may not be able to, as I believe he is...err...was a very close associate and friend as a fellow academic, of Professor Johann de Jong. Knowing Fred, he'll feel compromised, but I guess we'll see."
The detectives stood over the body of the late Professor Johann de Jong.
"A strong person, Boss," remarked Charlie Chan, "He would have put up a fight and wouldn't have died quietly, but there doesn't appear to be any violence on him."
"Exactly why we think the death is suspicious, Constable," acknowledge Standing.
"Then what the Hell did he die of? I reckon he was dead when he was put in the lake," remarked Mary Lamb, frowning, hands on her hips. "What do you think, Boss?"
Ho nodded, "Yes, Bah Bah, I think you're right. Unfortunately, with all the dog paw marks and the foot prints of the family in the mud here, it might be hard to find any clear evidence of other outside foot prints." Steve looked around him and ran his hand through his jet black straight hair. "Damn it! Can't blame the locals though for enjoying this lovely area. Alright, Jason, you can let the body go to the morgue. I don't think you'll find much more at this site."
"Yes Sir, but we'll keep looking, just in case."
"Good man. We'll get together after the autopsy has been done, when we can hopefully have some answers as to the cause of death. Then we'll be able to plan tactics to find the killer or killers." Ho shook hands with Standing, smiled and then walked over to Lamb and Chan who were waiting at his car.
* * *
"Hello, lovely lady," Doctor Fred Harvey greeted Jane Doe with a hug and a kiss. "Welcome back to the pointy end."
"It's good to be back, Fred. I'll cut straight to the chase as to why I'm here to see you."
"Take a seat, my dear. I'm all ears." Fred Harvey sat down next to Jane on the easy chairs in his office and crossed his legs. Jane was aware of his deep brown eyes staring at her.
She cleared her throat. "I'm here to offer you a new challenge...a new position in my Special Cold Case Squad."
Fred laughed softly and rubbed his grey beard. "I'm not surprised, and the answer is going to be a swift 'Yes!'"
"Hell that was quick. I thought I'd have to brow-beat you into this job. As you know, it won't be as frantic as your current position as Chief Pathologist, and..."
"Sorry to interrupt you, Jane, but I've been thinking about changing my lifestyle for the past few months. As you no doubt know, I've been on a month's leave, because you've already been talking to the Assistant Chief Commissioner about this position for your squad. Knowing you only too well, you also know it's my first day back here, on the proviso that I let the higher powers know what I want to do...retire... or become a consultant. It's time I slowed down and doing the research and consultant pathology for your unit would suit me down to the ground. End of my speech." He stood up and turned toward her, holding out his hand, "Time to give you a big hug, girl!"
Jane giggled and hugged him. "Thanks mate. When can you start?"
"The sooner, the better...I had a phone call from Steve Ho a couple of hours ago, wanting me to do an autopsy on a body found in a lake in Roxburgh Park, but..."
"Because the body is a close academic colleague of mine from Melbourne University. I knew I was about to change jobs. Ho's team need to utilise the Central mortuary and pathologists, not me. Between the two of us, I've already had a quick chat with the powers that be in the Attorney General's office and the Assistant Commissioner about my future and advised them that I've been looking for another job or retirement. Strangely enough, the Assistant Commissioner told me there was a perfect position in the offering as a consultant!" He winked at Jane. "So they won't be surprised at the news. His son, Pierre de Jong is identifying him this afternoon."
Jane's jaw dropped. "His father is the infamous Professor Johann de Jong?"
"I'm afraid so. Steve Ho recognised him straight away, but wisely insisted that the son do the formal ID." Fred sighed, and added, "Doctor John Sampson, my now former assistant pathologist, is going to do the deed." Fred grabbed his mobile. "I'd better warn him that I'm becoming a consultant to your squad, and he's about to be in charge. What next?"
"We go to the Assistant Commissioner with our news, and you of course will have to officially notify in writing to your superiors, what you are going to do. You should be able to join us almost straight away."
* * *
An hour later, Harvey had made several phone calls and sent out the important emails regarding his new position. The two friends left the Victoria Institute of Forensic Medicine to go to Jane's new office in St. Kilda Road. As Jane drove into the Police Headquarters' car park, she said, "In this situation, I think it will be best for all if you keep your distance from Ho's case. I guess you'll still get lots of feedback from your friends at Southbank, because you'll still be going back and forth to there in your new capacity as our forensic consultant pathologist."
"Yes, of course. It'll be like still working there, but I'm 'freelancing', so to speak, and there won't be the same frantic pressures of my old job, thank goodness."
It was 2 pm by the time Jane Doe and Fred Harvey arrived at the Special Cold Case Unit's new office. They had grabbed some take-away food in the canteen downstairs before heading to the lift in the lobby.
Harvey stood back and ushered her into the lift, "You first, Boss!"
She grinned at him and said, "It's strange hearing you calling me Boss. Please call me Jane. The rest of the team won't mind."
"I look forward to meeting them. Who are they, by the way?"
"Wait and see!"
Jane swung the office door open. "Afternoon gang. Let me introduce Doctor Fred Harvey; former Chief Pathologist, now our very own consultant pathologist! Fred, this is Detective Sergeant Stan Johnson, and this is Detective Constable Angela Nguyen."
Fred chuckled, "Well, well, well, I'm certainly amongst good friends. Hello Bluey, we've spent many times in the morgue together, when you were in the Traffic Accident Squad, eh?" They both shook hands strongly.
Bluey grinned, "Great to have you on board, mate."
Fred turned to Angela, "Lovely to be working with you again, Angel. I guess Steve has approved of you working in the same building?"
Angela nodded, "He's just thrilled that I'm working with Jane, Doc, and I'm chuffed that you are joining us. What a fantastic team! Hope we get our first case soon, Boss." She looked over to Jane.
Jane nodded. "It's time for coffee. While Fred and I eat our late lunch, I'll start to tell you about our first case."
* * *
Ho sat, hands folded on his desk, staring straight into the face of Pierre de Jong. "When did you last see your father, Pierre?"
"Yesterday morning, Sir. He called in at my flat very early. Woke me up as a matter of fact, as it was only 7 am."
"That's not very early for a working lad like you. What do you do exactly?"
"I work from home. I'm a student and I also do IT part-time. I visit homes and help people with their computers and such." His hands were trembling and he started to sniff. "It's been a shock. I can't think straight...I...I..."
Charlie Chan leaned forward, "Would you like a drink of water, or some coffee perhaps?"
Pierre took a deep breath and swallowed, and his Adam's apple bobbed up and down. "Some water would be OK."
Chan got up and poured some water into a plastic cup from the nearby water cooler and brought it back to the table. "There you go, mate."
Steve liked it when Charlie played the Jeckle and Hyde policeman in interviews. They had planned it this way before talking with Pierre. Ho was not happy with the way Pierre had taken the death of his father so calmly, but at the same time had been quite nervous and agitated, and constantly sniffing like someone addicted to drugs.
Ho asked, "We haven't cautioned you or anything. We just need to clear up a few facts, that's all."
Charlie raised his voice, "Who was the woman in your flat, Pierre? Girlfriend? Lover? A pro?"
Pierre slammed his fist on the table. "Don't you call Loretta a prostitute. She's a good friend, she's a senior theatre nurse at Melbourne Central Hospital. She didn't want to drive home last night because she had one drink too many, and she was tired...and...and..."
Chan shook his head. "Cut the baloney, Pierre. She's your girlfriend. Loretta who?"
"Loretta Stevens." Pierre seemed to visibly shrink into the chair. He started sniffing again.
"Do you sniff cocaine?" asked Chan.
"Occasionally. So what!" was the reply as Pierre pouted. "Are you going to charge me for possession or something?"
"That's all for now, Pierre. We'll probably need to chat to you again. I'm sorry about your father's death. It's not easy doing an ID like you just did," said Ho. "You can go now."
"Thanks for nothing. I hated him!" With that last remark, the victim's son stormed out of the office.
Steve Ho looked at Charlie Chan then slapped him on the back. "Well done, mate. You got him to say that he hated his father. But that's not enough to charge him with anything at the moment. We won't be able to do much more today. We'll have to wait for the autopsy to be finished. Mary won't be back until later with her report from the autopsy anyway."
"Want me to try and set up an interview with the lovely Loretta Stevens tomorrow morning, Boss?"
"Good idea. She'll hopefully give us more insight into Pierre. Can't see what a senior nurse sees in such a plonker...unless it's simply a sexual thing!" Steve Ho grinned at Charlie Chan. "Well it's time for me to go and pick up the twins from Angel's Mum & Dad's place, take them home and keep them amused until Angel gets home."
"Okay, Boss. See you first thing tomorrow," replied Chan.
* * *
Jane sat at the long conference table with her team. She handed out photocopies of the report that she had received from the Assistant Commissioner before she had gone to see Doctor Fred Harvey to offer him the new job.
"Sorry about pretending that we didn't have a case yet, but I wanted to get Fred here first."
"We're all ears, Jane, go ahead!" said Fred.
"Victorian MP John Polites, and his wife Janet asked the coroner if he could have his daughter Vicki's body exhumed and re-autopsied. They found it hard to believe the first Coroner's report that their six year old daughter fell accidentally downstairs and killed herself."
"When did she die, Boss?" asked Angela Nguyen.
"Four weeks ago, today. The Coroner agreed to the request, and yesterday a second autopsy was done by a different pathologist. The findings show that she had bruising on her arms and throat, hardly an accident it seems. The bruising didn't show up in the first autopsy, which was done the day she died. The parents wanted a quick funeral after her organs had been donated. I know she died recently, but it was decided to pass over this case to us as a cold case."
Angela remarked, "How unusual!"
"Yes, it is, but Homicide have their hands full, and so we got our first 'technically cold' case." Replied Jane.
"So what is our first step, Boss?" asked Angela.
"Firstly, for Fred here to check the reports and perhaps the body again before she is re-buried the day after tomorrow. That's the most urgent thing. In the meantime, Bluey and Angel, you two can start checking all the details again on the first inquiry...such as what happened on the night she died, and recheck the times of the parents' alibis. They were apparently at a Government dinner. We also need to check what the hell the babysitter was doing when Vicki died. Oh, and our MP has finally admitted that he had previous threats to his family. This can be done more slowly and carefully, we don't want to leave any stone unturned."
Angela got up and looked at her watch, "I'll read these papers first, Boss, and then Bluey and I can sort out which witnesses to talk to tomorrow."
"Yep, good idea, Angel. Let's go through the paperwork together. Two heads will be better than one, and it will be better to proceed carefully in this Squad...right, Boss?"
"Absolutely! Well done, you two. A good first day on the job. At least you don't have to work through the night like your old job, eh?"
Fred got up and stretched. "Jane, I'm going to go and view the body now...it'll be better sooner, and I want to see the bruising for myself. Then I can compare with the report as I go. Not often that a second autopsy is done on a body missing organs from the first one because of organ donations. The parents have to be commended for that magnanimous decision at that awful time. I wonder how many lives she saved. I'll see you all tomorrow morning, folks!" With those words, Fred Harvey was gone.
Jane watched Angela and Stan going through the reports on the table, making notes and marking things on the whiteboard ready for the morning conference. She went to her office and started to sift through all the papers that required her signature first, then slowly went through Vicki Polites' case file.
Yes, Fred, what wonderful people they were during that traumatic time, to even contemplate giving authority for their precious daughter's organs to be donated. It was so lucky that the babysitter was a nurse, and was giving CPR to keep her breathing until the ambulance arrived. She snapped herself out of her thoughts as she heard Angela and Stan starting to pack up ready to go home.
"'Nite, Boss, see you in the morning," called out Angela.
"Time for you to go home, Boss," said Stan as he peered at her around the door.
He was right. She packed up quickly and left, locking the door behind her.
Yes it's good to be back at the pointy end!
* * *
It was over an hour later before Jane finally drove up the long driveway at Wyndales. The front door opened and Sassy and Spunky whizzed outside to greet her. Oliver stood at the door, a glass of red wine in hand. "Welcome home, my love. I like this new job of yours...you're home at a decent hour!"
They sat down on the back verandah, sipped on the wine, and nibbled some cheese and biscuits.
"Had a good day?" asked Jane.
"Yes, I did. And obviously you did too. Tell me about your day first, and then I'll tell you about my day, involving a girl having nightmares about being killed."
* * *
Later, whilst eating their dinner, Jane started to tell Oliver about Vicki Polites' organ donations given to needy recipients whilst she was kept artificially alive. Oliver's eyes opened wide. "Jane, I'll pour another glass for us both. I think you will be more than interested in my case...if I'm right about certain dates."
"Dates? What dates in particular? Why is your case more than interesting?" Jane felt a surge of excitement run through her veins like an electric shock. "Are these cases connected?"
Oliver grabbed a notepad, and showed her his notes and read them aloud to her. "Your victim, Vicki Polites, died four weeks ago today, and was taken to Melbourne Central Hospital. My case study, was called into Melbourne Central Hospital four weeks ago today urgently, where she was given a compatible heart from an accident victim!"
Jane gasped, and took a large sip of wine. "Oh my God! This is almost spooky."
"Jane, you haven't experienced any of the supernatural stuff since our Amy died in birth five years ago."
"I'm not sure, Oliver, but combined with the look on your face and those same dates...it's too much of a coincidence isn't it?"
She grabbed her mobile. "I'll see if Fred has finished viewing our victim. By the way, he's my squad's forensic adviser."
"I guessed that, my love."
"Fred? Have you finished looking at Vicki's body? Yep...uhuh..." she paced back and forth as she talked, and Oliver watched in amusement. "So it's definitely murder then? Go home, Fred. You need your beauty sleep, mate. See you in the morning. Bye."
"So? Tell me more about your victim while I pour some coffee, my love."
"Well obviously Fred couldn't view everything because of the donations. The main thing that is now showing on her body are bruise marks on her throat, and arms. It looks like she was forcibly pushed down the stairs and didn't accidentally fall as was the first coroner's finding."
"The thing I find most interesting, is the fact that your victim, Vicki, and my client, were both in the Melbourne Central Hospital on the same day... AND my Jenny was the recipient of a young person's heart the same day. Apparently the donor died as a result of an accident. I wonder what type of accident was noted in the official hospital files."
"Absolutely, I have a strange feeling that your Jenny's nightmares might be her recipient's soul or ghost or whatever communicating through her new heart, trying to tell everyone that her previous owner's death wasn't an accident!"
"Current research has found that some organ donor recipients...especially those who received hearts seem to inherit some of the traits of their donor!"
"Oliver, is this knowledge part of your research into patients near death experiences?"
"Sort of... but there's another branch of the research, which I haven't really gone into in depth, yet."
Jane said, "The supernatural?"
Oliver replied, "Steady on Jane, don't let your imagination run away, we have both decided a few years ago that your supernatural insights and communication with the dead have faded, and may even have disappeared for good after your brain injuries finally healed...
Jane sat down and sighed. "I really think our cases are linked, Oliver. Maybe..."
"If your client got Vicki's heart ...maybe that's where her dreams are coming from."
"Hey now, Jane," Oliver reassured her, "Don't let your imagination run away with you. It's been so long..."
"I know. It's just, it's a feeling I have. But you know, regardless of whether that's what it is, I have a perfect name for this case file!"
"Haunted Heart." Jane smiled.